6 Clever Ways to Help Your Child Love Eating Vegetables
Convincing your kids to eat vegetables can be challenging. Some kids welcome veggies and love trying new foods, while others may need multiple attempts or alternative preparations. Not only does a healthy medley of vegetables supply key nutrients for a child’s growth, but exposing kids to a variety of vegetables when they’re young helps kids develop a taste for a more versatile, well-balanced diet.
If you’re finding it difficult to get your kids to eat all their veggies, these tips may help.
1. Try, try, and try again
Repeated exposure is key to getting kids to try new vegetables. This can be incredibly frustrating to caregivers, especially if you’ve already tried several times with no luck. Chances are good, though, that your child will eventually take a bite.
- Start with very small portions (only a bite or two) so that you don’t overwhelm them.
- Vary the way your cut or cook veggies. Your child may prefer strips vs. small diced bits, cold vs. heated, raw vs. cooked.
- Don’t act disappointed or offer another alternative that isn’t already being served. Just try again at a different meal.
Remember to always make sure your child’s food is cut into appropriately-sized pieces for their age, and cook or puree vegetables if necessary. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, pieces of firm, uncooked vegetables are choking hazards for children under the age of four.
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2. Let them help
Allowing your child to help you grocery shop or cook is a great way to improve their comfort level with vegetables. Let them choose which piece of produce they want from the shelf and explain to them how it tastes. You can even do this online if you can’t bring your child to the market with you.
When it’s time to make dinner, let your little one pick between two vegetable options or ask them how they like their veggies prepared. Let them add a few veggies to the blender when you make a smoothie or build their own sandwich or pizza with at least one veggie topping.
Eventually with consistent exposure and having more involvement in the process, there’s a good chance your kids will come around to trying a few veggies on their own.
3. Use fun dishes and utensils
For a lot of kids, it’s all about presentation. Factors beyond the vegetable itself can have a profound impact on a little one’s desire to eat it. Let’s face it: veggies cut into star shapes or served in a fun dinosaur bowl are just way more fun to eat! Using a variety of bright dishes, fun utensils, and unique preparations can make mealtime much more enjoyable for little ones.
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4. Add veggies to foods they already like
Mixing vegetables into a favorite meal may make them more palatable than serving them as a stand-alone side dish. Veggies can be incorporated into a variety of different foods, including smoothies, sauces, dips, muffins, pancakes, meatballs, egg dishes, and more. Older kids can even use veggies to make silly faces on their sandwiches or pizza. The opportunities to mix in vegetables are practically endless:
- Make a batch of blended fruit and veggie popsicles
- Add shredded carrots or zucchini or riced cauliflower to scrambled eggs, tacos, or meatballs
- Stir green peas into a batch of macaroni and cheese
- Mix some pumpkin or squash puree into sauces
- Add veggies to smoothies and fruit purees
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5. Introduce kid-friendly favorites first
While every child is different and will have their own unique palate preferences, some vegetables tend to be an easier sell than others. Many kids prefer mild veggies that have a sweet or neutral flavor. Here are a few you may want to introduce first:
- Bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
- Butternut squash
Save vegetables with stronger tastes and smells or less familiar textures for later. Remember, sometimes when a child doesn’t seem to like a certain vegetable, it may be the texture rather than the taste that’s bothering them. For instance, a mushroom on its own may be distasteful to your child, but they may eat it just fine when it’s pureed or finely chopped and added to another dish.
6. Use caution with packaged foods
Packaged foods are another way to integrate more vegetables into your child’s diet but do so cautiously. Not all of these types of products are appropriate for toddlers. Read the nutrition label to check levels of sodium and sugar. Examine the ingredients list to verify that vegetables or vegetable flours are listed as one of the first ingredients.
Convincing your child to eat vegetables can be challenging, but it’s possible. Even if they refuse a veggie the first time, it doesn’t mean you should stop offering it or trying different preparations. Including your little one in the cooking and shopping process can increase their interest in veggies. And don’t forget to add vegetables to meals they already enjoy! It may take time to include more veggies in your little one's diet, but try to remember every meal is a chance to expand their horizons.
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