I am writing this post for all the parents out there who struggle to convince their kids to eat vegetables.
When my oldest was a toddler, all she wanted to eat was whatever was on my plate. One time, we were at a restaurant and I ordered a dish that came with a side of asparagus. Annika stole and ate every bit of that asparagus. I knew that if I had given her a plate full of that same asparagus to start, she wouldn’t have eaten it. This revelation led to some strange dinnertime habits in my house, which have resulted in kids that actually eat their vegetables without a fuss (usually.) I would like to share some of our unorthodox habits with you!
5 Ways to Get Your Kid to Eat Veggies
1. The vegetables are ready first.
We are all familiar with the pre-dinner routine of kids coming up and fussing “I’m so hungry” and “What’s for dinner?” Arrange it so that the vegetable is ready first, even if it’s just a plate of veggies with dip.
2. Let them pick out vegetables that they like at the store (or farm stand, or garden, which work even better!)
My kids will eat the baby carrots from the grocery store grudgingly, but when we go to the farm store nearby and let them pick a bunch of carrots that look good, they will devour those carrots like they’re candy. When kids feel like they have some choice/control over what vegetables they are eating, they are more likely to actually eat them.
3. Express excitement and enjoyment as you eat the vegetables in front of them.
Go for the vegetables first, and remark to yourself how tasty they are as you devour them. Even if you have to fake it. Show your kids that eating vegetables is enjoyable — it makes a mark on them.
4. Roast the vegetables.
Everything tastes better roasted, am I right? Boiled beets? Gross. Roasted beets? Sweet and delicious! The same applies to most vegetables. My kids will eat anything that is sliced, salted, covered in breadcrumbs, covered in cooking spray, and roasted. I’ve tried cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, mushrooms, broccoli, and brussels sprouts this way, all went over big.
5. Finally, the best tip I have: Don’t put the vegetables on their plate.
Put them on your plate (if you have just one kid and will be sitting next to him/her) or on a family style platter in the center of the table. When you sit down to eat, take your fork and steal vegetables off the family platter first. Let them see your behavior and take a cue from it – don’t prompt them to take the vegetables. Make it clear that they are a special treat, not something that is forced on them. You might not get them to “bite” at first, but do it every night and I guarantee they’ll start to get curious about what you’re eating.
Bonus: A few of our favorite vegetable recipes
- Stir fried green beans. Take the stems off the green beans and wash them. Put them in a frying pan with a pat of butter, set on medium heat with the lid on to start. Once they are getting really hot in the pan, add finely chopped garlic, crushed sage, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir and cover for a minute, until the beans are a little bit soft. Uncover and turn up the heat. Stir occasionally until the bottom of the pan starts to burn. Transfer beans to a community bowl or plate and enjoy! **This recipe works really well on asparagus too!
- Crunchy roasted cauliflower. Wash the cauliflower and remove the leaves/center stem. Chop into slices about 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Lay flat on a greased cookie sheet (with edges) or 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with salt. Combine 1/2 c of breadcrumbs with 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, and a little pepper. (In place of breadcrumbs, we put rice Chex in the food processor to create tasty crunchy gluten-free breadcrumbs.) Sprinkle your breadcrumb mixture evenly over the cauliflower slices, then spritz with olive oil cooking spray all over. Put in the oven at 375 until golden brown. **My kids will fight over this stuff when it’s fresh.
- Roasted root vegetables. Peel and chop beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and any other root vegetables your family likes. Make the pieces all about equal (I often cut the beets slightly smaller than the rest since they take longer to cook.) Toss in a few Tbsp of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. If your family likes it, feel free to add garlic or garlic powder. Roast at 400 degrees until fork tender.
- Steamed artichokes with butter. Wash the artichoke and cut off the stem right up to the base of the artichoke. Submerge in 1 inch of water and cover with a tight lid. Simmer on medium heat for about an hour. The artichoke is ready when leaves can easily be pulled off it. Make melted butter in the microwave – 4 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp lemon juice in a little dipping bowl. Add a little sprinkle of both salt and garlic powder and microwave until liquid. Pull each leaf off the artichoke and dip into the butter – then scrape the soft stuff off the bottom of the leaf. It’s a project but my kids LOVE it! When you get down to tiny leaves, discard them and scoop out the stringy “choke” part, leaving only the buttery soft artichoke heart. These taste amazing, cut it up and dunk in the butter. Prepare to have your grocery budget ruined by kids requesting artichokes. 😉