How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

I’ve met a few kids in my time who have never had more vegetables than a carrot stick and, if they had to guess what an artichoke is, would say it’s a karate move. But not my kids, of course. They eat their vegetables all the time. At least sometimes. I mean, they all go through phases of pickiness, but when it’s all said and done, they eat almost every vegetable there is. What’s my secret? Well, I have 10 of them…

1. Serve them raw. Seriously, have you ever eaten a raw pea? It’s heaven on earth. No need for butter. Kids eat them like candy. I put a plate of raw cut-up veggies on the dinner table every night—yes, carrot sticks, but also sweet red peppers, celery, fresh peas. Cauliflower and tomatoes.

2. Let them have dip. It’s not the end of the world if they have a bit of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing on their veggies (in fact, there is an organic version of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing). It does make a piece of raw broccoli really much more yummy.

3. Plant a garden. Studies show that kids who grow veggies themselves will eat almost anything. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. If you are growing an organic garden, kids can eat stuff right out of the garden without rinsing. Unless it’s a carrot or potato or something like that (for you non-gardeners, those veggies grow underground, so they are covered in dirt when you harvest them).

4. Just add butter. Organic butter, of course, but a little bit never hurt anyone. And some vegetables, like spinach or kale, need a bit of oil for their nutrients to be absorbed better into our bodies. Corn on the cob…need I say more?

5. Add them to soup. It’s amazing what kids will eat when it’s submerged in a savory broth. If you suspect they won’t like something, chop it up till it’s really tiny. After a half hour in the soup, it will magically disappear!

6. Make a chopped vegetable salad. Same principle—cut up lots of raw veggies into cute little bits, add your family’s favorite dressing (ours is a simple vinaigrette), and even add some toasted nuts, and you have a really crunchy festival of vegetables.

7. Roast them till they are crispy and golden. Take cauliflower, for instance—it’s a tough vegetable to love if you’re a kid. But what I do is cut up a head of cauliflower, coat the tiny pieces liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 350° for about a half hour and you have little brown bits of deliciousness. You can do the same with carrots, asparagus, and lots of other good things.

8. Get them to help you prepare them.
I learned this when I was shelling lima beans one day. Suddenly, kids wanted to help and they all sat on the counter and helped shell the limas. Funny, but not many ended up in the pot. Limas are surprisingly good raw.

9. Cover in cheese. After all, kids need calcium too. There is no harm in having a little bit of melted cheese with your veggies—especially ones like broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, and other unusuals.

10. Eat them yourself!
Most kids I’ve met who don’t eat their veggies have parents who don’t eat their veggies…busted! Kids love to copy what we do, so we must do what is right for them. Turns out it’s right for us, too.

What are your tips and tricks and techniques for getting kids to eat their vegetables?

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17 Responses to How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

  1. Maya June 7, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    My secret is “so tiny” pieces, mixed up with stuff they like! That’s how I get my dog and my boyfriend to eat kale, chard and other “weird” stuff.

  2. Jean Nick a.k.a. Rodale's Nickel Pincher June 7, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    We just had cauliflower on the grill last night: very yummy!

  3. Hillary June 7, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    I agree with all of your list, and especially number 3. Miles, my 10 year old, is a pretty good veggie eater, but this weekend, he ate crisp green beans straight off the plant in our garden and he was beyond thrilled.

    But more exciting was the moment when my 7 year old, who eschews all veggies except for salsa, ate a piece of red leaf lettuce I picked for him and ran into the house calling for his Dad to share it because it was “so good.”

  4. Julie June 7, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    I love the shredded carrots–easy to slip into a salad, soup, whatever. Also, my family doesn’t like beans in chili (at least they think they don’t), but I puree them use them to thicken the chili. We get the nutrients, the flavor, and it helps thicken the chili.

  5. Brenda June 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    I use lots and lots of veggies when making soup. Toward the end, I remover 3/4 of them, puree them in the blender, then use them to thicken my soup! Chicken soup and potato soup tend to be a little orange, but no one complains! I don’t complain either when they pick out the whole veggies that I left behind in the soup for me to enjoy!

  6. Kelly June 7, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    Maria, all your ideas are great and work, even for adults. I adore fruit but have to urge……okay force myself to eat veggies every day, and the roasting (or sautee with olive oil & garlic) idea really works, it takes a veggie to a whole other YUMMY level!!!

  7. Amanda June 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    Start your baby on foods that you eat! Jarred food is fine for travel or a quick-fix, but if you can “train” your childs’ palate to all the lovely things she’ll be eating as she grows up, you’re that much more ahead. Mash up a plain sweet potato or a pile of plain peas. Let them teeth on a corn cob (corn cut off). Ideally, forget baby cereal and wait until your baby is 6 months old and you can start her on real food to begin with! Have you ever tasted baby cereal? Ugh.

    When your kiddo starts tasting the grass when he’s playing outside, he’s old enough to try the common kitchen herbs. Give him a basil or parsley leaf to gnaw on.

    Don’t prepare “kids food” especially for your child. The fact that that saying even exists (and you know what I’m talking about instantly) is troubling.

    Sounds like a book idea to me! How to raise an eater :)

  8. Joan Weed June 7, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Try a “salad bar”. I made one once when the family was coming for Sunday dinner. The kids couldn’t wait to get to help themselves. My daughter’s words were”Do I hear my children crunching?” They ate mounds of carrots, radishes, cucs, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, craisins, lettuces, onions, scallions. Add a selection of dressings and voila!

  9. Kelly June 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    We love raw smoothies
    you can hide spinach and cucumber in an apple kiwi pear smoothies

    and you’d never believe it but I recently made brownies for 44 children
    in my sons class that included whole grain flour and a mix of avacado and spinach purée and almost everone lved it!!!

  10. YouEspee45 June 8, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    11. Facism. It’s pretty obvious you impose your dietary fascism on your kids. So even if they dislike vegetables, god knows you’ll find some sadistic ways to get them to eat whatever you want them to. This is why the Western world has disproportionate rates of eating disorders.

  11. Kelly June 8, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    I cannot believe the word FACISM is even part of this blog. Amazing how someone can take the fun out of something this innocent, and turn it into a political debate – God wants you to get a life. We’re talking about vegetables for pete’s sake.

    Joan – great and fun idea. Your “salad bar” was all about freedom of choice, and fostering a free eating salad society one family member at a time.

  12. Shelbi June 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Presentation! Serve them on compostable bamboo skewers like lollipops or popsicles!

  13. Felicity June 11, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    It is certanly NOT fascist or sadistic to encourage habits in children which will help them live happier and healthier lives. I remind my children – and any other people within earshot – that vegetables are great for you – they help you POOP! for some reason kids really enjoy this little nugget of wisdom…

  14. Linda Woodrow June 13, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    Reverse the question. Why don’t kids like vegetables? It’s a pretty bad evolutionary tactic to have taste buds that reject essential nutrients. You would think we, as a species, would have become extinct with that characteristic. Perhaps there’s something wrong with the vegetables produced by agribusiness, not the kids taste? My kids are grown now, but always loved vegetables, but we always had a garden. Their favourite after school snack was to raid the garden for peas and cherry tomatoes and sticks of celery. I still have the neighbourhood children raiding it.

  15. Linda June 22, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Fascism? Are you kidding me? Isn’t part of good parenting helping kids eat healthy foods that will nourish their bodies so that they can grow up to make whatever adult food choices they want? Or should we let them make all their own food choices from birth and just watch them die young? Fascism?! Jeesh!

  16. Lori June 30, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    I shred carrots into homemade spaghetti sauce. Jessica Seinfeld also wrote a book about sneaking purees into recipes. I’ve never tried it though. But it sounds like a good idea. And YouEspee 45, get a life. Go cause trouble on another blog.

  17. Teresa July 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    My children “thought” they didn’t like zucchini. I shredded a zucchini and put it in meatloaf. I told them it had a mystery meat in it. Of course they guessed everything but a veggie. Once they told me they liked it and wanted it again did I tell them it was a veggie. This then branched to trying it alone. Now they ask for mystery loaf and grilled or baked zucchini.

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