17 easy ways to get your kids to eat vegetables

So, as a mom, you know your kids need the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in vegetables (and fruits). You are just not sure how to get your kiddos to actually eat vegetables. Neither was I when I was a new mom. Here’s what I learned from trial and error. And from asking older, more experienced moms:

1. Feed vegetables to your children every day. Consistently. From the time you begin giving your baby solid food.

Whether you serve your baby homemade or purchased baby food, determine that you will put many different kinds of vegetables, such as beans, peas, squash, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, lettuce, and more in front of your people. Seriously. This works.

Kiddos get used to eating what you feed them. Think about what people in other countries eat. Little ones growing up in Ethiopia eat Ethiopian food. Children in India eat Indian food. Your kiddos will get used to vegetables if they grow up eating vegetables.

A baby does not know junk food or soft drinks even exist. Nor should he or she.

You’re teaching your littles to brush their teeth twice a day, right? Same principle: create daily, healthy habits in your family.

God tells parents in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

2. You eat vegetables, too. Every day. Also consistently. You can’t expect your kids to do what you are unwilling to do. You are the parent. Act like it. Set a good example by eating a wide variety of vegetables each week. Act like this is normal and your kiddos will, too.

Obviously, these first two steps work best if you start serving vegetables when your child is a baby, sitting in a high chair, just beginning to eat solid food. A baby does not know junk food or soft drinks even exist. Nor should he or she.

3. Start where you are. What if you are reading this blog post and have an older child who has become accustomed to a steady diet of chicken nuggets and French fries? You will have to make changes over time.

Begin by adding vegetables into the foods you are feeding your family. Try shredded zucchini in spaghetti sauce. (Trust me. No one will even notice once the zucchini cooks.)

Be creative. Be determined.

Put fincely diced onions and peppers in taco meat, served with black beans or pinto beans as a side dish.

Drop chopped veggies into soup.

Make omelettes with spinach and mushrooms.

Like to make homemade bread with a bread machine? Look for recipes that use shredded carrots or zucchini.

Consider making vegetable lasagna.

Be creative. Be determined.

4. Try new recipes. Pinterest and Google can also provide recipes for tasty ways to cook and serve new veggie dishes to your family. Start with vegetables you already eat.

If you like broccoli, for example, as a broccoli salad, try a new recipe for broccoli. Broccoli-rice-and-cheese side dish, anyone? Or, try making broccoli soup. Add some broccoli to a pasta dish or a power bowl.

In my family, we all like tacos, so we have tried a recipe from Pinterest that uses zucchini in place of taco shells. Delicious!

The point is to look for and try new recipes and new ways of cooking that can become family favorites. Set a goal for trying out new recipes. One new recipe a week, for example, is certainly doable.

5. Make a family rule about trying new foods.What do you tell your kids about trying these new foods? Decide on a family rule for this.

Our family rule has been to come to the table with a good attitude, be respectful, and eat at least one bite of whatever is served. Not everyone will like everything. That’s understandable. But, everyone can have a good attitude and be respectful to each other.

Teaching kiddos to try the foods being served with a good attitude and respect for you is not too much to ask.

Planning, buying, cooking, and serving food to a family every day takes work. Teaching kiddos to try the foods being served with a good attitude and respect for you is not too much to ask.

6. Give fruits and veggies creative names. Your kids might be willing to taste broccoli if you call it little trees.

Maybe you could say that cauliflower looks like clouds or that you are serving lip-smacking limas or celery swords.

Your kids might want to taste super hero spinach. Have fun with names.

7. Serve a veggie tray before dinner. Use afternoon snack time to your advantage by placing veggies on a plate, platter or tray. The more colors the better.

For example, use cherry tomatoes and baby carrots, together with celery sticks. Be sure to provide some kind of dip for the veggies, since kids typically enjoy dipping. Many children will eat vegetables if Ranch dressing is available. Consider other dips, as well. Hummus makes a great dip for veggies.

Use afternoon snack time to your advantage by placing veggies on a plate, platter or tray.

If your children don’t eat many bites of the cooked vegetables served at dinner, you will know that your kids already ate a serving of vegetables as a snack.

8. Take your kiddos to the grocery store with you. Yes, I know that pushing a grocery buggy through the store with a two-year-old touching every shelf you pass can be a challenge, but kids like feeling that they have choices in life. So, let your kids go with you.

Bypass the snack aisles and head for the produce section of your local supermarket. Ask your kids if they would rather eat green or red bell peppers this week. Show them two different varieties of apples and let them choose.

9. Grow a garden. Imagine your children planting a seed in your garden soil, then watching the seedling emerge a week later.

Picture your family checking the progress several times a week of your little plants, then the excitement you will all feel when one of you spots the first zucchini on the plant.

Everyone will want to taste your harvest.

Think about letting your children pick a fresh tomato or pepper or squash then carry the treasure inside to wash and eat. Everyone will want to taste your harvest, of course. And they will all have just eaten a vegetable. Mom scores again.

10. Make smoothies. Have you seen all the smoothie recipes on Pinterest? Many contain ingredients like spinach or kale or avocado. How easy is that? Throw some fruit and veggies and your favorite kind of milk in a blender, pour into a glass, insert a fun, colorful straw, and hand to your kids.

11. Roast veggies. Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sweetness, making veggies like brussel sprouts or broccoli or squash more palatable to children.

12. Let your kids help in the kitchen. Children like to feel included, so use this natural desire to get your kiddos involved in stirring a bowl of avocado, black bean, and corn salad with cilantro lime dressing.

Let them sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and sugar to sweet and sour german red cabbage or add in the onion and red bell pepper you already chopped to braised kale with red bell pepper and bacon.

Sometimes kids will eat a meal just because they helped prepare it.

You can even hand one of your kids a potato masher to mash the cooked sweet potatoes for–you guessed it–mashed sweet potatoes.

Sometimes kids will eat a meal just because they helped prepare it. One word of caution: keep all kitchen activities age appropriate for safety reasons. One-year-olds aren’t ready to handle butcher knives, for example.

13. Have theme nights. Why not celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Mexican meal?

St. Patrick’s Day could involve shepherd’s pie or slow cooker corned beef and cabbage.

Take a trip to the Greek isles with gyros, spanakopita or dolmades. You can even play authentic music while you try cuisine from another country.

Make eating together as a family fun.

Remember: “A joyful heart is good medicine…” Proverbs 17:22.

14. Puree veggies and sneak them into breads, muffins, soups, and casseroles. Okay, I’ll admit that this is sneaky. But, I have to say that this does work.

I’ve found and tried recipes for zucchini muffins, chili with shredded vegetables added, chicken soup with onions, carrots, bell peppers, celery, and even green peas.

Veggies are easy to hide in casseroles and one pan dinners.

My kids have eaten any number of vegetables they never even noticed they were eating.

15. Don’t try to force your child to eat when he/she isn’t hungry. God gives each human being hunger signals. Making your child eat when he/she isn’t hungry, really doesn’t work. (I know. I’ve tried this). You will set up a power struggle over food. No one wins in that situation.

16. Make sure not to mention anything about a clean plate. Your mom and dad may have insisted on you eating everything on your plate, but encouraging children to regularly eat past the point of feeling full or satisfied can set up your children to become overeaters, which the Bible calls gluttony.

“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21.

Your goal should always be to help your children develop a lifelong, healthy relationship with food.

Likewise, don’t withhold food from your kiddos when they are hungry.

Your goal should always be to help your children develop a lifelong, healthy relationship with food.

17. Keep trying. What if your son or daughter won’t eat broccoli the first 10 times you serve it, but then eats it the 11th time. Isn’t that worth it? You don’t give up on potty training if your child doesn’t immediately use the toilet.

Learning something new takes time. That can include learning to like a strong tasting vegetable like broccoli. Don’t give up. Have a good attitude and persevere.

Word of caution: fruits and vegetables have fiber

Don’t overdo fiber.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I learned this lesson the hard way when I fed our toddler seven jars of plum baby food (yes, you read that right).

My husband walked into the room where I was feeding Sarah in her high chair. He noticed all the empty jars.

She’d enjoyed the plums so much that she kept wanting more.

He asked me if I had, indeed, fed Sarah all seven jars of plums. I told him I had. She’d enjoyed the plums so much that she kept wanting more.

“Um, Melinda,” my husband said, smirking at me, “you know that prunes are dried plums, right? Those plums are going to go right through her!”

Well, needless to say, my husband was, again, right. Let’s just say we used many diapers during the next 24 hours.

Bottom line

Feeding your kiddos a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables (and fruits) takes ongoing, deliberate effort.

If you have erred on the side of too few, you can change that.

If you err on the side of too much fiber, like I did, you can fix that, too. Just don’t do that again.

No one will ever be a perfect mother. Learn from your mistakes. And, keep learning. Motherhood is on-the-job-training.

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