10 Easy Ways To Get Your Children To Eat More Veggies

Mothers continually struggle with trying to get their kids to eat more vegetables.  The question arises, should moms sneak veggies into their children's food?  Or should they spend their energy convincing their kids to eat vegetables on their own?

It is clear to me that it is worth the extra effort to get your children to eat vegetables knowingly and willingly.  Sure, you can spend your time mashing up carrots and chopping up spinach to sneak into your daughter's pancakes.  But what will happen five or ten years from now when she is living on her own?  She won't be used to the true taste of a veggie and she certainly won't have the time (or patience) to julienne her own greens.  Your victory will be short-lived.

You are much better off teaching your sons and daughters to enjoy the taste and the crunch of a vegetable.  It may seem easier said than done but there are some strategies you can use to make the process easier.

1. Serve your child vegetables from the beginning and continue through toddlerhood.

Every baby is given vegetables as some of their first foods.  But somehow, by the time a child is 2, his sole vegetable is usually potatoes in the form of french fries.  Parents often stop serving vegetables because the child is too old for pureed veggies and too young to eat hard chunks of vegetables on his own without choking.  Yet this is the most crucial time to serve your kids vegetables as snacks.  Try steaming or microwaving vegetable chunks until they are soft and no longer a choking hazard.  Be sure to serve all different types, including broccoli, carrots, zucchini and cauliflower.  Half of your child's mealtime plate should be vegetables.

2. Allow your children to see you enjoying vegetables.

If you crinkle your nose at the sight of a brussel sprout, it is likely your children will too.  On the other hand, if you look forward to eating vegetables, your children will get the message that veggies are a healthy and delicious part of their diet.

3. Serve vegetables as its own course before the meal.

What mother hasn't experienced her kids crying that they are STARVING while she is cooking dinner?  This is a perfect opportunity to get your kids to eat their vegetables.  Put out a plate of chopped veggies for your kids to pick on while you cook.  When vegetables are the only option, kids are more likely to eat them.  Give them another choice and they will often go with the less healthy version.

4. Serve vegetables in funny designs.

A bowl of zucchini may not seem fun but place the zucchini on a plate in the shape of a smiley face and suddenly eating it becomes a game.  Presentation can make a big difference.  Plate the vegetables in different shapes and your children may enjoy eating them more!

5. Serve vegetable soup.

Most kids love a bowl of vegetable soup, particularly on a cold day.  When you are having a particularly hard time getting your children to eat their veggies, throw them into a soup.

6. Take your kids shopping.

Take your children to the grocery store and spend some time in the produce aisle.  Go through the types of vegetables with them so they know the different options.  Allow your children to pick which special vegetable they want to try that week.  Then, when you serve it, make a big deal that this is your child's "Special Vegetable of the Week".

7. Start a vegetable garden.

Even better than letting them choose a vegetable from the supermarket?  Letting them pick one off the vine.  Start a vegetable garden with your children so they can grow their own vegetables.  Get them involved by allowing them to water and tend to the garden.  Then when the vegetables are grown, have your kids pick them and help you prepare them for eating.  The more invested your children are in the process, the more likely they are to eat the vegetables!

8. Serve vegetables with a healthy dip.

Everybody loves veggies with dip.  The key, however, is picking a healthy dip.  You are not helping your children by getting them to eat vegetables covered in full-fat ranch dressing.  Rather, give them a small amount of light or fat-free dressing to dip.  You can also try a small amount of heart-healthy guacamole or hummus.  Remember, the idea is for your kids to eat vegetables with a little bit of dip- not dip with a little bit of vegetables!

9. Serve vegetable stir-fry.

A great dinner option is some type of protein (chicken, lean steak, or fish) with stir-fried vegetables.  My kids love when I make chicken teriyaki (which is mostly veggies with small chunks of chicken).  Sometimes I even add a few pineapple rings for extra sweetness!

10. My favorite way to serve my kids vegetables...

Anybody who has ever gone out to lunch with me and my family knows my ordering quirk.  Instead of ordering french fries for my children, I order them sliced cucumber.  Like french fries, they can be eaten with their hands and they have a nice crunch.  Obviously they don't taste the same as french fries but my kids enjoy them.  My children know that unless it is a special occasion, french fries are not an option for them.  It took awhile and there was definitely fighting and complaining in the beginning.  But I held strong and they have learned to eat the cucumbers instead.

There are many ways to get your children to enjoy eating vegetables.  You may have to get creative but in the end it is well worth it!

Joanna Dolgoff MD is a pediatrician who specializes in child and adolescent weight management. She is the creator of Dr. Dolgoff's Weigh.

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One Response to “10 Easy Ways To Get Your Children To Eat More Veggies”

  1. damusicmom says:

    Great article. I’ve got 4 kids and have not mastered the vege thing to this day. We’ve done vege fun faces and pizzas and even sneakinem’ in, but not giving them as a separate course–I’m trying 2nite. Lately, I’ve been giving veges “super” names like “super carrot eyes”–if you cut them crosswise they look like eyes; or “long legged long beans”–we pretend their arms and legs get longer with each bite. Another one is “pretty girl salad”. It”s been working for a few weeks. Thanks 4 the french fries no more encouragement–that’s a hard one to break, but we’ll try.