17 Proven Tactics That Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
The Vegetable Epidemic
It seems like there’s an epidemic going on these days with kids and veggies. Parents are having to pull out all the stops in order to get their kids to even touch a vegetable, let alone eat one! This often leads to parents who stress, compromise and feel defeated. Are you one of those parents? Does your kid run at the sight or scent of anything green, leafy or healthy?
Let me first say hope is not lost! I’m convinced that every kid can grow to love vegetables if given the opportunity – even if they’ve been a veggie-hater for years! While the road to “recovery” may not be an easy one for you or your little one, it’s a necessary road to travel – ‘cause their nutrition is so important!
So, what can you do to steer their vegetable boat in the right direction? Keep reading, girl!
How to get Kids to Eat Vegetables
NOTE: If your little one has yet to start solids, or is pretty new to solids, check out 3 Easy Steps to a Vegetable-Loving Baby
You will find a super easy system that I used to turn my nearly 2-year-old into a vegetable-loving fool from the get-go. You’ll also find a FREE printout teaching you how to get your baby to not only eat vegetables, but love them, too!
1. Get Rid of Snacks
Have you ever had a day where you’re just snackin’ like a fool? When it comes time for lunch or dinner you’re simply not hungry. All those sugary and salty snacks have filled you up!
When we give our little one’s snacks upon snacks throughout the day, we leave little room in their tummies for the good stuff. Come meal time, they’re scrounging through their plate for the few little bites they’re able to take in or they just fuss about getting in the high-chair altogether.
When we make our kids “snackers” we aren’t doing them any favors. So, STOP their snacking (because ultimately you, the parent, have control over how much they do or don’t snack) – when you do decide to let them snack, make sure it’s right after lunch or dinner (not before).
2. Get Rid of Sugars
I think the biggest enemy of vegetables is sugar. Do your vegetable-hating toddler a favor and ditch the sugars in your house for a while!
As the parent, you have a say of what types of food come into your home, so simply don’t buy that stuff! Rid your shelves of all the sugary temptations (or at least store them up and away from baby’s sight at all times), so it’s not even an option. If your little one is hooked on sugar, you can even “wean” them off of sugars over a period of a week or so.
I think most people would admit that in comparison to vegetables, sugars simply just taste a whole lot better. So, by ridding your child’s diet of sugars, you take away the very thing that’s competing for their appetite. The point here is to give their taste-buds a chance at acquiring a taste for vegetables without the confusion sugars bring. Once they’ve gotten to a point where veggies are a regular part of their daily food intake, then you can slowly bring sugars back, but be wise in what you allow them to have even then. Though some sugars aren’t bad, too much sugar and a lot of added sugars ain’t good for nobody – including your little one!
Read more about how you can teach your kid to love vegetables at 3 Simple Steps to a Vegetable Loving Baby
3. Be the Example
As they say, “monkey see, monkey do.” You’ve got to model this vegetable eating stuff for your kids because believe it or not, but our kids want to be like us. They want to do what we do, try what we try, eat what we eat. If vegetables are foreign to your home yet you’re trying to impose them on your toddler? Ain’t guna fly, girl! Have vegetables/healthy things be a regular part of your family table time (a.k.a. lunch + dinner).
4. Play Games & Make it Fun
My son, though he eats his veggies, sometimes has his days where he just doesn’t want nothin’. So, something my husband came up with was to take something he loved and make a game of it.
For instance, our son loves animals – I’m talking pictures, noises, songs, you name it. So, the clever man my husband is on one of those rough eating days posed a “challenge” to our son. “Lions love to eat, because it makes them big and strong! Can you show me how a lion eats?!” After all the moaning and groaning, you wouldn’t believe how quick that little brotha grabbed that broccoli and scarfed it down with a smile! *palm to face*
So, sometimes, just take a breather, turn back around with a smile and get creative!
5. Cook with Kids
It has been proven through studies, that people in general are more interested and willing to try something new when they’ve taken part in the preparations. Same goes for our little critters. Get them involved!
Take them to the store with you, let them pick out that stalk of asparagus and say something like, “Oh boy, we get to eat this toniiight! You’re guna help mama make and eat this? I sure can’t do it by myself now!” I have no idea what you sound like, but just talk to your kids and entice them! When it’s time to cook? Let them help you chop it or pass them the choppings so they can toss it on the baking sheet. Let them see and experience the process.
From the store, to the pot, to the plate! Kids are more likely to eat, or at least try something like vegetables when you get them involved!
6. Recreate the Presentation!
If you have a kid who is addicted or hooked on unhealthy foods, find a homemade way to recreate that thing, but with a healthy twist! For instance, say your kid is used to eating chicken nuggets from stank ol’ Mickey D’s – find a recipe (like this one) for homemade zucchini nuggets. Next thing you know, they’re chomping on some baked zucchini and they don’t even realize it!
When we exert a little creativity in how we prepare their veggies, we can help them unknowingly acquire a taste for it. Then, once their taste-buds are up to speed you can start busting them puppies out in their natural form.
7. Wait Until They’re Really Hungry
Have you ever been super hungry, and you’d just eat anything? Why not bring your vegetable-hating toddler to this point and pop a plate of vegetables in front of them?! Let the plate be filled with vegetables they can eat with their hands – like carrots, celery, peas or broccoli.
I know my son when he’s hungry if he sees something then he wants it. So, be sure there isn’t anything in their sight that could steer their attention away from those darn vegetables!
8. Have a Play Date
Have any friends with vegetable-loving kids? Why not have them over for play dates so your little one can see someone their size going down on some vegetables?! I mean, hey, there’s nothing like a little positive peer pressure to entice a kid to do what’s best for them.
9. Don’t Pay Attention
This might sound strange, but for some reason kids don’t like to do what they’re told to do sometimes – weird. So, if they’re putting up a fight when you lay some vegetables down, simply busy yourself. If they realize they’re not being watched and that they’re not being told to do something, maybe they’ll just do it.
Kids are such curious things. As much as they think they hate vegetables, their curiosity will get them to try it eventually. Perhaps relieving that pressure or the feeling of being “watched” can inspire them toward obedience.
10. Beet it Up
Sometimes kids have associated the look of vegetables with yuck, so it will take some ninja skills (literally) to get them to try it. Pop out your Ninja or your Bullet and whip up some delicious smoothies packed with vegetables! There’s plenty of vegetable smoothie recipes out there – give one a whirl!
11. Make Vegetables “Invisible”
Are you desperate to get your kids some hardy nutrients, but they’re just the ultimate veggie avoiders? Well, did you know that if you boil vegetables or create vegetable broth, that most of the nutrients from the actual veggies come right out into the water?! Crazy, right? Why not create a soup or something delicious with homemade vegetable broth and your kids will never know the goodness they’re eating!
12. Give Them “Control”
If your kid is anything like mine, they’re a control freak. They’re the I can do for myself type persons – which is just fine. So, why not play into that mentality and give them the choice of what to eat? So, pose a question, “Do you want yummy carrots, or do yummy peas sound good? You can have both if you want, too!”
I know it sounds silly, and it may not work every time, but it may very well be the tool that helps you win the battle once and awhile – and hey, that’s better than never!
13. Dip, Baby Dip!
I left this one towards the end of this list for a reason – I personally think you should avoid this if you can. But hey, I understand that sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures!
Why not offer those delicious veggies with a dip? Whether it be buttering them up, giving them a smidge of ranch dressing or a tid bit of ketchup – dippin’ may just help.
14. One Bite Rule
While this goes against the whole “don’t pressure them” idea, it may be the best thing for your kid (every kid is different). Enforcing a “one bite” rule can give continual exposure to vegetable tastes, which will hopefully lead to acceptance down the line.
15. Change Your Approach
A lot of times parents tell their kids they need to eat their vegetables because “it’s good for you.” While that is totally true, kids could care less. I’m sure they don’t really even understand what “good for you” even means. So, instead of approaching vegetables in that way, why not tell them vegetables will make them “strong” or that they help them “grow” and get “bigger.”
This is one of the approaches my husband and I took early on in our son’s vegetable introduction days. He loves animals, and has for basically his whole life, so we used animals as an example. “Lions are big and strong, so if baby wants to get big and strong too, baby needs to eat nummy vegetables!” And by golly, it worked ya’ll!
16. Create a Colorful Picture
Another form of getting creative with your kids and veggies is turning their veggies into a work of art! Like most masterpieces, you’ll want to use a healthy range of color, which means a diverse range of veggies. This will essentially make your picture more intriguing and it can even be a learning experience, too (teach them colors)! The hope is to make it an exciting experience, rather than a tumultuous one!
17. NEVER Throw in The Towel
When you’ve got a toddler or kid who is just downright against anything and everything to do with veggies, meal time can become very unpleasant. While it’s easy to give in and give up, I encourage you to take the harder road. Remember that though it’s hard now, it won’t be forever. And really, in the end this is just another opportunity for you to serve your children and to love them enough to endure the ugly.
Our kids don’t always know what’s best for them, especially when they’re just practically babies (our toddlers are still babies in my book). So, it’s our responsibility to stand for them in the gap and be unshakeable in what we know is right. They may get upset with us, but they’ll be better for it. So, please don’t give up, sister. It is just a matter of time, including trial and error, before this is all behind you.
Keep your eyes ahead, there’s a light at the end of this vegetable tunnel – I promise.
In All Honesty,