Sometimes, children don’t want to eat their veggies! Any parent knows this struggle. We also know that it’s critical to get kids to eat those veggies, given their health benefits. For 2 to 3 year olds, the USDA recommends eating 1 cup per day of vegetables.
That’s a large quantity, especially for young children who may be finicky. Here are some tips to get your kids to that 1-cup threshold.
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20 tips on how to get them to eat their veggies
Change The Presentation
If kids know what vegetables typically look like, they’ll avoid them based on their appearance without trying them out.
You can prepare vegetables differently, such as by oven-frying or adding some cheese, so the greens maintain their health but look unique. If you can make the veggies look fun, even better!
Mix Veggies into Favorite Meal
If your toddler loves macaroni and cheese, try mixing in some spinach or broccoli. Hiding your kids’ vegetables like this is an excellent way to get them eating their greens without even realizing it.
Appearance is Key
Try vegetables served in different ways, whether fresh, frozen, cooked, with dip, sauteed; you name it. Changing the way the vegetables look can encourage your kids to try them out.
Make it Fun
Let children choose their veggie toppings or place the vegetables on fun plates. This can better encourage your kids to try them out. If an activity is enjoyable, kids want more of it.
Letting your kids pick their own vegetables, place them on as toppings, or dip them in condiments makes meal-time engaging. This also gives them some amount of control, all of which encourages them to eat their greens.
Hide those veggies however you can! Whether it’s mixing them into your kid’s favorite foods or adding them on as toppings, there’s no need to make the vegetables obvious.
Make Veggies More Appealing
Empower your kids to make their own vegetable-based decisions. Let them describe the vegetables in their own words, or teach them how to pick out perfectly ripe veggies. This engages them with a fun and memorable experience, encouraging them to ask for more.
Butter them Up
Most kids dislike vegetables because they’re bitter. Adults are accustomed to this taste, but kids aren’t. Adding small amounts of butter, which is rich in Vitamin A, E, and D3, dissolves the bitter taste and means kids are more likely to enjoy their vegetables.
Butter also helps kids’ bodies absorb vitamins from their greens.
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Have Them Eat Veggies First
If your kids are super hungry, they’re far less likely to complain and far more likely to eat those vegetables. Before serving other snacks or meals, start them off with a plate of nutritious vegetables. Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD serves greens to her kids right after they get home from school.
Serving veggies alongside dip also helps combat that bitter taste and makes them more enjoyable. While store-bought dips can be on the unhealthier side, consider making your own dips at home. You can even involve your kids in the process to get them excited about eating that dip with their veggies!
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If you have parent friends whose kids gobble down veggies, send your child to their house or invite their kids over. Children copy one another, so if your kids see their peers enthusiastically eating greens, yours are likely to do the same.
“Copy-Kids Eat Fruits and Vegetables” is a DVD of, well, kids eating fruits and vegetables. This is a great alternative to peer pressure if you don’t know any kids who readily eat veggies, as your child can mirror those on TV.
Choice of Words
Kids love making decisions for themselves. Instead of picking their veggies out for them, give them an option and let them choose.
Even if they’re choosing between two vegetable options, by virtue of making a decision, kids are far more likely to eat what ends up on their plate without complaining.
Edamame crunches like chips and tastes like sugar, but they have so many health benefits. Serving raw or cooked edamame is an excellent way to get your kids snacking on vegetables without realizing they’re even eating veggies!
Use It As An Appetizer
While kids may not opt or veggies on their own, offering vegetables as a snack before dinner or throughout the day means your kids are far more likely to eat them.
By putting less pressure on your children, they’re more likely to eat their veggies. This also encourages them to snack in accordance to their hunger, ensuring they aren’t over snacking or ruining their appetite for meals.
Make Them into Sous Chef
Letting your kids interact with vegetables by cooking them or blending them gets them excited. Once involved in the process, kids develop a more positive attitude towards veggies.
Hide Veggies in Soup
Veggies hardly taste like veggies when cooked in a nice soup.
Beat The Veggies
Pureed veggies tend to go over better. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that when served pureed veggies rather than whole ones, kids ages 3-5 nearly doubled their veggie consumption.
If eating vegetables becomes a party, why would kids refuse? Reward their vegetable consumption with fun, positive experiences.
Although many kids dislike eating their veggies, these are some excellent ways to encourage them to gobble those greens down.
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