Introducing Vegetables to Your Child

By Jessica Streit

Recently, I shared some tips for sneaking vegetables into your child’s diet. This is a great tool for those kids who refuse to try something new, eat something green or just want their diet to be about bread products (I know all about those kids!).

The goal, however is to get your kids to eat their vegetables on their own without having to resort to the Houdini approach. That can be easier said than done when your child is older but the best approach is to start early.

Introduce vegetables early in life. 

Your life will be much easier if you start serving vegetables as early as possible. Babies will usually eat their vegetables without much complaint. It’s important to make sure you are not sticking to fruits only when feeding them baby food. Fruit is very sweet and babies could easily develop a taste for the sweetness which would make vegetables tougher to digest later in life.

As your baby grows into a toddler, offer celery and cucumbers for teething babies or steamed vegetables as finger foods rather than dry cereal. Provide vegetables at every meal. This will go a long way to showing your child how delicious vegetables can be.

Be a good role model. 

Offering vegetables will not be enough if your child watches you enjoying chips, cookies and other unhealthy foods. Be a good role model to your children and eat your vegetables too. You don’t even have to talk about it, your children will automatically copy what you are doing. They won’t even know that veggies are considered “yucky” by many kids.

Offer vegetables often. 

Provide vegetables at every lunch and dinner. If your child claims they do not like, continue offering that same food but try it with a different preparation. Keep offering them at every meal.

Pair it with something they like. 

If your child is showing some reluctance to eat vegetables, consider pairing them with a food they like. Mix peas or broccoli into mac and cheese or put red peppers into a red pasta sauce. As your child enjoys those foods, begin to phase them out of the food and present them in a different way. For example, you’ll have mac and cheese next to the broccoli or peas.

Eat like a fine dining restaurant.

Serve your meal in courses. Offer the vegetables or a small salad as the first course so your child is eating them when most hungry. Add the remaining items as a second course. Set the evening up as a practice for eating at a restaurant. Tell your children know that they are eating as if they were at a restaurant and must use their best manners as well eating the way a meal would be served. Add candles and a cloth napkin while you pretend to be a waiter (rather than have them placing an order, tell them what the specials are for the evening). It’s a win for you with the vegetable eating and manners practice and fun for your children.

Involve your kids in the process.

Kids are more than likely to enjoy something they have invested time and fun into. Start by planting a vegetable garden with your children. Eating something they have grown will be a great reward after weeks of work. Involve them in the menu planning and shopping for meals. This is great if you are having grandma over for dinner or even a friend. Plan a well-balanced meal, write the ingredients you’ll need at the store and complete the shopping together. Once that is complete, include your children in the cooking process as well.

Just like pretending to eat at a restaurant, the process of involving your kids is a double win for you. You’ll have your kids eating vegetables and you’ll be having fun spending time with them.

Have vegetables available for them. 

Set your children up to succeed. Have vegetables cleaned, cut up and placed into individual containers that are easy to grab from the refrigerator. When the kids come in for a snack, offer them all the vegetables they want but only a small portion of the other items you have on hand. Anytime they say they are hungry and it’s not yet meal time, send them to the area of your fridge with the vegetables and tell them to eat anything they want in that section. If they are truly hungry, they’ll eat the vegetables.

In my house, I have the snacks divided into two different types of containers. They are allowed to have one red container and all they want of the blue ones. The reds have pretzels, whole grain crackers and other low fat snacks. In the blue containers are vegetables and fruits as well as low fat, low sugar dips such as hummus and salsa. I have found that the questioning and complaining during snack time has decreased drastically. 

Never give up. 

Even when your kids say they hate vegetables. Even after they have refused to eat them night after night, never give up on these tips. While they are continuing to refuse them, sneak in the veggies on the side but never give up offering them in different ways.

Jessica Streit is an educator, freelance writer and single mom of 2 boys. Her writing can be found on a variety of topics including personal finance, education and parenting. She blogs about overcoming debt and living a royal life on a budget at The Debt Princess.