Have you found yourself in a power struggle at the dinner table? Has your cute little prince or princess turned into a pit bull with a will of steel who REFUSES to even try those veggies you lovingly prepared? We have all been there, maybe you still are. Do you want to know a secret? I still find myself there from time to time but I also have victories.
Do you want to know what those victories sound like?
Can I have some leaves (spinach)? I looooove leaves?
We have carrots, yea!!!
More trees (broccoli) please! These trees are so cute!
Yes, my kids actually say all of those phrases, well the little kids do, the teenagers don’t. My kids don’t all appreciate the same vegetables but they each have their favorites and I can work with that.
5 Simple Tricks (Plus 2 Bonus Tips) to Get Your Kid to Eat Their Veggies
1. Start with what they like
If your kid hasn’t been eating a lot of veggies their whole life it may be difficult to get them started. It’s important to start with what they like. If your kid likes peas then serve peas. Next try something else that is similar. My little guys like carrots so I say, “try this bell pepper, it’s crunchy like a carrot” or this sweet potato is orange and grows in the ground like a carrot.
Set your self up for success by planning a veggie they like 2 out of 3 dinners. If my son really dislikes his veggies, and refuses to eat them, we end up with a very stressful dinner, especially if it seems to happen every night. He loves salad so I’ll serve him lettuce and carrots which he loves with some peppers. Peppers are hit and miss but he is more likely to eat them if they are served with other food he likes.
2. Give them options, but not too many
I’ve heard “experts” say to give kids two choices, “do you want peas or carrots” and that probably works well for some. Since we deal with so many food allergies/sensitivities we go out of the way to offer more choices.
I find success having a veggie tray type of setup at snack time. I’ll pick veggies that each kid likes and maybe one or two that isn’t necessarily a favorite. Here is my trick, I don’t fill it full, I provide small amounts. The kids will eat their favorite then want more of those. I tell them to eat the other veggies first then I’ll refill it with their favorite.
I always provide a dip! Kids love dips and having a something to dip their veggies in is more fun. Hummus, salad dressing, Faux Cheese Sauce, nut butter, etc. will help your kids eat more veggies. Try it!
3. Talk up the Veggies
Have you every played matchmaker to friends? You talk about the perspective date, talk up the good things, down play the bad and hope for a good match. You need to do the same thing about veggies to your kids (and teens).
“This spinach is so healthy, it’s really good for you.” “Do you like tomatoes? I love these little grape tomatoes, we eat tomatoes in salsa, pizza, spaghetti, and tacos. They are really healthy.” Those are a few examples of how I talk to my 3 year old.
When I’m talking to my teen son I’ll mention that spinach and broccoli have a lot of protein and they are very alkaline so they help you recover faster from working out.
4. Cut it into small pieces
This tip isn’t only for small kids. I get really grossed out with I accidentally put a “too big” piece of food in my mouth or if it takes too long to chew it up. Cut veggies into small bite sized pieces, especially if they are raw or need extra jaw power. Imagine how big that piece of broccoli is to your little one if it feels big to you. I run into this problem more when I use frozen stir fry veggies than when I cut the fresh veggies myself.
Many kids have issues with onions and mushrooms but cutting them into small pieces seems to help a lot.
5. Try both cooked and raw veggies
Many kids have texture issues. Some kids only like soft foods, others only crunchy, you name it and there is a preference. My 3 year old will eat almost anything but my 5 year old is another story all together. He prefers most veggies raw. Salad is always a good choice for him because he loves lettuce. Try serving steamed veggies if you child prefers softer foods.
Check out more tips to get your kids to eat their veggies in my book, The Plant-Based Diet Starter Guide. It also details how to get your whole family (spouses included) to eat healthier. What is your favorite trick to get your kids eating veggies?