How many moms and dads do we have out there? If you are, then you might have wondered how to get your kids to eat their vegetables. If so, read on...
As a mom of two, I am constantly deciding which battles to fight. Clothes are a frequent battle not fought—if you want to dress as a half spiderman, half cowboy, that is fine by me. Another battle I don’t fight is getting dirty. As long as we get you cleaned up (at some point), get as dirty as you want.
However, as a mom and a Registered Dietitian, when it comes to my kids eating their fruits and veggies, that’s a battle that I absolutely fight. But is it always a struggle. Every. Single. Day. “Do I have to eat it?” “How many bites?” Or my favorite, the fake gagging that could win an Oscar for best performance. Can you relate to any of this?
Thankfully, though, I’ve learned some pretty crafty offensive moves for this particular battlefield. Read on to see my top tips to win the vegetable war.
- Try a smoothie. You can be so sneaky with smoothies! Try putting spinach, yogurt, milk, a banana, chia seeds, and berries together. It’ll taste super good and your little ones won’t even know it’s got veggies and is packed with vitamins and minerals. A word of caution however: any smoothie that is green will result in an automatic refusal by most (maybe all) kids! Also, kale gives any smoothie an earthy taste, so I’d steer clear of that as well (at least to begin with). I recommend making sure that when you make a smoothie, it’s a bright, fun color like purple, orange, or pink. To add a little more excitement, serve it with a squiggly straw in a fun cup, maybe one that’s just used for smoothie time.
- Make veggie fries. Is there really anyone who can resist a sweet potato fry? THEY ARE DELICIOUS!! Check out this great recipe for Smoky Sweet Potato Wedges with Mashed Avocado, or these Beet & Sweet Potato Chips. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll gobble them up as long as you call them fries. Other vegetables that make really good fries are carrots, eggplant, parsnips, jicama, and plantains.
- Check out cauliflower. Cauliflower has really made a name for itself lately. It comes in all types of sneaky shapes, which can be smuggled into virtually anything. For example, try cauliflower pizza crust, or riced cauliflower instead of fried rice, or riced cauliflower instead of rice in soups. You can also add some mashed cauliflower into your mashed potatoes without your kids even noticing. Heads up though, with the fried rice you might want to go half-and-half on cauliflower to rice because the cauliflower can get a little watery, which throws off the texture.
- Talk about TV characters that eat veggies. In my son’s favorite TV show, the main character eats carrots in almost every scene. So, when I go to the fridge I ask, “hey do you want a carrot like Tweak does in Octonauts?” and most of the time he says, “yes, bunchy, munchy, crunchy carrots,” which is what the character says. If your kids don’t have a favorite character (who eats vegetables) you could say, “I heard (insert their favorite character here) really likes ________” (and insert whatever veggie you think they will eat).
- Talk about how veggies help your body. One day, when my son was just staring at his sweet potatoes, I told him that sweet potatoes were really good for your eyesight. The next day he said, “mom, I thought it was hard to see last night, so I better eat some more sweet potatoes.” Who would’ve thought that a little health lesson on why to eat veggies would also make him want to eat them? Just keep your explanation simple. Here are a few good ones: broccoli helps you poop (the boys will love that), squash helps strengthen your bones, bell peppers help to keep you from getting sick, carrots help your eyesight. Have you tried this before? Any great examples to share?
- Zoodle plus Noodle. My daughter is a noodle fanatic. I think she could live on noodles alone and be perfectly happy. So, I thought it was a great idea to swap out zucchini noodles (zoodles) instead. Wrong. The green color was too much and she wouldn’t even try them. So, I had to get creative. Next time, I peeled the zucchini before zoodling and gave her half regular noodles and half of the zoodles and perfecto! She didn’t even notice. If your kiddo is less picky than mine, you could also try making butternut squash noodles, carrot noodles, beet noodles, and summer squash noodles too.
- Try fruit and veggie water. Place some fruits and veggies into a pitcher of water and then serve it the next day. It can encourage kiddos to drink more water, which is always a good thing. Just make sure to avoid lemon, as they can cause cavities if they’re drinking a lot. Some of my favorite combos are honeydew melon and cucumber, apple with raspberries and carrot, and cucumber with blueberries.
- Cultivate your inner Picasso. Are those bell peppers or a rainbow? Is that a piece of celery or ants on a log? Think of fun ways to create a picture with fruits and veggies. It’s amazing what kids will try if it looks like a happy face or another fun shape.
- Let your kids help with as much as possible. My son refused to eat peppers for 4 years of his life. Until he helped me plant them from seeds and then grow them in the garden. Then he wanted to try them because he had been a part of their lives from the beginning! If you can’t garden, have your kids help you pick out veggies in the grocery store or even help with dinner. It will make a big difference
- Lead by example. This may be the toughest one to tackle if you don’t like veggies. However, play around with your favorite ways to eat vegetables. Kids love to do what you are doing and want to be like you. So if they see you eating veggies they will want to eat them too.
Some of these tips are also covered in, Fun Ways to Help Your Kids Eat Healthily & Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food. Check it out if you’re looking for more ideas.
Hopefully, these tips will help you—and please let us know if you have any other tips to share. We’re all in this together, Fitness Blender family. Also, don’t get discouraged if your kids are set on never eating veggies. Most of us refused veggies when we were little too, right? I remember sitting at the table until bedtime because I refused to eat squash. It won’t be like this forever and in a way it’s a right of passage for kids to live on chicken nuggets and goldfish, right? You’re doing great, so don’t lose heart!
Written for Fitness Blender by Alexandra (Allie) Gregg, RD, RDN, LDN
Registered and Licensed Dietitian