Vegetables for kids can be a tricky topic. And getting the little ones to eat their recommended servings of veggies can be a challenge, but these tips will help!
Vegetables for Kids
Little kids are naturally pulled towards more calorically dense foods like carbs. But we all know that they still need to be eating their veggies. I’ve found a few simple tricks that help and that don’t require Herculean efforts on your part—because I definitely don’t think it helps anyone to have to work to sneak veggies into foods where they don’t really belong, or to have to spend all day in the kitchen.
Here’s what we do in our house when it seems like we’re not getting enough produce in our diets.
Vegetables for Kids Tip #1: Make Sure They Taste Good!
The best way to get your kids to eat their vegetables is to make sure they taste good to YOU. (Yes, I realize that is a fairly obvious one, but we so often forget it!) You can’t expect opinionated little people to go for plain steamed veggies day in and day out, so be sure to make them flavorful. Some ideas:
- Cook up green beans in olive oil, salt, and big pieces of garlic for flavor that can easily be picked out and moved to the side.
- Toss carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower with a curry or peanut sauce.
- Serve veggies with dips like ketchup, Ranch, Cheese Sauce, or anything else your child likes.
TIP: Find my Master List of Vegetable Recipes for Kids here.
Vegetables for Kids Tip #2: Serve Veggies as Appetizers
While balanced meals and snacks are key to balanced energy, it can be really helpful to take a food and serve it all by itself to eliminate the competition. Often, we do this before dinner and have an appetizer of something like fresh snap peas, sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, or even frozen veggies such as peas or sweet corn while I finish making dinner.
This almost always leads to my kids eating whatever is on offer, in part I think, because it’s sort of fun to have an appetizer to nibble on. And, without other foods to distract your little eater, they might be able to enjoy the choice that’s actually in front of them—and then the pressures off when it comes to actually sitting down at the table.
Vegetables for Kids Tip #3: Change Things Up.
If you feel like you can’t get your toddler to eat their broccoli no matter what you try, change things up! Try:
- Reach for a veggie from the same family, like cauliflower or Romanesco, and see if that helps. Try to compare the flavor or texture of the food to something you know they like if possible.
- Cut the veggies in a different shape than usual.
- Change up which veggies you serve in your go-to recipes.
- Let the kids pick out something new at the grocery store.
- Try to buy 1-2 vegetables this week that you didn’t buy last week.
TIP: You can even try letting the kids help cut up the veggies too using one of our favorite kids cooking tools.
Vegetables for Kids Tip #4: Don’t Give Up
Kids can take a lot of exposures to try and like new vegetables, so keep the ones you really want them to eat in regular rotation (but change up how you serve them). For me, this means I usually serve carrots, broccoli, peas, and corn each week and then I bring in new items each week (like beets, parsnips, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes) to keep things interesting.
You can keep serving sizes small to ensure that the kids aren’t overwhelmed by what you’re offering and to reduce food waste. (Toddler serving sizes are likely smaller than you think!)
I also advocate using veggies in recipes to add nutrition and flavor, but not solely relying on sneaking in vegetables. Because if you do that only, the kids won’t be able to identify veggies as they grow—or know which ones they like!
TIP: You can find my master list of Vegetable Recipes for Kids here.
Vegetables for Kids Tip #5: Eat Together!
Kids learn the most from what they are exposed to at home, so keep showing them that you like to eat veggies–even if they aren’t eating the same exact ones all the time. Kids love to eat off of their parent’s plates, especially at restaurants, so use that to your advantage.
And remember that this sort of peer pressure works with their little friends too. We’re always talking about her friends who love bell peppers whenever we have them and I’m pressure that’s the real reason that my kids like them now:)
And as a final thought, keep in mind that fruit has nutrition too, so if your toddler prefers fruit over veggies, that’s totally okay too. Try to keep the big picture in mind and remember that this normal phase of more selective eating in toddlerhood isn’t permanent, but is a phase that will come and go and change as the kids grow.
TIP: Learn more about normal picky eating here for some reassurance.