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Vegetables for Kids: The Best Tip to Get Kids to Eat Veggies
Let’s be fully honest here: I don’t like vegetables. Yes, I’m 34 years old and I don’t like vegetables. I wish I did. And my lack of enjoyment of vegetables is a huge influence in how I introduce veggies to my children. I want them to understand the why behind eating healthy. The value in a healthy lifestyle. And I want them to be different than I am. Better than I am. I want them to ENJOY vegetables and choose to eat them in adulthood rather than feeling like they have to eat them the way I do.
Getting Kids to Eat Veggies: Introduce them Early
The key to anything in life is preparation and prevention. The best way to get your kids to like vegetables? Is to introduce them early and offer them often. Right from the start. In fact, I highly recommend a child’s first food to be vegetables.
Fruit is sweet. It has many health benefits but the reality is if your children have fruit first, they are less likely to enjoy vegetables.
I’m a big believer in baby-led weaning as a way to introduce solids to my infants. However, baby-led weaning isn’t for everyone. Even if you start with purees, you can still make vegetables their first taste of solids.
You can also read my post on how to start baby-led weaning here as well as the first thirty foods I introduce to my baby here!
Vegetables for Kids: Introduce Dippers and Spices Early
I have four children and something I never thought of with the first three was to introduce a variety of textures and flavors to my baby early on. I didn’t think about adding spices. Or introducing “dippers.” I just roasted or steamed vegetables and fed them to my babies raw.
While the plain veggies were something they enjoyed at a young age, as they got older I would see them pick and choose items to eat from their trays. Carbs would always get eaten first. Then dairy items. Followed by fruits. Followed by proteins. And then? Then they’d often sign “all done” before even touching any of the vegetables.
With my fourth baby, I saw in a Facebook group the recommendation to introduce spices. I fed him bell peppers. I sprinkled different spices on his foods. And I also introduced different spreads and dippers too. This not only broadened his palet but made it easier to have him enjoying vegetables and way to mix-up the typical way I fed him those healthy food items.
Getting a Toddler to Eat Vegetables
Even though all of my babies were AWESOME eaters, they all started to be pickier when they became toddlers. They’d pick through and eat their favorite items off of their trays and leave the rest. As they got older and got to experience the joys of sweet things, they stopped enjoying healthier foods – especially vegetables.
The toddler age is tricky. They can’t yet fully communicate their wants and desires and can’t understand reason or logic. It’s hard to teach a lesson to a toddler that involves more than a simple “yes” or “no” command.
Trying to explain to a toddler that they must eat their vegetables is like talking to a wall. It won’t do any good.
With my older three kids, I struggled with what to do during that phase. The stage where they were too young to understand needing to eat the vegetables yet old enough to have a preference in what they ate. They were picky and I felt like I was at a loss to really do anything about it.
During that stage with my first three children I would still offer vegetables with their meal and just wouldn’t give them more food unless they also ate their vegetables. It was the only strategy I could really think of! And it wasn’t really a very solid way to get them to eat the vegetables because they’d often just say they were done and opt not to eat them.
With my fourth baby? The one who I introduced spices too? He has just recently hit that same toddler picky phase.
He stopped choosing to eat his vegetables. Instead, he’d eat all his fruit and then ask for more fruit and completely ignore the veggie options on his tray.
But this time? This time I had a secret weapon up my sleeve:
The Best Tip For Getting Kids to Eat Veggies: Dippers
Early on into my fourth child’s journey of solid foods, I introduced hummus.
I also realized that stores sell frozen vegetables in easy to steam bags. I started buying a variety of these mixed vegetable bags. Not only is it way quicker and easier to prepare but it also allows for a wide variety of vegetables served together. Rather than just beans with his meal he’s able to get beans, carrots and kale all mixed together!
As an infant and early eater, I’d spread hummus on his toast. One day he chose to stop eating his vegetables so I got the genius idea to mix the hummus in with his veggies. I simply heat up some vegetables then add a scoop of hummus and serve!
The humus helps to cool down the vegetables plus it adds its own health benefits to them. It doesn’t just end with hummus! There are TONS of great, easy, healthy dipper options you can use to help your toddler enjoy vegetables. I’ve also been looking up recipes on Pinterest for variations of dippers to make at home too!
Other Great, Easy Dipper Ideas To Try:
- Greek Yogurt
- Peanut Butter
My 14-month-old GOBBLES DOWN his vegetables. When I’m making lunch he will get SO excited when he sees me start to prepare his veggies. He LOVES them! It’s not a headache or a hassle or a mealtime battle. It’s true enjoyment!
How to Get a Child to Eat When they Refuse Vegetables
Picky older children are easier to deal with in some ways and more difficult in others. They may be able to better understand the “why” behind healthy eating, but that doesn’t mean they will enjoy the experience.
I’m hoping that my dipper method works for my youngest and that I’ll never face any sort of pickiness when it comes to his vegetable eating.
But I still have three older kids to deal with on this matter! For our dinners, at night I always give at least one vegetable as well as a fruit. My kids all LOVE fruit. They will gobble up every bite of fruit without any complaining. But the vegetables are a tougher sell.
Meal plans are a wise way to allow your children to know what to expect at meal time. Cooking healthy recipes on a regular basis allows for proper nutrition to become the standard in your home – something your children come to anticipate and expect each evening at dinnertime. They see the vegetable recipe dishes on the meal plan for the day and know that they will be eating the sweet potatoes, or brussels sprouts or butternut squash that evening.
Each night our kids are allowed to have a small dessert treat. This is typically a piece of candy from our candy jar (which is filled with all their candy collecting from various holidays). They know they have to eat all their food in order to have dessert.
We believe in portion control and use divided plates (affiliate link – these are awesome!) for our children in order to ensure we don’t fill their plates too much. We give very small portions of each item and they may choose to finish all of their food and get dessert or not eat it all and be done for the night. However, either way, they must eat their vegetables.
They don’t have to eat all their main course. But the vegetables are a must eat prior to leaving the table. For our almost 10 year old this is a breeze. He’s used to the routine. He knows what’s expected of him and he gets it done. He finishes his green beans or squash or roasted carrots without a single complaint. With the four-year-old, it sometimes results in tears.
So they have a third option. Option one: eat it all and get dessert Option two: eat all the vegetables and be excused or Option three: opt to have the vegetable portion as part of their breakfast the following day.
My second child was very stubborn for a long time about her eating and I would simply save the vegetables and reheat them for every single meal until she ate them. It was a battle of the wills and Mama wasn’t about to lose. Giving in and becoming a short order cook for my child, letting her decide what she’d eat at each meal, would be me saying “well the child won” and I am not going to let my children rule our home.
It took a full 24 hours of me reheating the food for her to finally eat it. We were even out to eat at Zaxby’s for dinner and I brought the beans along with us!
After that, she never struggled with finishing the vegetable portion again. The reality is that food wasn’t put here on Earth for our enjoyment it’s for our nourishment.
I am mindful to explain that to my children. I feed them vegetables and fruits and other healthy foods out of my love for them. It doesn’t benefit me at all if they eat them – it’s purely for their best interest and because I love them that I make it a family rule that vegetables need to be eaten.
I love this family mantra: “You don’t have to like it but you do have to eat it.”
I know I said at the beginning of this post that I want my kids to enjoy vegetables and not just eat them because they have to. And my method of making them eat them sounds like a “have to” mentality. But the beauty of having older children is that I can see the fruits of my parenting labors.
My oldest son ordered a salad at dinner the other night. He has commented that he loves my cooking and enjoys everything I serve. And my seven year old? The same one who had to have her beans brought to Zaxby’s before she’d finally eat them? She now says she LOVES those beans. Seriously.
It’s been said that it takes several times of being exposed to trying new foods in order to develop a taste for them. By having a hard rule that vegetables must be eaten at mealtime, my kids are developing those tastes for those foods.
On top of offering veggies at dinner and having it be a rule that they must eat their age-appropriate sized portion of them, I also try to make vegetables more fun.
I offer dippers for my older kids too and these may not be as straight up healthy as the ones my toddler gets, but it still is a way for them to find enjoyment in the vegetable eating!
Some dipper ideas for older kids in addition to the ones for toddlers may include:
- Ranch Dressing
- Other Salad Dressing
- Honey Mustard
I know the Nutella suggestion sounds disgusting but my kids love Nutella and carrot sticks! They prefer Nutella with carrots over Ranch! Allow your older children to explore different types of dippers. Let them help in creating their own combinations. Not only does it help involve them in the process but it also helps add to their enjoyment in eating it when they’d made it! Kids eat better when they are hands-on in the experience, older kids could even help by using Pinterest to find dipper combinations they’d enjoy!
Getting Kids to Eat Veggies: Sneak ‘Em In
In addition to giving my kids vegetables and having rules in our home that they have to eat them, I also sneak them in whenever I can wherever I can in other meals!
Smoothies are a VERY easy way to do this. My kids ALL love smoothies! It’s easy to toss in vegetables as they can’t even taste them and don’t even notice when it’s all blended together!
Real talk? I LOVE sneaking veggies into family meals because it not only benefits the children but also my husband and I. He’s terrible about eating vegetables just like I am so having spinach in our spaghetti sauce or zucchini noodles for our pasta or cauliflower mashed potatoes – it gives US the health benefits of eating our veggies! Even parents need help thinking about eating healthier and putting those thoughts into practice. We all have to eat food…might as well make it as healthy as possible!
Got super picky eaters on your hands? Hopefully, my suggestions regarding fun dippers, requiring a certain amount of vegetables to be eaten, and/or sneaking the veggies into other foods they enjoy will help! These posts also are an excellent resource for picking eating:
Extreme picky eating can be a sign of other potential health problems such as oral motor concerns or acid reflux. If you are concerned about picky eating or a lack of appetite or other feeding and child eat related concerns be sure to discuss with your pediatrician and follow their advice and wisdom.
How to get kids to eat healthy? How to get your teenager to eat vegetables? The best way to have children enjoy eating vegetables is to start working towards that goal while they are little. The younger they are when you work with them on developing a taste for healthy eating habits the quicker they will start enjoying them and the more likely they are to enjoy them into adulthood as well!