It’s something virtually all parents struggle with: encouraging kids to eat veggies. While they may love them in the future, it’s not uncommon for young children to dislike veggies. The problem is, it’s still important for them to get the nutrition vegetables provide.1 It can be challenging to find ways to ensure your kids are getting these vital nutrients. However, that doesn’t mean you need to resort to tricks or bribes. The following tips will help you get kids to eat vegetables and maybe even like them.
Encouraging Kids to Eat Veggies
1. Serve Them with Familiar Foods
Encouraging kids to eat veggies may be more difficult if they’re part of a meal featuring many ingredients they aren’t used to. On the other hand, if you serve veggies with foods they already know and like, getting them to try a few bites becomes much easier.
2. Don’t Give Up
Parents often assume there is no way they will convince their children vegetables are enjoyable. While they might still be able to convince them they need to eat some veggies, parents can reach a point where the idea of their child developing a taste for nutritious foods seems completely unrealistic.
Don’t fall prey to this mindset. The best thing to do when you’re struggling to get a child interested in vegetables is to keep serving them.
You can experiment by serving new or old vegetables in new ways. However, it’s worth noting that kids typically need to be exposed to a food between 6 and 15 times before developing a taste for it.2 The fact that your child didn’t like carrots when you served them last week doesn’t mean they never will.
3. Get Your Kids Involved
You could serve several meals, allowing your child to choose which vegetables they wish to try in a way that makes the experience fun. For example, maybe you serve pizza or tacos with bowls full of colorful toppings. Most of these toppings should be veggies. Letting your child customize their meal and choose their veggies turns eating well into something they might find genuinely fun.
Getting kids involved in the meal preparation is also a good idea. A child who makes a meal with veggies might be happy to try it if they know they played a role in cooking it.
4. Watch Your Eating Habits
Children learn many behaviors by watching their parents. Thus, to convince your child that vegetables are delicious and important, you must model healthy eating by enthusiastically adding more veggies to your diet. Over time, this will substantially impact your child’s attitude towards vegetables.
5. Make Them Look Fun
Presentation is important when serving vegetables. A haphazard pile of broccoli may convince a child they dislike it before they’ve even tried it. However, if stalks of broccoli were arranged on the plate to resemble trees in a landscape, the fun presentation could fascinate a child. Of course, you want to ensure your son or daughter eats their veggies and not just play with them. This tactic can make them more appealing when they’re first served.
6. Offer Dips
Encouraging kids to eat veggies with hummus, ranch sauce, or another favorite dip isn’t simply a way to conceal the flavor of a food they dislike behind one they do like. It also makes eating vegetables more interactive. Instead of being told exactly what they are expected to eat, kids are free to choose their dips (within reason).
This flexibility may particularly appeal to strong-willed children who don’t like being told what to do. Granted, they must listen to you, but also learn to take ownership of their diets in the long run. This tip can help.
7. Avoid Too Much Reinforcement
It can be tempting to offer some positive reinforcement when trying to get a child to eat their veggies. If they refuse to, it seems easy to warn them that they won’t be allowed to eat dessert if they don’t finish their vegetables first. If they are willing to eat vegetables, you might want to encourage them to continue doing so in the future by praising them now.
This is understandable. However, giving too much feedback can cause long-term problems. Your child may begin to associate eating certain foods with receiving praise. What’s more important is learning to listen to their body when choosing what to eat. You’re simply providing them with nutritious foods to help them develop a taste for vegetables.
That’s an important goal for all parents. These tips will help you achieve it. While encouraging kids to eat veggies isn’t always easy, keeping these points in mind makes it easier.