13 Ways To Get Kids To Eat Their Vegetables

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The following is a guest post by Amy Bowman of New Nostalgia.

I have had much success in getting my kids to eat their fruits and vegetables. How? By appealing to the things they love!

  • Kids love COLOR
  • Kids love GAMES
  • Kids love LEARNING
  • Kids love feeling “GROWN UP”

Below are some tips that appeal to these very things:

1. Keep It Fun & Playful, Like A Game

We try to “eat the rainbow” every day in our home.  We talk often about the importance of getting some of each color, everyday. It is 1:00 p.m. and I just asked my eight-year old a question I ask often, “How many colors have you had today?”  Her answer, “Blue blueberries in my oatmeal for breakfast, orange orange juice, yellow banana with my lunch, green asparagus with lunch, red apple with  lunch, green kale for snack, blended up in my fruit- smoothie popsicle.

2. Take Advantage Of Kids Natural Desire To Learn

Why do we need to eat our fruits and vegetables? When kids understand the reason for doing something they are much more likely to cooperate. Learn together what “free radicals” are and why we don’t want them in our bodies. Teach what “anti-oxidants” are what they do to help our bodies. Learn the different nutrients and vitamins in each fruit and vegetable, and how they benefit the body.  “Nutrition For Dummies” is a great resource for teaching simple nutrition lessons.

3. Shop The Rainbow

This can be fun and easily turned into a game.  In the car on the way to the grocery store, talk about how you are going to “shop the rainbow.” Ask the kids for their help.  Ask them to name as many “red” fruits and vegetables as they can.  When they can’t think of anymore, ask them to name the “yellows.”  You could even have one make a list of all the vegetables you come up with under each color category, then vote in the car what you should buy in each category.  Circle those items, take it into the store with you as your grocery list.

4. Take Advantage Of Color

Comment on the  natural beauty of fruits and vegetables.  Talk about all the different, beautiful hues.  The deep purple of eggplant, the bright red of strawberries the bright green of broccoli. While you are admiring the colors also notice all the beautiful shapes and textures.

We use mason jars in our home for food storage.  I have many reasons, but my favorite reason is that you can easily see what is in the jar.  There is nothing better than opening the refrigerator and seeing jars full of shredded orange carrots, bright green peas, yellow pepper strips, or balls of pink watermelon.  My kids know that if they are still hungry after a “salty” or “sweet” snack that they can go to the refrigerator and help themselves to the vegetables in mason jars.  I love seeing them grab a jar, grab the dip, and munch away!

5. Keep Your Power

It is important to keep healthful eating lighthearted and playful, but there will also be times when it is not, and we will have to be the parent. If your kids need medicine it is your job to make them take it. Good food is just as important.  We look at fruits and vegetables as medicine in our home, “Nature’s Pharmacy.”  My kids know that eating their fruits and vegetables is not an option.  They know it is a necessity and it is expected.

6. Implement This Simple Rule

To keep power struggles to a minimum, especially at the dinner table, our rule is “no eating your main dish until your vegetable is gone.”  This is very effective.  They come to the table very hungry, smelling the spaghetti and garlic bread.  They are sitting there face to face with their desires.  They eventually give in and eat their vegetable.  It is a great strategy which takes advantage of the fact that everything tastes better when you are hungry!  This rule was needed when they were younger, but we rarely use it anymore as our expectations are now known.

7. Keep Portions Small

This is important especially when introducing a new vegetable!  Give them time to acclimate to new textures and tastes.  Broccoli is not my girls favorite vegetable so we started with one small broccoli floret, and worked our way to almost a full serving. Gradually work the serving size up to at least a 1/2 cup.

8. Appeal To Kids Desire To Feel “Grown-Up”

One of the most simple strategies we have used is saying (as they are chewing with scrunched up noses), “Oh, you don’t like that vegetable?  Your taste buds must not be old enough for that one yet.  Maybe next time you taste it, it will be different.”  This creates a positive goal in our home, being old enough and having a “mature enough palate” to like all types of vegetables.

9. Talk About Palates

We watch “Top Chef” as a family.  It has been very educational when it comes to different types of foods.  We comment on how the judges have such mature palates.  When my kids like something healthy I will say, “Wow, you have such a healthy palate!”  We have even talked about how eating just a bite or two of a new taste and texture can help train our palates to appreciate all types of food.  This appeals to kids desire to feel “grown-up” and also keeps things lighthearted and fun, like a game.

10. Teach About Texture

Again, the show “Top Chef” has been helpful in this area.  The judges are always talking about how a certain dish needs more “texture.”  For the longest time my kids would complain about lettuce and tomatoes on their tacos.  It would frustrate me because it turned a healthful meal into a “meat and cheese” meal.  Not what I wanted.  So, one night when having tacos, I casually said, “I bet the “Top Chef” judges would say your tacos need more texture.” I saw this sparked their curiosity and continued, “Lettuce gives a type of crispy crunch and tomatoes are soft and cool down the spice of the meat.  Wow, the textures of the food work and taste beautifully together!” It worked.  They tried it and agreed. Yes!

11. Make It A Game

Hang a chart on the refrigerator to keep track of “who ate the most colors that day”.  If it is over 5 servings give a sticker!  Or make a matching game- match the color of fruit or vegetable with the main nutrient it provides.  This is a great way for adults to learn too!

12. Grow Them

The last two years, we have had much fun with our Square Foot Garden. When my kids watch something grow from a seed they squished into the dirt they are very eager to eat the reward.

Photo by Jellaluna

13. Simple Ways to Eat Fruits And Vegetables

  • Frozen berries in cold cereal
  • Frozen berries in oatmeal
  • A bowl of frozen berries thawed to perfection during dinner in time for dessert
  • Apple slices almond butter
  • Bananas sliced on bran flakes for breakfast
  • Banana slices on whole wheat peanut butter bagel
  • Celery and peanut butter or cream cheese
  • Pepper strips and hummus
  • Cucumber slices and dip
  • Frozen grapes– so refreshing!
  • A 6-cup muffin tin full of different colors for snack
  • Clementine slices on our salads
  • Frozen mango chunks in a bowl
  • Edamame with sea salt-my kids favorite
  • Fruit smoothies made green by blending in spinach
  • Eggplant in place of beef in our spaghetti sauce
  • Fruit kabobs-so pretty and fun
  • Fresh berries in pancakes
  • Homemade, no- cook berry jam
  • Sliced berries on ice cream
  • Spinach salad with mason jars full of vegetable toppings to add themselves
  • Make our own fresh vegetable and fruit juices using our juicer.

For recipes and more ideas, I would be honored if you visited me at my blog, New Nostalgia, where I attempt to “recapture the simplicity of yesterday and apply it to today!”

Have you struggled to get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables? Or what methods have you used to help you (or seen others use) in this area?

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About Nicole

Nicole can be found blogging at her lifestyle blog GidgetGoesHome.com, and is the editor of Simple Homemade. She loves to read, sew, make ice cream, take pictures, watch baseball and go for walks by the beach with her hubby and three little kiddos. She loves anything handmade and is affectionately known as a bit of a hippie among family and friends.

Comments

  1. Cute tip on saying their taste buds aren’t old enough yet; I’m going to remember that one. I also like the mason jar idea.

  2. I like to make veggies for my kids that are cooked and mixed up with other foods so that they can acclimate to the tastes of vegetables slowly and without a lot of fuss. My best tools are soup, especially if it’s pureed, and quiche. Spinach quiche, spinach soup, spinach ravioli, broccoli soup, broccoli and carrots with cheese sauce, broccoli quiche, asparagus wrapped with goat cheese and prosciutto., cauliflower soup, tomato soup… you get the idea. It works like a charm and my kids ask for vegetables this way. They are still small (ages 3 and 6) but as they age they branch out to eat more and more vegetables as their palates develop.

    Fruit, on the other hand, they can’t get enough of and I’ve never had to push that. Just having it in the fruit bowl on the counter is enough to start them begging for it.
    Elizabeth E.´s latest post: Strawberry Ice-cream

  3. Michelle says:

    When my boy started to eat solid food I made all of his baby food myself, it was fun and important to me to know what was going into his body. He loved lots of different fruits and vegetables. As he has gotten older, he’s 4 now, his tastes have changed a lot. He won’t put anything green or vegetable like in his mouth although he will eat some fruits. I keep offering and know that one day he will start eating them again. I do find it frustrating that he flat out refuses to even try veggies, he is very stubborn but this is a trait I know will come in handy when he gets older. I involve him in shopping for produce, I always have. When he was really little it was fun to show him colourful fruits & veggies and let him smell & touch them. I know this is a stage but I wish it would end soon.

    Thank you for the wonderful message today, I love your blog and look forward to my Simple Organic email message every day. Keep up the great work!!!

    • I did the same thing with my son – lots of veggies and textures when he was a baby, but as he’s grown older, he’s definitely found favorites – like fruit and carbs. He eats cooked squash and green smoothies like they’re going out of style, but I have a hard time getting other vegetables and almost any kind of meat into his diet.

      You’re absolutely right, It’s frustrating, knowing you’re trying your best to give him a healthy balanced diet, but it’s stillnot working. Right now we’re trying a method simlar to one of Nicole’s – he needs to eat the veggie or meat before he can have the fruit. Sometimes it’s a long emotional process, lol, but I think it’s making him a little more open to eating things he was previously refusing.

      Chili seems to be a great fix – all the delicious flavors, and I can put plenty or vegetables in it that just kind of meld with the meat and beans and cheese. So he enjoys the meal and still gets his veggies in.
      Steph (The Cheapskate Cook)´s latest post: How a $25/Week Grocery Budget Actually Worked (Part 1)

  4. These are great suggestions for getting kids to eat vegetables – except for one: making kids eat their vegetables before they can eat their main course is the same thing as making them eat their veggies before they get dessert: research shows this technique teaches kids that vegetables are necessary but undesirable. It enhances the value of whatever kids are “working” towards. You can use the same basic technique without the power control. Simply serve the vegetables or the salad first (or even while you’re cooking dinner) and don’t say anything about it.

    The other way is to serve fruits and vegetables throughout the day so that it doesn’t really matter if your kids eat the veggies at dinner. This technique not only increases consumption because you’re serving the vegetables more frequently, but because eating vegetables more frequently makes kids more accustomed to their taste and texture.

    Dina
    http://www.itsnotaboutnutrition.com
    Dina Rose´s latest post: Vegetable Ice Cream

  5. GREAT post!!!
    kelli´s latest post: my green buns

  6. Hi Nicole!

    You post is unquestionably brilliant. Parents all over the world are really having trouble making their children eat vegetables. And you approach is one of the most well-thought of ones. I will apply it to many different children of my friends. I’m sure they will love this idea.!
    Dulcey´s latest post: Checking Account: Basic things you need to know

  7. i loved the educational way!growing vegi in the garden is grate children are very proud of what they do themselves….so i think they will agree eating …
    nella´s latest post: Best NLP books for beginners

  8. Despite a huge vegetable garden and serving my kids veggies all the time, we still struggle with getting them to eat their veggies. I never thought of talking about the veggies in terms of colors. We do talk about what nutrients we get from the different fruits and veggies and why there is such a variety.

    I’m feeling inspired!
    Barb @ A Life in Balance´s latest post: I be dilling!

  9. wow cool tips!!! I’m gonna try them all on my kids!!! starting from today :)
    Larissa´s latest post: Hair removal methods

  10. I love this state of mind – “Nature’s Pharmacy.”
    You Go Woman!!
    No way there is a better ways teaching your kids a healthy , happy @ colorful way of life.
    I’m not married yet, no husband, no children, but you sure make me feel I have something to look forward too, my motherhood is waiting…

    Love you for your creativity , giving me lots of pleasure. Bless you god!
    martha´s latest post: HOW TO GET RID OF HPV OR GENITAL WARTS?

  11. Hi Nicole, my kids love fruits, but I struggled a lot to get my kids eat vegetables. One of the techniques that I used to let them eat veggies is by making green smoothie. It works but still I want my kids to learn how to eat a vegetable as it is. And these are great tips to try to my kids to indulge them in eating vegetables. Thank you.
    Claire@My Costume Express´s latest post: Kids Costumes

  12. Thanks Dina, for pointing out the problems with the forced veggie eating approach. Please see http://www.ellynsatter.com for tips on how to feed your family in a healthy way. The most important thing is to provide regular snacks and family meals and you don’t need to obsess over whether your child chose to eat the veggies that day or not. The more controlling you try to be of your child’s eating, the more likely it is to backfire on you. Please see Ellyn’s website as it has some wonderful information.

  13. I use to draw some pictures with the vegetables and this way, my kids enjoy the game and they are also eating :)
    Jess´s latest post: lip plumper

  14. I don’t have any children of my own yet unfortunately but perhaps you have some tips on how to get my cats to eat the good foods? I just can’t seem to wean them off friskees canned mush! :D
    Shannon´s latest post: Tra La La Travel!

  15. My daugther uses the tactic of growing them, but also she has them to help with the cooking as well. This encourages them to try something they’ve had a part in.
    You have also shared some other great ideas!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Taking care of me

  16. I love all your ideas, Nicole, and mostly because you’re not resorting to the advice that people often churn out about getting kids to eat more veggies–the “sneak it in” approach. I think it’s way better to be upfront about the beauty and the benefit of fruits and vegetables (sometimes we don’t give kids enough credit!) and then make it fun. Instead of merely pureeing cauliflower and sneaking it into sauces or muffins or whatever. I mean, I suppose they’re getting a veggie that way but they’re not really learning about the joy and importance of healthy eating.

    Taking the upfront approach isn’t going to always be successful, of course, and it’s not the easy way out. But I read a statistic a little while ago that a kid needs to be presented with a new food up to 14 times (!) before they’ll actually give it a try. So you just keep having the stuff turn up on their plate, without a ton of pressure, and eventually they’ll go for it. Not easy, of course, but worth it!
    Kim Foster MD´s latest post: How to De-Stress, Improve Brain Function, Decrease Pain, Boost Mood, and More (In Just 10 Minutes a Day)

  17. We all love our fruit and veggies here, but our children have friends who don’t…lots of them…and these are wonderful ideas! We think fruit can be so much double fun when it looks like a dessert too. Strawberries and homemade natural whipped cream are a favorite summertime treat here:

    http://www.wordplayhouse.com/2011/06/strawberries-and-cream-whipped-cream.html

  18. These are absolutely great ideas! I love to copy this rule “no eating your main dish until your vegetable is gone.” I hope my kids would be a good follower. Wish me luck! :)
    Kelly´s latest post: florida psychic

  19. Really useful list , and yes, it’s a long term project. Very, very long term!! My littles son is pretty bad with veggies but gets heaps of fruit. I often will give them a bowl of veggies when they are watching TV as I get dinner ready; they are usually hungry then and distracted. Sometimes works, not always. Two of mine are good with veggies tho’… what a relief!

  20. i feel super blessed that all my kids have liked veggies from the get go. we have salad as a main course often and load it with all sorts of fruits and veggies. smoothies are also a great way to get various thing in – today we had in ours kale, carrot, lemon, blackberries, banana, strawberries, and local honey. i think the biggest thing is to keep offering it and to not give up and give junk.
    Charis´s latest post: want to know what i have been reading?

  21. I’m glad my kids do not give me a hard time when it comes to this. All you need to do is be creative. Kids are open to learn new things, they just love to ask. If you find an opportunity, seize it. So far my kids enjoy fruits and veggies that I serve, and they just simply adore my mashed potato salad.
    Daisy@Marshal Firth´s latest post: Rocket Theme

  22. Great tips here! I don’t have kids yet but I like your tip #1 so eating them becomes fun, and tip #6 – they can have what they want, but eat the veggies first. I suppose getting them to eat fruits is a lot easier than veggies because they’re sweeter.
    Stephanie´s latest post: Acne Treatment with Prescription Topicals

  23. I definitely love all your tips! I don’t have a problem feeding my kids with fruits but feeding them with vegetables is a big deal. These tips will definitely help me to encourage my kids to it veggies in a fun way. Thank you.
    Nicole@ Kids Bedroom Furniture World´s latest post: Beds For Kids

  24. So how do you get adults to eat their vegetables? :) I like the idea about the rainbow. That’s very clever and easy to do with such a wealth of vibrant vegetables out there. Very cool.
    Ben´s latest post: Vitamineral Green Review

  25. Wonderful ideas!

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