8 Tips For Getting Your Child To Eat More Vegetables

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8 Tips For Getting Your Child To Eat More Vegetables

By Marge Von Lehmden

Imagine this: It’s 5 o’clock, the table is neatly set, the children are quietly eating their dinner until one politely asks, “Mom, may I have more vegetables?” 

Yeah Right!

The reality is that dinner time can be the most stressful part of the day. At some point, most children go through a picky phase toward vegetables and, for some children, they absolutely protest at the sight of anything green (except maybe the beautiful Miss Green M&M). 
So, what do you do? Who can you turn to? The pediatrician, a dietician, voodoo?? The answer to this conundrum comes from years and years of passed down advice and tricks from veteran moms like Paula.

OFFER FIRST: Give them the vegetables first when they are most hungry and more likely to give it a try. For snack time offer carrot sticks with ranch dressing and if they finish all of their carrots they can have crackers next.

BABY STEPS: Every lunch and dinner offer a vegetable. Your child needs three servings of vegetables per day and if you break this out between lunch, snack and dinner this is less daunting.  The more your child sees the vegetables the more likely they are going to try them.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: Child see, Child do. The best way to do this is through family meal time. This can be a challenge for busy families, but at least try to make the effort a few nights a week. If this is not possible, when you serve your children’s dinner you can sit with them and munch on carrot sticks as an appetizer before eating with your spouse later.

TEXTURE: Some kids will gobble down raw carrot sticks but refuse cooked carrots. The same can be true for many other vegetables as well. Try serving raw zucchini and squash with a yummy dip as a snack for a change. Be cautious with raw veggies (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc) with children under two, they can be choking hazards The way to discover if your child leans more towards raw or cooked is through trial and error. One mom said her toddler use to love frozen peas! A bit strange but it counts. 

DIP!!:  More moms swear by this tactic: cut the veggies into spears or small bites and serve with a dip. To the child’s mind it’s seen as an activity and it feels more like eating chicken nuggets than eating vegetables. Fun choices are ranch, catsup, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, flavored cream cheese, hummus….the choices are endless. Find a dip they like and they’re likely to gobble up those veggies! 

HIDE IT: Deception can be fun! One mom likes to hide a cup of steamed, mashed butternut squash in her mac-n-cheese. Another mom makes mashed cauliflower.  It has the consistency and appearance of standard mashed potatoes but is all veggie. One thing almost all children love is spaghetti.  When making your standard meat sauce, add a cup of finely diced zucchini and let it cook down. After 30 minutes to an hour the tomatoes, onion and zucchini are virtually hidden and your child will only see a yummy red sauce for their pasta.

REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR: If your child tries something new or finishes all their veggies offer a reasonable dessert.  Be their biggest cheerleader.

MAKE IT FUN: Another tactic mother’s have been using for years is effective marketing. Telling your children if they eat they eat their carrots they can have “xray vision like superman” or by eating their spinach they can have “muscles as big as Popeye”. 

Remember a child’s flavor palate changes every couple of years and almost every child at some point has been a picky eater.  Some of the worlds best food critics and executive chefs where, at one time, a picky eater.

Keep trying, be creative and have fun!

Serves 2

2 zucchini, washed, cut in 1/4 - 1/2 inch rounds
2 end pieces of sandwich bread, crumbled in blender or food processor
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
cooking spray
Ranch dressing
1 sweet potato, peeled & cut into thin strips like “french fries”
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
Puree the sandwich bread in your food processor until fine crumbs. Place crumbs into a bowl and add 1/3 cup parmesan. Place zucchini into crumbs and press into until both sides are well coated. The moistness of the bread allows the crumbs to stick without using an egg wash.  Place coated zucchini on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Spray with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. Turn halfway through.  Serve with ranch dressing for dipping.

Wash and peel the sweet potato. Cut into strips that resemble french fries. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the cinnamon and sugar. Place sweet potato fries on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft. For a crispier “fry” keep skins on and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Marge Von Lehmden works as a sales representative but her passion is cooking! She is a Kappa that hails from East Texas but has fallen in love with a slower life in Savannah where she resides with her college sweetheart husband, Aaron, and well fed baby boy, Parker.

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Reader Comments:


Another great way to sneak in veggies: My son loves our homemade turkey burgers. I chop several cups of fresh (organic) baby spinach and mix in in with the raw meat (along w onion, garlic and some spices). He has no idea!!

By C on March 30, 2011


My son loves V8 juice and tomato juice so I don't fight him with veggies. If he wont eat them then he can have a glass of V8. He also LOVES salsa and tortilla chips which is another great snack idea

By Nicole on March 29, 2011


Good ideas. I think hiding the flavor/ taste of vegetable is really a good way. Thank you for sharing.

By Jenny Tsai on March 29, 2011

I make ‘grass popsicles’ out of pureed yogurt, juice, spinach (and/or kale), banana & berries or mango. My boys think the popsicles are fun and they don’t have a clue how much good stuff they’re eating.

By Tanya Hein on March 15, 2010

My grandson is going on fifteen months old and is becoming a little picky with veggies. We found he would be more willing to try them if it wasn’t offered in a baby plate with a baby spoon. He loves eating from a dinner fork and dishes like the rest of the family.

By Sharon Whittington on March 13, 2010

These are all great Ideas.. My grandson doesn’t like much at all that has to do with veggies.. But I make him brownies with spinach in it. I take the steamed spinach and put it in my food processor and then into the brownie mix and cook They only say’s I have the moistest brownies they have ever ate. I’ve also used Carrots. I put zuccini in place of banana’s in a banana bread mixture. I’ve also put cooked sweet potatoes and butternut squash in my waffle mix with a little cinnamin.. It’s wonderful. I also put cooked carrots in my chicken and dumplings.. I don’t mash them just leave in little rounds.

By Renee Loftus on March 08, 2010

We are raising our 19 month old grand dughter.  Last month she ate hardly any thing except steamed broccoli and green beans….this month its oatmeal noodles and bananas.  i just keep offering the things she ate before. I love the carrots in the spagehtti sauce trick.

By Cheyenne Smith on March 03, 2010

I make “Chicken Marsala” for my kids, but since they “think” they don’t like mushrooms, I chop the mushrooms in the food processor, and make a silky Marsala Sauce to put on my chicken. 

Once they were grown and found out what they “loved”, one child is even majoring in Culinary Arts in college! 

All my kids love most foods now, and the easiest way to get them to eat veggies is to eliminate junk food and most sweets from the house!

I also made each child take a “no thank you” helping and at least taste every dish I made, and many times they would be surprised that something they thought they didn’t like was actually very delicious!  Good luck to all the moms out there!!  wink

By GA Mom of 5 on March 02, 2010

Love it!! My kids are great veggie eaters, but these tips do come into play once in a while!!!

By emily on March 02, 2010

I love your suggestions.  As a doctor and as a mom, I have tried several of them.  I frequently add several veggies chopped up to pasta sauce, love carrots and ranch dip etc.  One sneaky thing I do is chocolate zucchini cake, which is delicious, but my family is catching on!

By Nancy Jones on March 02, 2010

THANKS! My daughter is three years old and I’m always looking for tips on how to get more healthy veggies added to her routine.  Can’t wait to try these out! smile

By Lisa Lee on March 01, 2010

I love all these bits of wisdom, Paula!  As a registered dietitian (and mom), I am asked frequently how to encourage kids to eat veggies… another idea for the spaghetti sauce is grated carrots.  I also always paired veggies at meals with foods my kids liked… and they could not have a second serving of their favorite until they finished the vegetable first!  By the way, I’ve learned from seasoned southern cooks, that a little brown sugar in some cooked squash never hurts! ha ha

By Kristi Sibert on March 01, 2010

My grandmother would make meatloaf and add a can of drained mixed vegatables to it and then make a ketcup, brown sugar and mustard mix to put on top of it then bake it and served it with ketcup as a granish.  It worked and my mother would use a food processor to do oninon, green peppers and carrots so that the grand children could not see then and that worked also.

By Sharon Maine on March 01, 2010

LOL…Glad she didn’t know my mom.  Actually, I think she knew my grandmother.  Guess thats why I love vegetables now.

By Greg Kantner on March 01, 2010

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