6 Simple ways to get your kids to eat vegetables

6 minReading time

It can be difficult enough as an adult to get enough plants on our plates. But they are particularly important for petite picky eaters. Children may not initially like their bitter taste, but a few tactics can give your small skeptic a voracious vegetable appetite. Here are 6 simple ways to get your kids to eat vegetables!

Why are vegetables important for kids?

Vegetables have many health benefits and promote vital vitamin and mineral intake (1). Including vegetables in your child’s daily diet can help reduce their risks of developing some types of chronic diseases, combat obesity, and support growth and development (2). Vegetables also are important sources of many nutrients such as potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C. These also help keep bones strong, boost immunity, and help convert food into energy. 

How many servings of vegetables per day?

The recommended amount of vegetables depends on age, sex, and physical activity level. Children two to three years old should get one cup of vegetables per day and children four to eight should aim for about one and a half cups (2). Vegetables can be raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned or dried – but make sure to aim for no salt or sugar added. 

Yet less than 10 percent of four to eight year olds consume the recommended daily serving of vegetables. And over one-third consume no servings of vegetables on a typical day (3). Let’s talk about how to turnip (turn-up) that number!

6 tricks to get your kids to eat vegetables

 1 – Cut them in funny shapes

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Embrace your inner creativity and let your kids play with their food by making fun shapes with vegetables. 

All you need is a variety of colorful veggies, a knife (for you to use), a cutting board, and plate or dish. Cut the vegetables in different shapes and sizes then let your kid be an artist. For instance broccoli works well as trees for a landscape or zucchini slices as bicycle wheels. 

Here are some other ways to make veggies into funny shapes:

  • Use cookie cutters  
  • Make colorful kabobs 
  • Turn a plate into a vegetable face 

2 – Offer vegetables with every meal

After the USDA made changes to school meal standards in 2014, children chose about 23% more fruits and ate 16% more vegetables (4). This suggests that when more vegetables are offered, kids are more likely to eat them.

Continue introducing vegetables to your kids in different ways. Try different prepping and cooking methods and incorporate them into the meals your kids love. For instance, maybe they aren’t into side salads; try topping a homemade pizza with a bit of arugula or spinach. Or even sneak in a cauliflower crust! 

3 – Cook with your kid

Children who watch cooking that features healthy foods are suggested to be more than twice as likely to choose them for a snack when compared to children who watched a cooking that includes unhealthy foods (5). Meaning that they will model your behavior if you cook more veggies. 

For picky eaters, eating unfamiliar food can be intimidating. When you encourage your kid to explore foods using other senses, such as touch or smell, it helps create positive associations. It also provides an opportunity to pass down family traditions.

4 – Be a role model

If your kids see you eating vegetables, they’re more likely to try them themselves. Eating behaviors develop during the first few years of life as a result of biological and behavioral needs for health and growth. Studies have shown that children’s eating patterns are heavily influenced by their parents (5). 

Eating mindfully together with your kid, can really help influence them to eat more vegetables. This also offers a moment to promote healthy eating and family bonding (6). 

5 – Smuggle them into favorite foods

Camouflaging vegetables in your kids dishes is a great way to increase the total amount they have. In a small study, preschool children who had added pureed vegetables to their food ate about twice as many vegetables per day (7). 

Blend them into smoothies

Blending vegetables into smoothies that contain fruit and other ingredients can help mask the bitter taste. Try spinach, kale, and carrot or beet for beautiful colors.  

Shred or chop them and add to sauces  

Carrots, onion, and tomato are perfect to sneak into a bolognese or pasta sauce. Try chopping and sauteeing them then adding to a tomato or bell pepper based sauce. 

Make vegetable soup 

Nothing beats a classic tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich as an afterschool snack. You can even modify it to make it healthier by using low-fat cheese and whole grain bread. If your kid prefers chunky soups such as noodle soups, chop in some extra veggies such onion, mushroom, carrot, celery or leek.

6 – Make a dipping sauce and vegetables sticks

Some food and nutrition researchers found that offering a dip with vegetables made children more likely to try them, including ones that they previously rejected. When the preschoolers from the study tried a vegetable alone, about 30% of them found it enjoyable. But when they were offered vegetables paired with a dip, about 65% of them liked it (3). 

It can be frustrating when your kid doesn’t want to eat their vegetables. Rather than getting geared up for a vegetable war, transform your kitchen into an experimental zone. Keep trying to introduce new foods in a low-stress environment can help increase their acceptance. When it comes to kids, creativity is key!

Need to up your plant passion? Check out these versatile vegetable recipes

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

REFERENCES

  1. Slavin, Joanne L., and Beate Lloyd. 2012. “Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables.” Advances in Nutrition 3 (4): 506–16. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.002154.
  2. “Nutrients and Health Benefits | ChooseMyPlate.” 2019. Choosemyplate.Gov. 2019. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/vegetables/vegetables-nutrients-health.
  3. Science Daily. “Dip, Dip, Hooray — Kids Eat More Veggies with Flavored Dips.” Accessed August 27, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130709115927.htm#:~:text=eat%20them%20regularly.-.
  4. Cohen, Juliana F. W., Scott Richardson, Ellen Parker, Paul J. Catalano, and Eric B. Rimm. 2014. “Impact of the New U.S. Department of Agriculture School Meal Standards on Food Selection, Consumption, and Waste.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 46 (4): 388–394. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2013.11.013.
  5. Savage, Jennifer S., Jennifer Orlet Fisher, and Leann L. Birch. 2007. “Parental Influence on Eating Behavior: Conception to Adolescence.” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 35 (1): 22–34. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-720x.2007.00111.x.
  6. Eatright. “How TV Can Influence What Your Child Eats.” 2018. Eatright.Org. 2018. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/does-tv-influence-what-your-child-eats.
  7. Science Daily. “Hiding Vegetables in Kids’ Foods Can Increase Vegetable Intake.” Accessed August 27, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725123557.htm.

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