5 Ways I’ve Succeeded In Getting My Kids To Eat Their Vegetables

kid with veggies and princess cupThe great fight-o-the-veggies is a thing most parents go through at some point. Some researchers think it has to do with evolution, as kids become adverse to certain foods at the same time they become more mobile and apt to wander from the tribe, so to speak. Kids are often more sensitive to certain tastes as well, and thankfully this is something that is usually outgrown. Because if it wasn’t, I would go NUTS.

With the exception of my son, who for some reason loves the ever living hell out of his veggies, dinner time has been a struggle for the last few years. Right when my oldest daughter was outgrowing her vegetable-aversion, my middle child was there to pick up the sword and fight the good fight (against nutrition). Along the way I picked up some great (and not so great) ways to get my bratlings to eat vegetables.

1. Shredded carrots are my secret weapon

shredded carrots cookies__1377709708_96.239.90.68

Shredded carrots are magical. I’ve managed to sneak them into things you couldn’t imagine. Chocolate cake, chicken and dumplings, mac and cheese. I use them instead of sugar in my pasta sauce recipe to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes. I’ll admit, I got the idea from Jessica Seinfeld‘s Deceptively Delicious, but I think I brought sneaky vegetable guerilla warfare to a whole new level. I am a shredded carrot ninja.

(Photo:  desertculinary)

2. Bribing

bibing with lollipop

Sanctimommies, you better grab your smelling salts and put on your “clutching” pearls, because I have a confession. I am not above bribing my kids into submission. Yes, I will promise my daughter her favorite lollipop after dinner if she tried a new vegetable with no shame. This is how I got her to finally eat corn (which I know doesn’t really count as a vegetable, but don’t take this away from me).

(Photo: Kukana)

3. Covering the veggies in other stuff

boy with carrots in mouth

When my husband was little, his mom would cover his carrots with maple syrup. He actually still eats them this way occasionally. While the thought of this legitimately sickens me, it certainly works with the five and under crowd, so I hold my nose and do it sometimes.

(Photo: ang mcdougald photography)

4. Showing my kids how veggies are grown

my first gardern

One of the best pieces of advice I was given on this subject was to grow some vegetables with the kids so they can see how it works, the idea being that they will want to eat what they grew. Of course, I have a brown thumb (brown as in dead plants). So I might get the kids started on a nice little garden, which does incentivize them to eat other veggies, but everything always dies no matter what I do and the whole plan kind of falls flat. I am glad this isn’t pioneer days because I would’ve been screwed.

(Photo: The Micro Gardener)

5. When in doubt…DIPS

boy with cheese brocoli

Dips are a parent’s best friend. Kids won’t eat carrot sticks? Ranch it up. They won’t go for broccoli? CHEESE. Seriously though, dips work and they don’t have to be that unhealthy. I’ve found that kids will eat almost anything in dip form, including humus, greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Cheese dip is actually the answer to most of life’s problems…and you can throw in some shredded carrots too!

(Photo:  A.J.Reamshappy10girl)

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  • LiteBrite

    C loves broccoli and carrots. What kid likes broccoli? Mine apparently. However, other veggies are a struggle at best. It also doesn’t help that my husband HATES most veggies and won’t eat them himself.

    Dips work pretty good as do seasonings. (The kid is in love with a northwoods spice blend from our local spice house.) DH is big on bribing the kid with Pringles and other things, but I’m not a fan of that method. One thing that’s helped is C being in school. His class talked last year about foods that help you grow, so every time dinner comes around C says, “I have to make sure I have a growing food.”

    Another thing that helps is this one weird trick called time. I’ve found as C gets older his willingness to try new foods and even like them has increased tremendously.

    • Sundaydrive00

      I loved broccoli as a child (still do). I would eat it plain with no problem. My mom would get the frozen stuff with the cheese sauce, but I always preferred it fresh. My grandma used to always call them trees, so maybe not calling it broccoli helped. I could eat broccoli with every meal, although I must admit its the only vegetable I feel that strongly about. I’ll eat other veggies, but nothing compares to how great broccoli is.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      YES sharing the broccoli love. It is just so delicious. My kid loves it too. It’s so good.

    • LiteBrite

      We used to call broccoli “trees” too. Maybe that’s why he likes it.

      I love roasted broccoli. Throw some fresh broccoli in a pan with salt and olive oil and roast it. Heaven. :)

  • kay

    growing things is awesome. as a child we were sent out to go to the garden when we asked for snacks. so you get kids to eat veggies + get them outside.

    where i live at least peas are hard to kill. i planted them and literally did nothing beyond put up some tomato cages for them to grow on and had tons. when my niece and nephew (ages 1 and 4) visited they along with I think every child in the neighborhood went to town on them. between that and our raspberries (also no work. planted a few years ago, cut back a few times, tie them each fall. no thinning or watering or anything) kids were entertained for an absurdly long time.

    • Paul White

      The only damn thing I can make grow up here, food wise, is chives. Don’t ask why chives, cause I don’t know.

    • kay

      I have chives that will not die. If science could come up with a way to put chives’ death defying powers into basil it it would be amazing. Because I kill a minimum of three basil plants a year. But the chives live on.

    • SusannahJoy

      I’m so jealous! I live in an area that’s ridiculously hot and sunny year round, has awful, rock hard volcanic soil, little to no rain, and yet, is somehow super buggy. Growing anything is nearly impossible. Also, white flies are my nemesis. I think I hate them more than mosquitos even.

    • kay

      i live in oregon. people came on the oregon trail for the good farmland. i kill a lot of plants, but things that you can plant while it’s rainy (i’ve had luck with beans and some squash too) where I can ignore watering them? I’m awesome at those.

      The catch is living with all the rain. And not seeing the sun for days on end.

    • SusannahJoy

      Yeah, but it’s easy to put up with rain and no sun when there’s a microbrewery on every corner!

    • kay

      The alcohol helps. A lot.

  • Byron

    Just….just cook well. Use spices, don’t overcook them or turn em to mush. Use vegetables in ways it makes sense.

    Lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, oregano and other such herbs, stuff which is flavorfull and memorable, they all help.

    Also, try cucumber and feta sandwitches, they’re cool and crunchy and salty and not messy at all. Also a million times better for you than peanut butter and jelly.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Just cook well! lol… why didn’t I think of that.

      Though, really, peanut butter blows cucumber away nutritionally. It’s a good source of protein, b vitamins, other nutrients and healthy fats. Cucumber is a good source of… water.

    • SusannahJoy

      yeah but they’re also a million times more expensive. And the idea that kids will only refuse to eat poorly cooked veggies is kinda silly. I’ve been to plenty nice meals with amazing food that the kids wouldn’t try.

    • Byron

      Getting em to try food is a whole other can of worms I think. I was tackling the aspect of them liking the food in order to frequently eat it rather than getting em to try it.

      How you get kids to try different foods being the issue I’ll now adress, I think starting off with a wide variety of offerings from a young age is good. Don’t give the child the same one thing over and over. Then, by the time they’re old enough to be at an amazing meal, they’ll be inclined to want to try it.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I concur with dip. Kids love dip. If they’re active, the extra calories and fat are negligible.
    I actually applied this to myself when trying to teach myself to like new veggies, as I was a grown woman and I was embarrassed that I didn’t like many things. I threw massive amounts of dressings and dips on various produce to mask the taste until it grew on me. Now I like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and peppers.

  • G.E. Phillips

    My kid will eat a few veggies, and he loves ketchup, but he will not eat any other kind of sauce or dip, so I’ve actually tried to use carrot sticks as a means to get him to try different condiments, like salad dressing and hummus. Go figure.

  • Momof3

    I never look down on bribery. An effective short-term solution! I used it with potty- training and I’ll bet the farm that many other moms have, too. :)

    As for eating veggies, I use the try-try-try again method. It kills me and I almost give up, but somehow, I can get my kids to eat almost anything (except the bitterest greens, but that’ll come later on).

    I also listen to them. My daughter loves raw carrots and hates cooked. She also hates vinegar, so instead of salads, she eats her veggies in wraps, on the side au naturel, or with oil and salt alone. Respect their tastes and they’ll be willing to try more.

  • AlexMMR

    My kids are only 14 months old so I haven’t really hit the aversion stage yet, but I already mix chopped veggies into scrambled eggs. I’ve also been known to puree random veg and mix that into our spaghetti sauce to make sure they get something other than tomato. Blended some kale into applesauce. It looked gross, but they liked it. I bet carrots would blend into applesauce really well.

    I precut and steam a package of stir fry veggies and keep that in a jar in the fridge. I drop a spoonful of those random veggies into everything I can imagine.

  • Summy

    Haha, it always seems like bribing works best!

  • lea

    You forgot bacon. Put anything with bacon and it is delish.

    My father in law insists on brussel sprouts at christmas. We all dislike them, him included, but it is part of the family tradition and you just can’t mess with that apparently.

    So I took charge of them. Par boil, cut in half and place in baking tray. Fry chopped bacon in a decent amount of butter. Pour buttery bacon-y goodness over sprouts, sprinkle with bread crumbs and crushed nuts (I usually use almonds) and bake until golden.

  • RubenMcdaniel
  • TwentiSomething Mom

    So true about the dip. I have all of these cool pinterest pins for cool, healthy dips made with greek yogurt and stuff that I haven’t tried. I just know if I did, my son would totally eat his veggies.

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  • Thalia

    Me, five years old: carrots? Ewwww!

    Dad: these are special carrots… the store ran out of normal ones
    Me: special?
    Dad: *dramatic sigh* well, they’re really for older kids… so if you don’t like them, that’s okay. You can just leave them on your plate.

    At which point I put on my best “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” rageface and ate all of it.