Enticing Your Kids to Eat Vegetables
When I was a young adult, my mother used to tell me a story about how she hid vegetables while she ate dinner. When she was a child, her family’s kitchen table had a drawer in it. My mother would put her vegetables in the drawer when my grandmother got up to get a condiment, utensil, or platter of food. After the meal, she would sneak back to the drawer to dispose of her food. She was always afraid the drawer would smell, and my grandmother would realize that she was not eating her vegetables. Knowing my grandmother, she probably knew, but she let my mom do it anyway.
Although most families do not have a drawer in their kitchen table, many families have at least one child who pushes vegetables around a plate without eating them. Using a little creativity, you can get your children to love vegetables, or at least eat them. Make vegetables convenient to eat, prepare them in an appealing manner, and let children contribute when preparing them.
Tips for Making Children Want to Eat Vegetables
- Enjoy Vegetables in Front of Your Kids
- Make Veggies an Anytime Food
- Prepare Vegetables in Advance
- Think Like a Child When Preparing Veggies
- Puree Vegetables in Soups and Stocks
- Use Dipping Sauces to Add Flavor and Fun
- Make Baked "Fried" Vegetables
- Give Your Child an Important Role in Preparing Vegetables
- Grow a Garden
- Let Your Child Help Cook Veggies
- Use Colorful Vegetables and Interesting Shapes
1. Enjoy Vegetables in Front of Your Kids
One of my friends is a very healthy eater. She eats more than anyone I know, but she eats mostly fruits and vegetables. Your children pay attention to your habits and imitate them, so show them that you love vegetables. Pile them on your plate during family meals, snack on them, and make them accessible.
2. Make Veggies an Anytime Food
At our home, we always ate dinner together, but the rule was no one could eat until everyone was sitting at the table. Usually everyone was at the table before I had all the food on the table. The wafting aromas of the main course made the kids hungry while they waited for mom. Therefore, we decided anyone could eat vegetables anytime without waiting for the others. I always put the vegetables on the table first, and it was customary for the kids to nibble on them while I dished out the rest of the meal.
3. Prepare Vegetables in Advance
Children like snack foods that they can eat immediately. Make vegetables ready-to-eat, and put them in clear bags. If they are convenient to eat and visible, children are more likely to snack on them.
4. Think Like a Child When Preparing Veggies
Children may be pickier eaters than adults, so think about foods that appeal to them when making vegetables. Even if the adults in your family are satisfied with boiled vegetables, children may prefer veggies with more flavor. A little bit of salt, breading, or a sauce can influence a child's willingness to eat vegetables.
5. Puree Vegetables in Soups and Stocks
It is hard to refuse to eat food that you do not see. I frequently make soups, gravies, and sauces by cooking carrots, celery sticks, and onions in broth. Cut them in large chunks if you want them to soften quicker than whole pieces. When the vegetables feel soft, after an hour or two depending on the stove’s flame, remove them with a slotted spoon. Put the vegetables in a blender with a little water, and turn them into a thick paste.
Return the vegetables to the broth, and your gravy, soup or sauce will have a healthy thickener and an attractive color. Your children will not notice the vegetables and will happily eat them. Additionally, this is a healthy, low-fat way to add texture and richness to a soup, sauce, or gravy.
6. Use Dipping Sauces to Add Flavor and Fun
My younger son, who is now an adult, loved to dip foods in almost anything when he was a kid. Make little cups of assorted salad dressings to accompany vegetables. Your children may enjoy dipping their food in the dressings and choosing different flavors. Include a small container of dipping sauce in a brown bag lunch too. Melted cheese sauce can also be an appealing dip for vegetables when you are eating at home.
7. Make Baked "Fried" Vegetables
Given the success of many fast food restaurants, it is obvious that many children adore fried food. Make your own vegetables that look fried but are really baked. The crunchy outside will be appealing to your children's tastebuds, but baking instead of frying the vegetables will make the food healthier than traditional fried food.
- Dip zucchini sticks or eggplant rounds in egg whites, then toss them in a mixture of whole wheat bread crumbs and fresh herbs.
- Lightly spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, then coat both sides of the vegetables with the spray, and arrange them in a single layer.
- Bake the vegetables in a preheated 450°F oven for about 15 minutes. Turn the vegetables, and cook them another 7–8 minutes or until they look crispy.
There are many variations of baked fried vegetables. Your creativity will help keep the baked, breaded vegetables interesting and flavorful. Keep in mind that the thickness of the vegetable slices will affect the cooking time, so check your vegetables frequently.
8. Give Your Child an Important Role in Preparing Vegetables
Generally, people feel proud when they create food. Giving your children a job when it comes to growing or preparing vegetables can affect their attitude toward eating them.
9. Grow a Garden
When one of my children was in nursery school, he came home with an egg carton filled with planted seeds. He was probably one of the few kids that watered his seeds, and we eventually transferred them to a large pot. As time went on, the seedlings grew, and one day he got very excited when we pulled up a carrot from the pot. He could not wait to eat the vegetable that he had grown himself.
Your children may also enjoy eating vegetables that they grow. They can choose seeds based on the vegetables they want to try. Planting a garden is an excellent way to get your children to eat vegetables, and it can promote a sense of accomplishment and responsibility.
10. Let Your Child Help Cook Vegetables
Why not encourage your child to help prepare vegetables? He is likely to want everyone to try his creation and proudly eat the vegetables he makes. Even young children can stir a simple marinade of garlic olive oil, and red pepper flakes. They will enjoy using a pastry brush to paint it on vegetables before they are grilled.
Let your child choose ingredients to put in a salad. Put all the salad makings in a bowl with a lid, and he can have fun shaking it with a little dressing. As your child gets older, he can master more complicated kitchen tasks. Do not forget to rave about your child’s vegetable creations.
11. Use Colorful Vegetables and Interesting Shapes to Add Appeal
Vegetables are so colorful that their bright vibrancy can add to their appeal. You can scrape thin curls, cut them in rounds, shred them, or serve them whole. The differences in texture and appearance can make kids more interested in eating vegetables.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Abby Slutsky
Alyssa from Ohio on July 14, 2020:
So many good ideas here, Abby! I completely agree with you, "your children pay attention to your habits and imitate them." It's important to teach your kids how to be healthy by being healthy yourself! This is something I'm incredibly passionate about. We also have the everyone sits before you start eating rule, but if I'm making something I know my son doesn't care for, I'll let him start a little sooner. Otherwise, he'd be there for an hour or so after the meal was finished. I love keeping veggies and fruit conveniently available for snacks. My son and I love to nibble on green grapes and carrot sticks. It's also fun to get the kids in the kitchen, involving them in preparing the meal. Not only do you get to teach your kids how to cook, but you make lasting memories. I also love your gardening tip! We usually have green pepper plants and it's so fun to watch them grow little peppers. This is a great article!
Danny from India on July 07, 2020:
Abby, I have heard Mothers tempting kids with colorful veggies :). It adds vibrancy to the dish and kids love colors