How to Encourage Children to Eat More Vegetables and Like Them

How to Encourage Children to Eat More Vegetables and Like Them

  • Lindsay Atwood, RD, LD
  • August, 2019
  • Healthy Eating
Check out these 7 tips to help your children eat more vegetables and like them.

Getting your children to eat vegetables can be a battle at meal time.  Instead of forcing your child to eat vegetables, try some of these tips to encourage your children to try and eventually like them:

Tip 1: Are you also eating your vegetables?!

Children learn about food choices from you, so the best way to encourage your child to eat vegetables is to let them see you eating and enjoying them yourself.  If your child sees you and/or their siblings filling plates with veggies to enjoy, they may want to copy you.

The sooner you add vegetables into their meals the better.  When introducing foods as an infant, start with vegetables first so they can start getting a taste for them!

Tip 2: Keep offering vegetables over and over!

It’s normal for children to say they don’t like vegetables when they first taste them. If your child says they don’t like vegetables – or doesn’t like a new vegetable – keep offering them at mealtimes. Also keep encouraging them to try and taste them. Some children need to try a new food up to 15-20 times before they accept and like it.

Tip 3: Use praise when your child tries vegetables

If you praise your child each time they eat or try vegetables, they are more likely to eat them again. Praise works best when you tell your child exactly what she did well – for example, ‘Posie, I love the way you tasted your pumpkin and broccoli!’

Try not to let praise become the focus of the meal, though. Your aim is to encourage your child to eat vegetables because they like them, not because they want praise and rewards from you.

Punishing your child for not eating vegetables can turn vegetables into a negative thing for your child. If your child refuses to eat, it’s best to take their meal away after about 20 minutes. Try not to make a big deal about it – just try again another time.

Avoid saying things like, ”If you eat your broccoli, you can have some dessert.”  This can make your child more interested in treats than healthy foods.  It also suggests that eating the healthy food is a chore and may encourage overeating.

Tip 4: Get your child involved in buying and cooking with vegetables

By getting your child involved in planning and cooking with vegetables, they will be more likely to want to eat the vegetables they help prepare.

For example, you could:

  • Take your children shopping with you when you can. Seeing lots of different vegetables can make children more curious and interested to try them.
  • Have them pick the vegetables at the grocery store to feel like they are involved.
  • Make them in charge of putting chopped vegetables in a bowl or saucepan before you cook them.
  • Wash and toss salad leaves with them.
  • Make cooking fun by making faces with veggies on a pizza, adding sprouts and veggies to make a face on a mini bagel with vegetable cream cheese, etc.

Older children can help with grating or chopping vegetables when you feel they can safely handle sharper kitchen tools.

Tip 5: Offer vegetables as snacks

Vegetables make great snacks. If you stock up on vegetables for snacks and limit unhealthy snacks in your home, your child will be more likely to choose vegetables when she’s hungry.

Here are some vegetable snack ideas:

  • Fill celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins to make a boat
  • Make a healthy yogurt dip or hummus to have with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, peppers, etc.
  • Make a fruit and vegetable smoothie
  • Make kale, beet, turnip, parsnip and and/or sweet potato chips

Tip 6: Make vegetables tasty and fun!

Don’t prepare your vegetable the same way every time! Have fun finding new and creative ways to cook them.  They don’t have to be plain boiled veggies without any flavor and taste, no one likes them that way!  For example, you could try roasting vegies with fresh herbs and lemon juice or use finely sliced broccoli in a stir-fry or on a pizza.

Try to choose veggies of different shapes, colors, textures and tastes – the more variety there is, the more likely it is your child will find something that they are interested in eating. Also, if you serve new vegetables with food your child already enjoys, the entire focus of the meal isn’t on new vegetables.

Tip 7: Get vegetables into meals in other ways

You can disguise vegetables in foods you know your child likes to eat. For example, you could include pureed or grated vegetables in pasta sauce, macaroni, casseroles or soups

This won’t change your child’s behavior and thinking about vegetables, though, so it’s also important to regularly give your child vegetables in their original form. When you do this, your child has the chance to get familiar with and learn to like different tastes and textures.

Join me on August 15th from 12:00pm-1pm for the Webinar “How to Encourage Children to Eat More Vegetables and Like Them!”  Click here to sign up today.

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