5 Proven Strategies For Getting Your Child To Eat Vegetables
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As a parent, you know how important it is to ensure your child eats a healthy, balanced diet. However, getting children to eat their vegetables can often be a challenge. Picky eaters in particular may turn their noses up at any vegetable that comes their way.
But don’t worry, there are strategies you can use to increase your child’s vegetable intake and make mealtimes more enjoyable for everyone.
In this post, we’ll discuss 5 strategies for getting your child to eat vegetables. From involving your child in meal planning and preparation to making vegetables fun and appealing, these strategies will help you encourage your child to eat their greens (and yellows, and reds, and oranges…you get the picture!).
So let’s get started!
Strategy 1: Involve Your Child in Meal Planning and Preparation
Getting your child involved in meal planning and preparation can help them become more comfortable with foods that may be new or unfamiliar. Having a hand in picking and preparing the vegetables will pique their interest in wanting to taste what they helped make!
This is also a great learning opportunity – to teach them about the different types of foods, vegetables, colors of the veggies, etc.
Some easy ways to get your child involved in meal planning and preparation are:
- when grocery shopping have them pick out a favorite veggie and one new veggie they want to try
- let them choose what vegetables to include in the meal
- offer them the choice between two vegetables that you prepared
- have them help you with cooking tasks in the kitchen >> here’s an age-appropriate list
Healthy Meal Ideas for Fussy Eaters That Children Can Help Prepare
#1: Homemade Pizzas: Children can help choose the toppings, spread the sauce, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Offer a variety of vegetables for your children to choose from like mushrooms, red bell peppers, and tomatoes. Boost the nutritional value of the pizza by using a whole wheat crust.
#2: Rainbow Veggie Skewers: Add sliced vegetables like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers onto skewers with some cheese cubes. Children can help assemble the skewers and enjoy their colorful creations.
#3: Rainbow Salad: Children can help wash and chop various veggies like lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes. Then let them assemble their own salad and top it with their favorite dressing.
#4: Veggie Omelet: Children can help whisk the eggs and chop up veggies like spinach, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Then, cook the omelet together and enjoy a healthy and delicious breakfast.
#5: One-Pot Vegetable Pasta: Simply sauté some garlic and onions in a pot, add sliced vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms, then stir in canned diced tomatoes and pasta. Cover the pot and let everything cook together until the pasta is tender and the sauce is thick and flavorful.
Strategy 2: Make Vegetables Fun and Appealing
Another great strategy to get your child to eat more vegetables is to make them fun and appealing. No one is going to be encouraged to try something new when it looks gross or boring. Piquing their interest in their food and making it fun is a great way to get them to take that first bite.
Some of my favorite ways to make vegetables fun and appealing for children are:
- cut them into fun shapes – you can use these cookie cutters
- stick colorful small food picks into the vegetables – here are some cute ones
- serve the vegetables with dips or sauces – like hummus or homemade ranch
Fun and Appealing Vegetable Recipes for Picky Eaters
#1: Veggie Quesadillas: Fill a tortilla with a variety of sautéed vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and zucchini, and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top. Heat the tortilla in a pan until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crispy. Cut the quesadilla into small pieces or fun shapes like triangles to make it more appealing to kids.
#2: Zucchini Noodles with Marinara Sauce: Using a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler, turn zucchini into long, noodle-like strands. Top the zucchini noodles with homemade marinara sauce and sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on top. This dish is a healthy and delicious alternative to traditional spaghetti and meatballs.
#3: Rainbow Stir-Fry: Sauté a variety of colorful vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and snap peas in a large pan with a little bit of avocado oil. Add some low-sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for flavor and serve the stir-fry over a bed of brown rice or quinoa.
Strategy 3: Offer Vegetables as Snacks
If you’re struggling to get your child to eat vegetables, try also offering them as snacks. Not only does this increase their exposure to vegetables, but increases their overall intake of vegetables.
Pre-cut vegetables and keep them in the fridge for a quick + easy snack throughout the week. Also, keep some high-protein dips and spreads, like hummus or homemade ranch, with the vegetables.
Well Balanced Vegetable-Based Snacks
#1: Carrot sticks with hummus: Cut carrots into sticks and serve with a side of hummus for dipping. This snack is rich in fiber and protein, and the hummus adds a delicious creamy texture.
#2: Cucumber and tomato salad: Slice cucumbers and tomatoes and toss them in a bowl with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. This refreshing and flavorful snack is packed with vitamins.
#3: Roasted sweet potato wedges: Cut sweet potatoes into wedges, toss with a little bit of avocado oil and seasonings like garlic powder and paprika, and roast in the oven until crispy (or in the Air Fryer). These sweet and savory wedges are a great alternative to traditional potato chips.
#4: Kale chips: Toss kale leaves with a little bit of olive oil and salt, and bake in the oven until crispy (or in the Air Fryer). These crunchy and flavorful chips are a great way to get kids to eat their greens.
#5: Vegetable sticks with yogurt dip: Cut up a variety of vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers, and celery into sticks, and serve with a side of yogurt dip. This dip can be made by mixing plain yogurt with chopped herbs and spices like dill, garlic, and cumin. It’s a great way to get some extra protein and probiotics into your child’s diet
Strategy 4: Set a Good Example
We have to mirror the behaviors we want to see from our children. You can’t expect your child to eat vegetables at mealtime if you aren’t eating vegetables. Setting a good example as a parent can encourage your child to eat new or unfamiliar foods.
Model healthy eating behaviors at the table by including vegetables in your own meals and trying new vegetables yourself. It can also be helpful when other children in the family are eating the veggies too.
When you’re eating and enjoying the food that’s offered your child will be more interested in eating those foods themselves.
Strategy 5: Be Patient and Persistent
There is no picky eating strategy I could tell you to implement that would work overnight. You have to be patient and persistent. It can take time. It can take up to 10-12 exposures to particular vegetables before your child will ever take a bite.
Here is what you can do to ensure you’re staying patient and persistent:
- continue to offer new and previously rejected vegetables at mealtime
- try to prepare the vegetables in different ways – steam, bake, air fry, etc.
- try seasoning the vegetables with different herbs and spices
Persistence (versus using pressure) pays off in the end. I want your child to learn to enjoy vegetables and have a healthy relationship with food. Pressure or punishment at the dinner table can lead to a negative association with food and mealtime.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Encouraging children to eat more vegetables can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. Vegetables are packed with essential nutrients and can help support healthy growth and development.
By using the strategies outlined in this post, including introducing a variety of vegetables, involving children in the cooking process, and making vegetables fun and appealing, you can help your child develop a lifelong love for healthy eating. With a little bit of creativity and patience, you can turn even the pickiest eater into a vegetable lover.
So, get started with some of the vegetable recipes and snack ideas for picky eaters listed here, and see how easy and enjoyable it can be to incorporate more vegetables into your child’s diet.