You would think that growing up in a house with a vegetarian mom would make both of my kids fabulous veggie-eaters. And you’d be right. But they didn’t start off that way.
We had days of tantrums. Months of power struggles. Years of tears (mine and theirs). Often they ate the minimum bite (or single green bean, sometimes drenched in ketchup) required to get through the meal.
From those trying times they’ve grown into teens who would rather eat pizza, but are always happy to eat the salad first. My kids eat vegetables? How did they transition from picky kids to veggie-lovers? Patience, persistence, and these 7 tips:
Too Hot To Handle
Does your kid avoid cooked vegetables? Try offering them raw. Doesn’t like raw broccoli? Try lightly steamed instead. Cook vegetables in a variety of ways (roasting, steaming, grilling) to see which they prefer.
There’s just something fun about playing with your food, and it’s not bad manners when it’s dip! Kids love dipping their food; take advantage of this by offering sliced and chopped raw veggies with their favorite dressing, hummus, or bean dip. (And yes, ketchup.)
Wrap It Up
Tortilla wraps are great ways to “hide” veggies; spinach or tomato wraps have the veggies baked right in, and you can spread with hummus (or start with their favorite sandwich meat or cheese) and sneak in grated carrot, chopped lettuce and spinach leaves, green peppers, or cucumbers.
The Shape I’m In
It’s amazing how much tastier cucumbers can be when they’re cut into flower shapes. Or hearts. You will never regret investing in a set of small cookie cutters to use on bell peppers, carrot slices, and other raw veggies.
Play with food textures. If you find that your kids don’t like guacamole when it’s smooth, try larger shapes by chopping avocados and adding chopped tomatoes or salsa and a squeeze of lemon. And of course, every parent knows about making veggies so small that they disappear into the spaghetti sauce. Kids eat vegetables they cannot see! (Thank you, blender.)
The Rainbow Connection
It’s not just a Muppet song! Nutritionists recommend eating foods in a variety of colors in order to ensure a balance of nutrients. But kids who will eagerly eat blue Jello may not be too excited about their green veggies.
Try offering foods with unusual colors: beets for their incredible magenta color. Eggplant in purple or white. String beans in yellow instead of green. Swiss chard with its beautiful red, yellow, or white stems. Talk about which colors they like best, and whether they taste different to them.
Don’t Talk To Strangers
Don’t try to introduce too many new foods at once. Try pairing foods they like with something new—or something with a similar flavor. “You love carrots—let’s try parsnips!”
For older kids, you can make a chart to record each new veggie. Make a game out of trying something new and rating it from 1 – 5. Kids love games, and they love sharing their opinions; you can join in and the whole family can discuss which veggies are your favorites.
Room To Grow
Let kids participate by growing some of their own food. Sprouts, lettuces, and radishes are some of the simplest to grow. Over the years, I’ve grown zucchini, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, peas, and carrots with my kids. Even if it’s only a sampling of veggies, growing them is an introduction to your kids: “Sarah, Carrot; Carrot, Sarah. May you enjoy a long and healthy friendship.”
I know it’s frustrating to offer veggies to less-than-enthusiastic children over and over again. But take heart: tastes change, kids grow, and with persistence and a few of these tips I promise they will one day become veggie-eaters!
What are some of your best tricks for getting kids to eat their veggies?