Help! My Child Won't Eat Vegetables!
Tips & tricks that work for me.
Vegetables are a source of angst for so many parents and kids. As a recovering picky eater myself, I get it: Vegetables aren’t as sweet as fruit, some can taste downright bitter, and all too often, they’re served overcooked and mushy.
But as a parent, I also understand the frustration: Vegetables are rich in important vitamins like A and C, plus fiber and plant chemicals that may help protect against disease. They’re also hydrating and low in calories. Developing a love of veggies and a habit of eating them will serve kids well in life. How does one handle a child who refuses veggies, then?
- Stay calm: Pressuring or forcing a kid to take bites isn’t the way to go and can make your child even more resistant (what about the "just one bite!" approach?). Consistently offer vegetables, talk about how good they taste to you, but let your child decide if she eats them.
- Make them appealing: Presentation is everything to many kids. A sad pile of overcooked broccoli isn’t going to cut it. But some crispy, roasted florets sprinkled with shredded cheese might win them over. For more fun recipes, check out my family-friendly veggie finds.
- Try variations: My kids have refused steamed broccoli only to munch away on raw florets with dip. My younger son loves when I serve him a large carrot “like a rabbit” (I’ve found that the whole carrots from the grocery store are often sweeter than bagged baby carrots too). Cutting veggies into different shapes (like pepper rings vs. strips) can make a real difference.
- Don’t fret about fat: Kids love to dip (there’s even research to show that kids eat more veggies when they’re paired with dip). I serve raw veggies with a side of raspberry salad dressing for one child, ranch dressing for another. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is always helpful around here too. Or try one of these delicious dip recipes.
- Serve veggies when they’re hungry: I have a house rule that the only snack available in the hour before dinner is veggies. That's been successful at both increasing my kids’ veggie intake and, because veggies aren't too filling, ensuring they’re still hungry when they come to the dinner table.
And remember: If your child isn't eating many vegetables right now, fruit has many of the same nutrients. So if she doesn't like broccoli or peppers, she can get vitamin C from oranges and strawberries. If she won't tolerate spinach, she'll get vitamin A from cantaloupe and mango. Or try my other strategies for picky eaters.
What are your best tips for fostering a love of veggies?
—Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD