How on earth do you get kids to eat their vegetables? Charlotte – Provo, UT
There are 2 levels to this, the first level is: how can we trick the kids into enjoying something healthy? That means put some zucchini in your food processor and mix it into the spaghetti sauce/meatloaf/muffins/whatever you can find where it will blend in. Or break out the ranch dressing and let them dip like crazy. Kids definitely like simpler veggies, so if they will eat baby carrots all day, every day — with a cup of ranch dressing — then take it and run!
The second level is: how can we adjust to kids who hate veggies in all forms? This is my family, and for most of their lives I’ve had to deal with the fact that their taste buds do not process vegetables well. I am convinced it is not a manipulative game with them, or a battle of wills, but rather they have taste buds that cannot stand veggies. This is what most of our “veggie” courses consist of — frozen corn or apple slices. That’s all I can do. But you know, that and some high fiber baked goods and we have made it just fine. I often look longingly at the kids Who Will Eat Anything, but that’s not my kids so I’ve learned to let it go. Amy C. – 40 something
It’s an art, not a science, since every kid is different. First, there is constant reinforcement of the ‘why’ eating veggies is important to health. Second, at my house, we have the ‘must try’ rule for every food being served at a meal. Third, providing acknowledgment for trying the veggies is a must. It may be the rule, but there is also praise for following the rule when it’s difficult. This approach has netted one child who loves veggies, and one who hates them but at least eats a minimal amount. Good luck! Amy B. – 40 something
1. Hide them in food you make. Jessica Seinfeld wrote a brilliant cookbook with delicious recipes for this purpose!
2. Offer dessert in exchange for vegies. Sometimes the promise of a cookie or a popsicle, is just the incentive needed.
3. Let them earn points or stars toward a gift or trip that they want. I have heard that we need to taste something 5 to 7 times before our taste buds can identify and enjoy the food. I have explained that to my children (and they were doubtful) but sometimes points and stars can help get them through that initial period.
4. Make a “green” shake in the morning. Fill the blender to the brim with raw spinach, add about a cup of sweet frozen fruit (mango or strawberry,) 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup apple juice. If you close your eyes, it tastes like a fruit smoothie.. and they may think drinking something green is kind of fun! Jamee – 40 something
Don’t’ make eating veggies an option. At our house I would put out sliced raw veggies before dinner that were available for snacking on. This was a bowl of cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers generally. Then at dinner there was always a cooked vegetable to eat. My kids would sometimes balk at the cooked veggie but never at the raw veggies. You could also change up the raw veggies by adding hummus as a dip or salad dressing.
If my kids just ate the veggies before dinner but not the cooked veggies with dinner-that was ok. I knew that they already had a big serving of greens. Ann G. – 50 something
Hide the veggies in EVERYTHING. Making meatloaf or spaghetti sauce, grind up those veggies and add to the sauce, kids will never know they are there. If your kids love cheese, drown the veggies in cheese sauce. Leave them raw if you have to: some kids love carrot and celery sticks those are veggies so let them have them as snacks. If you are trying a new veggie insist the kids eat at least one bite before they say they don’t like it. Trick I learned from my Grandmother, you have to have one bite first. Keep doing this as children’s tastes are always changing: today cheese is OK, tomorrow they won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. LOL Kids! Helene – 60 something
The key is to start early, and transition from baby and pureed food into small chunks for finger feeding. Do things like steaming peas, broccoli or string beans in apple juice to sweeten them up. Mash the potatoes with cheese or make French fries using sweet potatoes baked in a splash of olive oil and salt. Children of all ages like, and can eat, most one dish meals, so hide the veggies in with the sauce and noodles and meat. Remember Mom’s tuna casserole? Use grated cheese, crushed potato or vegetable chips, or flavored bread crumbs for toppings. Kids also like to dip, so put out carrot slices or zucchini sticks with low fat salad dressing as a start to the meal, when they are the hungriest and will eat practically anything that isn’t alive and moving. Good for adults too! Avoid high acid veggies such as spinach or kale or chard, for while they are loaded with vitamins and minerals they are not palatable as a stand alone. Instead add them to hearty soups or a meatloaf or cook them as a bed of greens topped with fish or chicken. Use mint and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon to add flavor. A put off for a lot of kids is that they let the food get cold on their plates while pushing it around with a fork, contemplating whether to stuff their cheeks and then be excused for a bathroom break and a toilet flush. Cold, cooked vegetables, including mashed potatoes, aren’t appetizing to anyone. So if this is a problem, mix the veggies in a one dish meal to keep them hot and hidden. I guarantee you success! Marge – 70 something