1. Get ‘em when they’re hungry.
Offer vegetables at snack time or as an appetizer before dinner – if they’re hungry, they’ll eat it (or at least be more likely to try it). Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper slices and cucumber rounds are some generally kid-friendly options that become even more tempting when served with a healthy dip like hummus, Greek yogurt with lemon juice and herbs or low-fat Ranch dressing.
2. Institute the “one bite rule.”
Studies show that it may take up to ten tries before a child accepts a new food. Explain to your child that each time a new food is offered, they must take one bite. Then if your child rejects the new food, don’t force them to finish it. Negative food associations can lead children to become even picker eaters. Instead practice the “one bite rule” and don’t give up! Keep offering new vegetables and preparing them in different ways. Over time your child just may start to ask for broccoli!
3. Make it fun.
Vegetables come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of shapes, so making them “fun” is easy. Check out our Kid’s Corner Pinterest board for inspiration, including Veggie People. Storytelling can also be a way to get kids interested in eating vegetables. If you’re more creative, make up a story about T-rex eating trees (AKA broccoli) or a bunny rabbit who loves carrots.
4. Let them be involved.
Kids are more likely to try a new food and to rate it as favorable if they are involved in the process of choosing or preparing the food. Allow your child to pick out one new vegetable to try each week. Maybe they’ll pick bright purple eggplant or crazy frisée lettuce. You may have to look up a quick recipe but you just may discover a vegetable your child will enjoy. Let your child help prepare vegetables in the kitchen. Smaller children can help wash or tear vegetables, while older children may be able to help with chopping.
Related Post: 10 Ways to Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen
5. Make it flavorful.
Okay, Ranch dressing and butter may not be the “healthiest” foods, but if adding a little butter gets your child to eat broccoli, then this dietitian says go for it. Better to have a little added fat with all the healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber in that broccoli than to miss out on those vital nutrients. Try chicken pot pie filled with veggies in a creamy white sauce, add diced carrots, celery and onion to rice pilaf, add parsnips to mashed potatoes, or top steamed broccoli with melted cheese.
Think your kid won’t ever eat Brussels sprouts (or maybe YOU won’t eat them)? Try roasting halved Brussels sprouts with diced apples until tender. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and roast 3 more minutes. You’ll be popping sprouts like candy (no guarantee here, but believe me, this dish has turned many a hater into a sprout lover).
Most importantly, be a role model for your child. Children watch and imitate their parents, so if you make a habit of eating vegetables, they will too. Remember to fill half your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables and include a variety of colors.
AND, if you still need help, we’ve got a NEW kid-friendly meal plan that strikes the balance between palatable for adults and healthy for kids while trying to make it fun! See a sample meal plan here and let us know what you think.
What are your favorite tips for getting kids to eat their veggies? Share with us in the comments here or on Twitter @emeals.