Getting kids to eat their vegetables can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. Turning up their nose, moving it around on their plate, feeding it to the dog - sometimes it feels impossible.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be!
We sat down with Bri, aka The Food Therapist, to get to the root of the problem of why so many kids dislike vegetables and how to get them to eat more of them.
The Root Cause
My kids are vegetable monsters. Sure, they love pizza and spaghetti as much as the next kid, but if asked to name their favorite foods you’ll usually hear “carrots, broccoli, cucumber!” before anything else.
That attitude starts with the parents and caregivers; It all starts with you! If you’re not modeling a healthy relationship with vegetables, then your kids won’t pick up on that and getting them to eat their veggies will be difficult.
- Do I enjoy vegetables?
- Do I make a big deal out of eating fruits and vegetables?
- Do I save sweet things for dessert or treats?
- Do I have a good relationship with food in general?
- Am I cooking vegetables in a way that makes them taste good?
Start Developing Their Palate EarlyThe best way to get kids to eat veggies is to start at a young age. A baby’s first foods should be things like mashed peas, green beans, squash, etc. Most parents start with fruit or starches like potatoes and cereal before vegetables. When the palate is developing, it’s essential to introduce a variety of vegetables to get your little one used to the tastes and textures. Don’t freak out if you didn’t start them like this, most don’t. And if you’re well into toddlerhood or beyond, there’s still hope!
Shifting Your MindsetAgain, it starts with you. You, as the parent, have to get on a better footing with veggies. Here’s how:
- Don’t think about veggies as something you “have to” eat. They’re simply a part of the meal.
- Stop giving veggies special treatment. Let go of your attachment to wanting your kid to eat their veggies. Be nonchalant and eat your own veggies, enjoy them, comment on how great they are, and let it go.
- Serve dessert with the meal. This one is controversial, but hear me out. If you’re saving the cookie for after dinner, it’s delayed gratification and your kid starts to associate the dinner food with a chore. Something they ‘have to’ do in order to get the cookie. They start to resent what they’re being served for dinner. But, if you serve the cookie on the plate with dinner, you’re making it equal. Sure, some kids will go straight to the cookie and then munch on the dinner food, but others will take a bite of this and a bite of that and integrate it into the meal holistically.
Simple Tips For Serving VeggiesOnce you’ve shifted your mindset around veggies and how you approach the topic with your kids, you can further increase your chances of getting them to actually enjoy the vegetables they’re eating with a few simple tips:
- Follow this easy recipe and roast your veggies. Roasting releases the natural sugars found in vegetables and makes them taste a little sweeter. Humans are naturally drawn to sweet foods biologically because they contain quick-acting energy. Roasting veggies is a simple way to get kids to eat more of them.
- Use spices and herbs. Plain boring steamed broccoli is a thing of the past. Roast that broccoli with low sodium soy sauce, nutritional yeast and garlic powder for a treat your kids will actually thank you for! Try new things, add cinnamon to roasted carrots, put curry powder on zucchini, add peanut sauce or kimchi to give it an extra flavor boost!
- Keep a few bowls or containers of raw veggies on the lower shelves of the fridge. When your little one asks for a snack and looks in the fridge, a bright bowl of carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers will be front and center. Serve with some hummus or plain yogurt and you’ve got a tasty balanced snack!
At the end of the day, it’s all about how you approach it as a parent. Making vegetables accessible, tasty and not a big deal is key. For a few days or more, your kids may not touch the veggies. But after a while, with this new approach, they’ll start to nibble more and eventually, they’ll be enjoying their veggies right along with you and asking if they can eat the entire cucumber for a snack. It takes patience to get your kids to eat more veggies -- but it’s always worth it.