10 Tips on how to get your kids (or significant other) to eat more vegetables.

How to get your kids to eat green vegetables.

Do your kids (or spouse, partner, or boyfriend), give you looks like this?

You know, that look like, “Really, you want me to eat that!?”


[Hyrum, my six year old, gives me this look quite often, for the record.]


Don’t you wish you could give them a big bowl of something like this (a “green” stir-fry–green beans, celery, and brocolli with shredded raw cabbage), and instead of giving you the above look, They instead respond like this:

Joyous. Happy. Appreciative. Thankful.


Ahh, one can only wish.

[Salem, if you can’t tell, is thrilled (!) that at 13 months, she’s finally allowed to drive the car.]

When getting your family to eat more vegetables, you might say things like, “but it’s good for you!” or “you know you like it” (a favorite line of Joseph’s).

Alas, it’s not that simple. And from my experience, it’s easier to just accept what is. Don’t accept defeat, and don’t back down from principles, but don’t “kick against the pricks” either.

In my family, for me this means I ought not combine foods or push known hated-foods such as sauteed spinach. I love, my kids, on the other hand, do not.

Take the following meal, for example.

A winning dinner in my kid’s book–tofu (a delicacy they will almost do anything for), no-oil stir-fry, and short-grain brown rice with the addition of chow mien noodles (also, not something I’m crazy about, but it gets my kids to LOVE Asian night).

Stir-fry is separate from the rice. Tofu (and yes, this tofu is lightly-fried, something I will do on occasion for my kids and husband, who absolutely love it this way) is separate as well. Food has to be separate.

So I work with this, and everyone is happier.

I do not add things into the stir-fry that I love but that my kids hate.

Yes, I want them to like all vegetables and eat what they are given.

But I pick my battles.

And I focus on what they do love. Broccoli, green beans.

They will tolerate celery and green peppers, most days.

However, I know better than to add onions or garlic, although there are times when I will use these ingredients just because I want to, with the understanding that there may be some whining about it.

On Asian night (every Tuesday), our dinners are usually some take on stir-fry. My kids meal looks like this. And they do (try) and use the chopsticks:

Instead of cooking a seperate meal for myself, I eat the same meal, but it looks a bit different:
A lot more vegetables (with the addition of raw shredded cabbage) and no chow mien noodles (since they’re not gluten-free) or fried tofu (rice is on the bottom).

We all get what we want, and it’s easy enough to do it this way.

10 Tips on How to Get Your Family To Eat More Vegetables

1. Buy them (the vegetables, that is)!

If you don’t have vegetables on hand, you can’t cook or prepare them for you or your family. I’m a huge fan of frozen vegetables (don’t overcook though!) since they don’t go bad and there’s no washing or chopping involved.

2. Try vegetables separate and fairly simple at first. This way they can taste the vegetable for what it is, without a lot of cluttered flavors.

3. Be okay with simplicity. This is hard for me, since I want things to be flavorful and I like a lot of things going on in my dishes. My kids do not.

I do like steamed broccoli but I’m bored of it, simply because I make it so much per my kids request. But it’s fool-proof and easy, and I know they will eat it. Do I want things to be a bit more exciting? Yes. So I make a delicious sauce to go over it (this vegan cheese sauce goes great with broccoli, or most any other steamed vegetable), or add seasoning like seasoned rice vinegar, Mrs. Dash, or Tabasco sauce. My kids like just a little soy sauce on theirs, and that’s all.

4. Encourage, but don’t force. Food should never be used to induce guilt or punishment.

5. You set the example. Show them it’s fun to try new things and it’s okay not to like something, but it’s not okay to be rude about it. Kids will eventually warm up to the idea of eating salads (if they aren’t in the habit), if they see you do it enough.

I know Mali (my oldest girl), wants to eat whatever I’m eating, no matter what it is, and especially if it’s salad. I encourage this, and share my food with her. With young kids, I find this is a great way to introduce and encourage new foods (mom’s eating it, so maybe it won’t hurt for me to try it out).

6. Don’t get your feelings hurt if they don’t like it. Maybe it was how it was presented, or the combination of foods. Maybe it was overcooked or under cooked. Try preparing the vegetable another way next time. Through trial and error, you’ll figure out what vegetables your family likes (and doesn’t like).

7. If it turns out that your kids will only eat two vegetables, say broccoli and green beans or raw carrots, don’t give up. All is not lost. These are great foods, and if it means you have to serve these vegetables every day of the week for them to get some veggies in their diet, then do it.

There’s nothing wrong with monotony (they’ll most likely expand their palate over time, especially as they see you try and introduce other foods).

8. No food Nazi behavior.

Bribery often works (I’m guilty of it now and then), but always promising a dessert if they “eat their vegetables” sets them up for unrealistic expectations and is a bad habit that will be hard to break later.

The goal is to get them to eat vegetables because they want to, not because they “have to, or else.”

9. Read this post about the why behind eating vegetables. An oldie, but a goodie (and it includes a recipe for one of my favorite sauces–a rich, creamy, easy walnut sauce that makes ANY vegetable better).

10. Read this post on how to deal with picky eaters.

Question of the Post:

What vegetables do you or family love? Hate? Any picky eaters you have to deal with (including yourself)? How do you cope?

Comments


  1. Brenda
    on April 18, 2012 at 12:31 am said:

    Thanks soooo much! I have some of these issues too. This helped.

  2. Lindsay
    on March 20, 2012 at 6:52 am said:

    Very good tips. And brussels sprouts – the only way we have ever cooked them is roasted in olive oil and maple syrup, and my 5 year old often asks me to make them, they are so good!

  3. Whole Foods Vegan Momma
    on March 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm said:

    Lfwfv: Thank you. I'm sure your little one will be adorable too!Rachel: Brussel sprouts, wow?! My kids still won't touch those, but I think I may not have enough persistance.

  4. Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family
    on March 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm said:

    Persistence is the key to getting your children to try new foods. It took about 6 months but my children will eat brussel sprouts now (victories like this are so sweet when finally won).

  5. Anonymous
    on March 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm said:

    I just have to say that your kids are the cutest!!lfwfv

  6. Tina
    on March 16, 2012 at 1:29 am said:

    Great tips. I'm a huge believer in the idea that if you buy it consistently, eventually they will at least try it!Tina

  7. Raelyn
    on March 16, 2012 at 1:11 am said:

    I have no kids yet, but your post makes me sympathize with my mother. Growing up, my brothers and I were quite picky eaters. At least with my brothers, most of the time my mother could get away with hiding things like spinach in homemade noodles, but I was a supertaster and could always detect even trace amounts of my hated vegetables.Although, the good part about this is that my strong sense of taste has always meant I've never been able to handle eating much meat. It made the transition to a meatless diet much easier, I'm sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. angie
    on March 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm said:

    i have always struggled with brussels sprouts. i have tried several different dishes trying to find a way that i would like them but i just haven't yet. i like the idea of focusing on the veggies i do like and not feeling like i have to enjoy them all. maybe brussels sprouts just aren't for me!

  9. Whole Foods Vegan Momma
    on March 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm said:

    Stephanie: Yes, who say's you have to love EVERYTHING? I mean I think I do, but, Joseph has taught me that it's okay to have a smaller pool of "likes." As long as you're getting something, that is far superior to nothing!

  10. Stephanie
    on March 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm said:

    This was so reassuring Janae. I will try to feel less stressed about their love of 2 veggies and just make sure they get SOMETHING everyday. And since I only like about 3 or 4, it's a good start for me too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Whole Foods Vegan Momma
    on March 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm said:

    Melissa: You rock! I'm so happy for you. I love how you both got what you wanted and then Monico took leftovers. Definitely a recipe you'll want to milk for all it's worth. I'm serious. If you both really like it, eat this like 2 or 3 times a week!

  12. Melissa DeLeon
    on March 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm said:

    Oh. And my point was that I cooked the chicken separate, and it was mixed on his plate, not in the dish. (Win-win for us.)He felt like he wasn't being cheated on his meat, and I gave him half as much. (Dicing is deceptive in sizing!)

  13. Melissa DeLeon
    on March 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm said:

    I made a shepard's pie from scratch last night without a recipe! (I feel so clever.) I have this awesome broccoli, cauliflower, and double carrot frozen veggie blend from costco, and then I added mushrooms and asparagus. (I used chicken stock to make gravy — baby steps — to mix the veggies on the base. Covered it all with mashed red potatoes. Like you, for the picky honey, I cooked two small chicken cutlets and diced so husband could have "chicken" shepards pie. Best thing about it? That my "I hate cauliflower" husband ate it ALL! Better yet, he took leftovers for lunch today.Huge victory for me to hear him say "I really liked it." Woot woot!

  14. Whole Foods Vegan Momma
    on March 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm said:

    Char: Thanks! I think this approach works well with adults too (husbands, even :))!

  15. Char @ www.charskitchen.ca
    on March 15, 2012 at 6:28 am said:

    I'm a long-time lurker, and feel compelled to comment after this post. I LOVE your approach to feeding veggies to your kids. Making sure to focus on the ones they like, preparing them the way they like, and not creating any potential for bad feelings around vegetables. I don't (yet) have any kids of my own, but I do really appreciate your posts. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚