Getting Children to Eat Vegetables

It seems at least once a week a mom in my acquaintance says, "How do I get my kids to eat vegetables?!" Although I hear this often, it still surprises me. You see, my kids love veggies. They even beg for them. And no, they weren't born with strangely different taste buds. I think they've just been exposed to the right combination of freshness and patience.

Here are my suggestions on how to get your kids to eat more veggies:

Grow Your Own. 

This makes a huge difference, in my opinion. The benefits are two-fold: First, if you let the children help you plant and tend the veggies, they are much more interested in trying to eat them. Second - and I can't stress this enough - garden fresh vegetables taste radically different than vegetables from the grocery store. This is true in all cases, but especially if you choose heirloom varieties, not modern hybrids. (Farmer's tend to breed plants that are disease-resistant and produce heavily - but flavor often gets bred out of such plants; this is why heirlooms usually taste better.)

During the warm months, every day my children go into the garden and pick vegetables from our garden and eat them as a snack, right then and there. Because our garden isn't very large, this sometimes means I don't have enough garden fresh veggies to put on the table - but that's okay! When I do have veggies for the table, I pick them just before cooking or serving them. This ensures the best flavor - and the best nutrition. The longer the produce sits, the less nutritious and flavorful it is.

Get it Fresh.

If you really can't grow any of your own veggies (not even in a pot on your porch?), buy them as fresh as possible. Depending upon the farmers in your area, this could be at a pick-your-own farm, a farmer's market, or a CSA. Remember: The longer it sits, the less flavorful it is.

Use Frozen.

When I can't find good quality fresh produce, I turn to frozen. These are flash frozen at their peak, so they retain most of their good nutrients, color, and texture.

Be Adventuresome.

Many Americans seem to think there are three different vegetables: Corn, peas, and potatoes. Don't fall into that trap! Not only does it get boring, but it may be your children hate corn but love Brussels sprouts.

Eat 'Em Raw.

During the spring and summer, my children eat most of their vegetables raw. They like the crispiness and moisture content of raw veggies. Plus, raw veggies have more flavor - and, in most cases, are more nutritious.

Steam 'Em.

When I was a kid, my mom boiled our vegetables. I don't think there could be a worse way to serve veggies to children. Not only are boiled vegetables limp, drained of a lot of their color, and almost tasteless, but they are lower in nutrients, too. I almost always steam our veggies. When I have a little more time, I blanch them. This keeps a lot of the vegetable's color, some of its crispness, and most of its nutrients, too. Learn both cooking methods here.

Serve it With Sauce.

If it will get your kids to eat them, it's okay to serve vegetables with Ranch dressing or some sort of sauce. I try this strategy last, and always put the sauce on the side, rather than directly on the vegetables. This seems to make it less likely every bite of the veggie will be drenched in sauce. And, of course, homemade sauce is healthier than processed, preservative-laden store bought sauce.

Hide It.

A lot of moms I know "hide" vegetables in foods like spaghetti. This is fine (and a great way to use up the shredded squash in your freezer), but eventually kids need to learn to eat vegetables that aren't hidden.

Start 'Em Young.

Although babies love sweet things (breast milk is quite sweet), it's smart to start their exploration of solid food with vegetables, not fruits. But what do you do if your child is already 6 and claims to hate vegetables? Offer a small amount of veggies at every meal. Don't nag.Don't make a big deal out of it. Eat lots of veggies yourself. Come up with silly names for the stuff. (Asparagus are really "Monster Spears" dontcha know.) Have patience. And don't fret (out loud at least) that some vegetables are being "wasted;" in fact, offering veggies at every meal, even when they aren't eaten, is putting them to a good purpose because - eventually - your kids are going to try them.

How do you get your children to eat their vegetables?

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  1. I started all my kids eating veggies early: they went from breast milk to sweet potatoes and carrots. Never saw cereal.
    Like you, I am growing a garden *you inspired me!!*

    My kids are always asking to pick the veggies. Here is my rule: if you pick it, you got to eat it!! My DS 6.5 tried green beans and yellow squash for the first time this Summer. He is dying to pick our first eggplant. He is going to be eating it!! :)

  2. I really do think kids and veggie gardens are "magical" :)