Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Get Your Kid to Eat Vegetables {Part 1}





A lot of parents find their way to Your Kid's Table because, simply put, they want their kid to eat a larger variety of food.  I get a lot of questions about vegetables and meat, in particular.  Many kids struggle with these two food groups.  In this post, I'm going to talk about some easy ways to get more vegetables into your kids diet, but look for more in depth strategies and recipes in part 2. I will cover meat in the near future, as well.

I'm going to spare you the details on why veggies are such an important part of your kid's diet - most of you already know that. I'm also going to admit up front that this is an area that we are always working on in my house. Isaac, my 2 year old picky eater, only eats raw carrots readily. However, last week he happily ate spaghetti squash (I'll share how I managed that in part 2), which is usually something he totally avoids. My point is, there is hope! 


I've said this before, but I think it is a good reminder that kid's taste buds are different than ours as adults. Veggies often taste bitter and the texture is unusual. It is easy to understand why kids aren't interested.  Of course, it is okay to explain to kids that they "need" veggies to be healthy, but honestly they don't really get it or don't really care.

The important thing is that we need to get them comfortable with a food that is fairly foreign to them. As with any non-preferred food, they need a chance to explore it when the pressure to eat it is off.  Here are some specific, quick things to try. Make sure you give them a go multiple times before throwing in the towel:

  • Serve veggies raw (carrots, zucchini, green beans, celery, etc.) with a preferred dip like ranch, peanut butter, sour cream, etc. Obviously, there are some choking hazards with the toddler crowd, so be careful of raw carrot and celery. Some kids like the crunchy texture much better than cooked and dipping is usually a win with kids.  Plus, dips help mask the sometimes strong taste for kids.  Yes, we want them to be able to eat them plain, but this will help get them there. Don't hesitate to try this with a hot meal that you wouldn't normally pair it with, raw veggies pack the most nutrition. 
  • Serve frozen veggies frozen. I know that sounds crazy, but it really changes the taste. A lot of kids think it is silly and are likely to give it a go. Peas work really well for this one and I would try it as a snack.
  • I can't say this one enough... cook with your kid. In particular, have them prepare the veggies. Tear lettuce, cut up cook carrots, peel a cucumber, whatever is appropriate and safe for their age. It could be as simple as mixing some seasoning on top or placing the veggies into a bowl. Take a few bites while your cooking and casually suggest that your kid try a bite.  Maybe they'll surprise you!
  • Have the veggies ready first.  As soon as I start to cook (if my kids aren't helping), they start hovering like bees around the hive. I put out the veggies we'll be having with dinner anyways and they often gobble them up, well at least Sam will. Sometimes I even just set them on the cutting board. He's helping me cook and snacking on veggies while he's doing it. Isaac may actually eat a bite or two, but for him that's great progress.


  • Use boxed pureed veggie soups like in the picture above. I love these, obviously I shop a lot at Trader Joe's, but they are everywhere. These soups are very thin, have very little texture, are low in calories and predominantly vegetable. I serve it as a side, both my kids love a wide variety of these. I also add milk or cheese to thicken it up and will pour it over noodles, rice, couscous, or barley as a sauce. 

There you have it, some simple strategies you can try today to get more veggies in your kid's diet.  Keep in mind that it is important to keep mealtimes and meal prep as positive as possible.  Stress levels can get high quick and your child will pick up on it.  Avoid power struggles and focus on any new things your child may have done with the food like touching or smelling it.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week, I have an original and unexpected recipe to share. In the meantime, if you are feeling stressed over your kids eating habits, check out When Picky Eating Has Gone Too Far. I'm also available for consultations and have more helpful tips on my facebook page.

Update: Click here for part 2 or here for part 3, How to Get Your Kid's to Eat Meat.

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