How to get your kids to eat green vegetables.
Do your kids (or spouse, partner, or boyfriend), give you looks like this?
[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:
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.
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:
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?