March 14, 2010


Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables


I think we all know vegetables are good for us.  Even our kids know that.  The problem is eating them, or at least getting our kids to eat them.  A number of years ago, our family was reading a book together.  It was a character building book for boys, and one of the chapters challenged them to try new foods.  As a family, we decided we were going to work on trying a couple of new vegetables, specifically asparagus and Brussels sprouts.  The great thing was that I wasn’t nagging them.  This was a challenge.  Sort of like a dare they couldn’t say no to.   

The final result was that asparagus is now a vegetable we all enjoy eating.  I have tried quite a few Brussels sprouts recipes and cooking techniques, and with the exception of one of my kids, nobody likes them.  We did give them a good try, though, and I still make them occasionally when I come across a recipe I think might work.  The one thing I’m not willing to do is load them up with sugar to get my kids to eat them.  Another result of that challenge was that my kids become more open to trying new foods.  They realized it can be fun, even if they don’t always like what they try.

If you have kids who are picky vegetable eaters, here are a few suggestions.

1. Don’t give up.  Just because they try something once and don’t like it doesn’t mean they won’t learn to like it.  Try different recipes, cooking methods, and seasonings, and you might find they end up liking it. 

2.  Doctor it up.  For those nights when you don’t have time to prepare a special vegetable dish, let the kids add something to those plain green beans.  My kids used to put salad dressing on theirs.  You put it on raw veggies, so why not on cooked ones?  I didn’t let them go overboard, and it made the vegetables more palatable for them.  As they got older, I stopped offering salad dressing, and they stopped asking for it.
You might find this gross, but I grew up eating mayonnaise on broccoli.  I don’t recall eating fresh cooked broccoli, it was always  frozen broccoli that was boiled, and that was how I ate it.  I still like mayo on frozen broccoli, but never on fresh!

3.  Get the kids involved.  Kids are more likely to enjoy eating something they have helped prepare.  Take them to the grocery store and let them help pick out the veggies, then let them help wash, chop, cook, season, etc.  Of course, make it age appropriate. 

4.  Create incentive.  My kids were old enough that the challenge was incentive enough.  You could try letting them earn rewards for eating their vegetables.  Rewards could be stickers, privileges, or treats. 

I didn’t do this, but it might be fun to create a vegetable chart with your kids.  List different vegetables and keep track of when you tried them, how they were cooked or what recipe you used, and then rate how everyone liked them.  You could use one master chart, or let each kid have his own.  Use a number system or smiley/sad faces to rate them.  It might look something like this Vegetable Chart.  Unfortunately, the faces don’t come out when you print because it does not support the font I used.  However, you can easily create your own in a Word document.  Wingdings font has the faces.  Just use shift J, K, and L. 

Over the next few weeks I’m going to do a short series on vegetables.  I’ll post one per week, and you can look for them to go up Sunday afternoon.


Hey Linda! Love your suggestions here for getting kids to eat vegetables. Our family loves Brussel sprouts! (Our son called them little cabbages.) The main thing is to not OVERCOOK them, if they go past a certain point, not only are they soft, they taste bad. Having said that, if your child absolutely HATES a vegetable, you can ask him to try it again, but GOOD LUCK with that. Our son STILL hates tomatoes even though every time we had it, he would eat a tiny bite since we asked him to try it. As long as they are eating other fruit & veg, parents shouldn't get too stressed out about it. Kay Guest
We are continually working on expanding the kids' palates when it comes to veggies. I was excited to get our oldest to eat broccoli - even if it was doused in a cheese sauce, at least he tried it. I have another that won't even touch broccoli though (not even in broccoli cheese rice casserole), so I figured this was a milestone!
My son (12 years old) has always like veggies. My challenge is to find new things he will try. I have 2 tips... 1. We go to the Farmer's Market 2 to 4 time a month and he gets to pick out something new as well as picking out his regular favorites. That way he is also learning how to pick out ripe produce and learning to get a good deal. 2. I bought a spiralizer and we make new "spaghetti" to try. So far carrots and zuchinni have been the best. It also makes ribbons out of cucumbers really well.
I get a real sense of accomplishment when he chooses apples instead of cookies for his snacks!
PS Real fruit leather is a great way to get kids off of the fruit roll-ups and onto something healthy.
Great ideas! I love making smoothies in my vita-mix blender, and almost always throw a few handfuls of raw spinach or kale leaves in. If you add enough fruit, you can't taste it at all, and the color may be a little off, but experimenting with berries can brighten it up. That's going to be my most sneaky way of getting my kids to eat their veggies.

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