Getting picky kids to eat vegetables might seem like an unwinnable battle. If you feel like this is one you can’t win, keep reading. I’ve got 10 tips here that worked for me. They will help you get picky kids to love vegetables.
“Eat your vegetables.”
“They’re good for you.”
They will make you taller…smarter…faster…have curly hair…
Who hasn’t said at least one of these? My mother – and probably yours – spent a lot of my childhood trying to convince me to eat things that I now love. And yes, she said eating something (I don’t remember what) would give me curly hair. I have always had stick-straight hair that couldn’t hold a curl for five minutes, so naturally I wanted some giant 80s waves.
While it is true that vegetables are good for you and will help you grow in a healthy way, I think as parents we need to be careful about what we promise our kids. I mean, carrots are good for your eyes, but I don’t tell Lil’ Wheezy that if he eats them he won’t ever need glasses. Things like that tend to backfire anyway. One of my best kid friends had super-curly hair (and of course, hated it) so her mom said that eating whatever it was she avoided would give her straight hair. We’re onto you, Mom.
The whole scenario is starting to feel like the Kobayashi Maru, the no-win scenario.
Still, you want your kids to eat vegetables – and everything else you serve – because it is good for them. But if your dinnertime routine resembles a standoff with Klingons, you might start to get desperate. Like Captain Kirk, you might be tempted to cheat. If you just sneak the vegetables into something else, maybe they will never know. Entire cookbooks have been dedicated to this art.
But I don’t recommend it. Sooner or later, it will backfire. And your ship will explode. Or at least, your child will discover your deception. But you also can’t give up. My kids were born picky, but they outgrew it. The process was not easy and it took some time. My hope is that maybe other parents can learn from my experience. Here are my ten tips for getting picky kids to eat.
How to get your picky kids to love vegetables
Start with just one.
For parents whose kid refuses vegetables as a whole, try to find at least one that he or she will eat. You may have to go through most of the grocery store to find it.
Change takes time, especially when you are a kid. Think about the last time you asked your child to change clothes. With vegetables, you do have all day (and longer).
Let them pick.
Take your picky kids to the grocery store and give them free rein in the produce section. Be forewarned, you may have to research how to serve daikon.
Grow your own.
Tomatoes from your own backyard do not taste like the ones in the store. Everyone has room for a small pot on the porch. Bonus: your child will learn a little responsibility and patience while caring for a plant.
Let them cook.
My kids are always happier to eat something they put work into. They still might not love it, but they can appreciate your efforts a little more.
Keep trying, but don’t keep trying the same thing.
You’ve probably heard the often-quoted saying that your child needs to try something seven times before he likes it. I have no idea if this is true, but I would recommend something slightly different. Keep trying, say, broccoli. But don’t make it the exact same way. Try several different recipes until you find one that maybe everyone will like.
Don’t be a short-order cook.
We have always had the rule that everyone eats the same thing. Or not. If you don’t want to eat dinner, no prob. You’re going to bed hungry though because I’m not making anything else. I promise your kid won’t starve and he probably won’t turn his nose up for days in a row either.
Figure out why they don’t like something.
Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. And few children don’t like any vegetable under any conditions. Every time she says she doesn’t like something, ask why. Is it squishy? Crunchy? A weird color or flavor? Does it make her tummy feel weird? (Kids tend to avoid cruciferous vegetables like broccoli because it gives them gas.)
Talk about food.
We talk about what we are eating at dinner most nights. The kids want to know what it is, where it came from, and why it’s good for them. You’ll probably have to do some research, but you’ll also learn some cool facts. A word of warning: you might learn things you didn’t want to know. Google fig wasps if you’re feeling brave.
Make it fun.
I don’t expect anyone to go all-out and create a bento-style work of art for every meal. But try cutting things into different shapes, sizes, etc. to create appeal. Or rename your food. Three people (not me) in this house now like tofu after eating vegetarian ewok salad on Star Wars Day. And I don’t think you’re lying if you mention that his hero eats vegetables. It’s probably true. I mean, even certain Klingons drink prune juice.
Whatever you do, don’t lie. Kids will call your bluff every time. After years of trying, I now have two kids who will taste everything and eat just about anything. And I didn’t even have to fire phasers.