Some parents might consider me lucky because my kids are veggie monsters. They’ve always eaten their veggies, and they love them so much that we served Brussels sprouts at my son’s second birthday party. (Weird, I know–but he loves them and it is his party!)
Luck might play a role, but my kids like to eat vegetables for a few reasons. It is important to me, so I’ve figured out a few ways to get them chompin’ on the good stuff.
Serve vegetables. Often. Then more often.
Kids are most comfortable trying foods that are familiar. If they often see spinach at the table, they are more likely to try it. Don’t limit veggies to dinner, either. Having them with breakfast (in a scramble), with lunch (on a sandwich), or as a snack (with hummus) greatly increases your chances of getting at least a few bites of vegetable in your kid.
Lead by example.
Your kids aren’t going to eat a salad if you don’t. If they see you push asparagus to the side of your plate and not eat it, then they will too. You are a grown up, and eating your vegetables might be as painful to you as paying a bill, but it is just as necessary. The old saying “do as I say, not as I do” simply does not work.
Change things up.
Do you always steam green beans in a microwavable bag? Are you always drowning broccoli in cheese sauce? Your kids might like a different preparation better, and you might too! With the wonderful world of the internet, sites like Pinterest, and so many stellar cookbooks in the world, there is no reason to have the same ol’ veggies every day. And if you haven’t already, you really should…
This is my number one trick for getting kids to eat any veggie. Use fresh or frozen vegetables…winter or summer squash, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli….you can roast them all! Simply line a pan with foil for easy clean up, toss them with some olive oil and kosher salt, then put in the oven at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Do it. Right. Now. You’ll thank me in an hour.
Kids who get to have a hand in growing their own food are more likely to eat it and enjoy it. Start with some easy to grow tomatoes in a pot or some herbs that they can help add to a sauce. Kids get great pleasure in helping, and getting to eat the fruits of their labor is a bonus!
Let them help shop.
My kids generally love going to the grocery store with me. I don’t always take them with me; I am, after all, trying to stick to a budget–and sometimes that lonesome trip to the grocery store is my only “me” time. But I do take them with me at least once a month because I want them to take some ownership of their food. My four-year old daughter loves to push the kid-sized cart, and my toddler son loves to “drive” the car cart. Both kids love picking one butternut squash over the other or helping me bag oranges. They are always looking forward to eating whatever they helped choose, and even when we eat that butternut squash a few days later, my four year old likes to regale us with stories of how she chose that particular squash.
Try something new.
Sometimes we get in a rut. We eat spinach for a week solid, then we all get tired of it. It isn’t usually intended that way, but for whatever reason that was what I had a ton of in the fridge or freezer. It happens. Or maybe you have a few veggies that are your go-tos, and everybody is a little weary of them. Go to your farmer’s market or an ethnic grocer and pick up something that isn’t quite as familiar. Give it a try! Let your kids know that this new food is new for you, too, but you are looking forward to trying it. Watch a YouTube video together about how to cut or prepare your new vegetable. Creating excitement and positive anticipation can go a long way towards getting your kids to eat their veggies!
Don’t lie to them.
Eating vegetables is so, so important. Please don’t hide veggie purees in their foods and lie to them about it. If you want to put some in a muffin, that is fine, but let them know! Saying “aren’t these muffins yummy? They have broccoli in them!” can go a long way to getting a child to begin to think of a vegetable as delicious. Adversely, sneaking vegetables into other foods can reinforce that vegetables are gross and should be avoided.
Look at the big picture.
If you are worried about what your child is eating in any given day, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself, “what does my child eat in a week?” I’ve heard it from all of my pediatricians…kids have big appetites one day and none the next, so don’t stress if their diet isn’t optimal on any given day. If they are usually eating healthy foods, then you don’t have much to worry about if they boycott vegetables at dinner one night.
Cut back on sugar.
This is a tough one. Even if we aren’t eating cupcakes and ice cream every day (and believe me, I could!), sugar sneaks into almost anything in a package. After recently doing a Whole30 as a family, it was eye opening to see how many meats we were buying (like bacon and sausage) that had sugar, sugar, sugar in them. That stuff is everywhere. By cutting out added sugars for a while, all vegetables began to taste sweeter.
I hope that these tips help you get more vegetables into your family! Please let me know if you try any of them!
Do you eat your vegetables? What about your kids? Do you have any favorites?