10 Tips on How To Get Kids To Eat Vegetables
When your kids won't eat their vegetables
If you are having trouble getting kids to eat vegetables, help is at hand! Although my kids didn't always eat all their vegetables when they were little, they ate enough to have a healthy diet and to get the nutrients they needed. These ten tips for getting kids to eat their vegetables all worked for us so they may work for you too!
How to get kids to eat vegetables
1) Eat yours.
It is amazing how many parents say they can’t get their kids to eat vegetables, and it then turns out that at least one parent doesn’t either eat them either. Children follow us, so lead them where you’d like them to go. The more we behave as if it’s normal to eat vegetables, the more our children are likely to eat them. For that reason, eat meals with your children whenever possible. If you find it hard to eat vegetables, then try these tips for yourself too!
2) Don’t tell people that your child “doesn’t like vegetables.”
Children form identities based on what adults say about them, so if they hear often enough that they don’t like vegetables, then they will believe it. There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of different vegetables in this world, and among those there will be some your child likes.
3) Do help you child to recognise the variety of vegetables and their own preferences.
You could say, “Johnny isn’t too keen on avocados at the moment. He prefers crisp vegetables such as raw peppers or carrots.”
This helps your child to understand the reason why they like certain vegetables, and could encourage them to try others that are similar. It also lets him know that you don’t see his dislike of avocados as permanent. As many of us do sometimes go off certain foods for a while, you could even talk to him about that, especially if you’ve had the experience. There was a while when the texture of zucchini made me feel nauseous even though I usually liked them, so I could understand when one of my daughters went off them for a while. We found ways to cook them that she enjoyed.
4) Do present the vegetables attractively.
That way your child gets a visual delight and looks forward to eating them. This is easy if you include a mixture of colours, and by doing that you can be sure your child is getting the variety of nutrients needed. This could be a simple as chopping carrots, bell peppers and cucumber into sticks and serving with a dip, or you could arrange your child’s food into a picture, including the vegetables. When my children were little they used to love it when they had “trees” to eat (broccoli.) Often children enjoy helping arrange the salad, so include them in the preparation too.
5) Give them mash.
Here are a few varieties my children love:
- celeriac and sweet potato,
- parsnip and potatoes,
- parsnip and sweet potato.
I’ve mashed broccoli with sweet potato when they went though a phase of not being keen on it, and it went down fine. Yes, there’s a pattern here and it’s sweet potato! But experiment and find variations that your children love.
6) Let them play with their food.
When they were little my children loved arranging their own pictures. They also loved (and one of them still does) mashing their mash still further with a fork to make it into a newly ploughed field. This goes well with the broccoli trees above.
7) Give them soup.
Kids will often eat many vegetables as soup that they won’t any other way.
Puree soup or pasta sauces. Broccoli (again) is great when pureed into soup, as are most other vegetables. Add red or green lentils and you’ve got a wholesome meal.Or you can puree a pasta sauce. Make a tomato or spinach, or a use mixture of vegetables. Then puree, mix the pasta in and watch them devour it. Be careful to choose vegetables of the same colour group – a mix of red and green vegetables does not look appetising when pureed!
9) Mix vegetables in with other food.
This could mean making a stew or casserole or it could be as simple as adding sweetcorn and peas to baked beans. (Baked beans also count as a vegetable!) Some children, however don’t like their food mixed together, which brings me to the last tip:
10) Be flexible.
If your three-year-old objects to her carrot sticks touching her mashed potatoes, then keep them separate. One of my daughters likes her soup chunky, the other likes it smooth – so after I’ve served the chunky soup I get out the hand-blender and puree up the rest. One of my daughters hates raw tomatoes, but happily eats them cooked, so she gets hers grilled.
And finally, a bonus tip:
most likely you will have read and heard a hundred times, or more, that you should relax about mealtimes if you want your child to eat.
While it is surely true that the more relaxed we are, the more relaxed our children will be, it’s also very hard for parents to relax on demand while simultaneously worrying about their children’s health. So my advice to you is simply to notice if you are criticising yourself for your child not eating vegetables. Then reassure yourself that you are doing the best you can right now, and that every single parent in this world has at some time or other had some anxiety about their child – even those who seem to get everything perfect. You are reading this because you care about your children, because you love them. So give yourself some love too. You deserve it.