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Parenting Hacks: How to Get Kids to Eat Veggies at Supper Time

Reading time: 9 minutes
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| Updated on
February 8, 2024
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how to get kids to eat veggies - little boy refusing broccoli

What you’ll learn

Parents struggle every day to get their kids to eat their vegetables. Picky eaters complain about the texture and taste of the foods on their plates, making it difficult for parents who just want the best for their kids. Everyone knows that eating vegetables is an important part of a child’s overall health, growth, and development, but how do you get them to do it? Start by exploring several parenting hacks and strategies to successfully determine kids to eat vegetables without making dinner time a negative experience.

How to get kids to eat veggies? First, you have to understand the reasons why don’t kids like vegetables. It will be much easier to find a resolution to the problem once you do. Learn how you, as a parent, can introduce a variety of veggie dishes, engage your kids in garden-to-table activities, and involve them in family cooking. Education can be a great way to help them make better choices about the foods they eat.

The goal is to provide you with a range of effective strategies to try with your kids at dinner time to determine which ones work best for your unique family. If you want to dive deeper and get more in-depth support, check out our free parenting classes.

Why Is It So Important for Kids to Eat Vegetables?

Children need to eat a balanced diet in order to maintain healthy growth and development, and vegetables play a crucial role. Vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that aid in digestion, boost immunity, and promote overall well-being, among a host of other benefits. Regular consumption of veggies ensures that kids receive the necessary nutrients to support their organs, bones, and immune systems as they grow. That means picky eaters are at a higher risk of nutritional imbalance or deficit.

Vegetables are a powerhouse of essential nutrients that kids need. For example, leafy greens like spinach and kale are packed with vitamins A, C, and K, along with iron, calcium, and fiber. Root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and dietary fiber. Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, while peas provide a good dose of vitamins A and K, as well as protein. The benefits of these nutrients range from supporting vision and immune function to promoting healthy skin and aiding digestion—and those are just a few examples of the wide range of vegetables you can consume.

Still, convincing children to eat veggies can be a daunting task. Are you wondering why don’t kids like vegetables? This resistance is usually a result of the less appealing taste and texture of vegetables compared to other foods like sweet candy, salty chips, or even fruit. Luckily, with the right strategies, you can gradually make vegetables an integral part of your child’s diet and eliminate the dreaded dinnertime struggle.

upset little boy eating vegetabes

The Typical Reasons Kids Are Picky Eaters: Understanding Resistant Behavior

Kids turn their noses up to vegetables for a number of reasons.

1. Negative Experiences

Some children might resist vegetables because they have had negative experiences with them at previous mealtimes. A child who was forced to eat vegetables that they didn’t like, for example, may harbor an aversion toward all vegetables—especially if the vegetable gave them a stomach ache or made them feel sick. This can make them reluctant to try new vegetables that are presented at mealtime.

2. Peer Influence

Children might also resist veggies because of peer influence. If their friends say they don’t like vegetables, your kids may be tempted to adopt the same view. This is particularly true for school-age children who are beginning to place a higher value on the opinions of their friends (and it can carry over into a number of other areas).

👉 Curious about children’s refusal to eat? Explore more in our recommended article: ‘How to Get a Child to Eat When They Refuse: 3 Proven Strategies.’

3. Lack of Exposure

Another reason kids may resist vegetables is a lack of exposure. If children aren’t exposed to different types of vegetables from a young age, they may be less likely to accept them later. This is linked to the concept of neophobia, a normal part of development that involves the fear of trying new foods. Children are naturally neophobic to protect themselves from potentially harmful substances. However, this inherent caution can extend to nutritious foods like veggies, particularly if they are not introduced early and regularly and presented in different ways.

4. Presentation

The way vegetables are prepared and presented can also make a big difference. If kids are used to seeing vegetables served plain or overcooked, they may form an unfavorable impression of them. Children often prefer colorful, well-seasoned foods that are visually appealing and tasty, just like adults do. Presenting veggies in this way can reduce their resistance. If they turn their noses up to steamed broccoli, for example, presenting kids with roasted and well-seasoned broccoli may be a complete game changer.

It is not uncommon for a child to grimace at the sight of greens on their plate. But it is our job to provide them with experiences that present vegetables as the fun and delicious components they are to a healthy and balanced diet.

picky eater with a plate with vegetables in front of her

How To Get Kids to Eat Veggies?

1. Make Them More Appealing!

One way of getting around the veggie resistance is by making them more appealing to kids. Vegetables come in a wide array of colors and textures, and they’re anything but boring. Introduce a variety of colorful and kid friendly vegetables into your kids’ diets. Food is always better when it is more visually appealing.

In the spirit of creativity, consider cutting the vegetables into interesting shapes and using different cooking methods to show their versatility. And if you are really struggling to incorporate veggies into their meals, simply disguise them in your kids’ favorite foods. Spinach, for example, can be easily blended into smoothies. Carrots disappear in spaghetti sauce. Finely chopped vegetables go unnoticed in their favorite meat dishes. That way, you can rest assured that your kids are getting the vitamins and minerals they need—and they don’t even realize they’re eating their vegetables!

2. Use The Power of Positive Reinforcement and Role Modeling

Positive reinforcement can work wonders when it comes to instilling healthy eating habits in kids. Compliment and reward your child when they try a new vegetable, which will motivate them to continue eating healthily. Similarly, your attitude towards eating vegetables also matters. If you regularly eat and enjoy vegetables, your kids are more likely to follow your lead and do the same.

Examples of Positive Reinforcement and Role Modeling

Kids thrive when they are praised for their actions. If your child tries broccoli for the first time, tell them how proud you are that they tried something new. Over time, they may start to enjoy the process of trying new vegetables, and they may become less apprehensive about it. This can even build a sense of adventure that can spill over into other areas of their lives.

Children are always watching their parents’ behaviors and learning from their actions. So, if both you and your partner are picky eaters, there’s a higher chance your children will be picky eaters too. If your child sees you eating a salad and enjoying it, express to them verbally how much you love veggies and how it makes you feel good. You could even get creative and tell them a fun story about a ‘superhero’ vegetable that gives you special health powers. Role modeling good eating behaviors can influence your child’s perspective towards vegetables and encourage them to try them more often.

The Influence of Peer Pressure on Children’s Eating Habits

Peer pressure can be a powerful tool, especially among school-aged children. If a child sees their peers indulging in and enjoying vegetables, they might be more inclined to try them as well. Offer vegetables at playdates and at dinner events to expose children to the unique tastes and textures of various veggies. If they see eating vegetables as a common and fun activity among friends, children are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards them.

little boy being forced to eat salad

3. Make Eating Veggies a Family Activity

Children are more likely to eat vegetables if they are involved in the entire process from garden to table. Planting and tending to vegetables is a hands-on activity that can spark their interest in these foods. Plus, cooking together as a family can make mealtime fun and promote good eating habits.

Involving Children in Garden-to-Table Activities

Cultivating a garden, even a small one with a few kid friendly vegetables, can be a fun and educational experience for kids. It is a great and effective way to get them involved and promote a love for vegetables.

When children plant seeds, water them, and watch them grow, they learn where their food comes from, and they develop a sense of responsibility and ownership over these plants. Harvesting and cooking the vegetables they helped to grow can be an incredibly rewarding and exciting experience. This can significantly increase a child’s willingness to taste and eat the vegetables they planted and cared for once they are served at the dinner table.

Family Cooking and Mealtime

The kitchen is another wonderful place to involve your child—especially if you want to encourage them to eat their vegetables. Cooking together as a family makes mealtime more than just a routine. It transforms it into a bonding experience and an opportunity to instill healthy eating habits.

Allow your children to help with safe and simple tasks, like washing and peeling vegetables, stirring the pot, or setting the table. They are more likely to eat a meal they had a hand in preparing since it gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Family mealtime is also a great time to model good eating habits. When children see their parents and siblings eating and enjoying vegetables, they may be more open to tasting them and eventually incorporating them into their own diets.

4. The Role of Education: Teaching Kids about Veggies

Educating children about the importance of veggies can increase their willingness to eat them. Conduct fun and engaging activities like a “vegetable of the week” experiment, where you introduce a new veggie each week, talk about its benefits, and cook it together. Most vegetables can be prepared in several different ways, and this can be a great opportunity to see which cooking methods taste best. This keeps the veggie experience fresh and exciting for kids, and it encourages them to try a variety of vegetables that are prepared in a variety of ways.

Make learning about vegetables fun and interactive. You could create a veggie superhero, for example, who gains special powers from different types of vegetables. Some families have found success in organizing a vegetable scavenger hunt where different veggies are ‘hidden’ in each dinner and the kids have to identify them.

By adapting some of these strategies, you can significantly transform the way your child views vegetables, making the process of getting them to eat veggies easier, more enjoyable, and struggle-free.

Joyful mom and kids engaging in playful kitchen activities, exploring the vibrant colors and textures of fresh vegetables together

5. The Importance of Taste Adaptation and Gradual Introduction

It is also worth noting that the human palate is adaptable and can develop a liking for new tastes over time. Gradually introducing vegetables and not forcing a child to eat them all at once can be a more successful approach. It is okay to start small. Introduce just one vegetable at a time and gradually increase the variety as they decide whether they like each one. This gradual introduction will give time for the child’s taste buds to adapt to and appreciate the flavor of each vegetable.

Once your child starts to express which vegetables they like to eat, try to keep their favorites in rotation to ensure that they consume them regularly while continuing to try new vegetables. This way, meal times won’t be unfamiliar territory all the time, and they can look forward to something they like on the plate.

Conclusion

Getting kids to eat veggies can certainly be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Thoughtful strategies can make the process easier and make mealtime more enjoyable. Changes take time, and patience is key. No matter what, stay consistent and continue to introduce vegetables without pressure at every meal. By implementing positive reinforcement, role modeling, and fun activities, your kids can overcome being picky eaters and learn to love vegetables.

If you found these tips helpful, be sure to register for our free masterclass to get more in-depth learning and support.

Ready to transform your parenting? Enroll in our free online course: ‘How to Get Kids to Listen? 5 Steps to Get What You Want from Your Child Without Getting Angry or Giving in.’ You will find out how to get kids to eat veggies! Seeking answers to more parenting challenges? Connect with our AI assistant, Sophie, equipped with expert tips on parenting.

References

Adachi-Mejia, A., Longacre, M., Gibson, J., Beach, M., Titus-Ernstoff, L., & Dalton, M. (2006). Children with a TV in their bedroom at higher risk for being overweight. International Journal Of Obesity, 31(4), 644-651. http://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803455

Arlinghaus, K., Vollrath, K., Hernandez, D., Momin, S., O’Connor, T., Power, T., & Hughes, S. (2018). Authoritative parent feeding style is associated with better child dietary quality at dinner among low-income minority families. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 108(4), 730-736. http://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy142

Benton, D. (2004). Role of parents in the determination of the food preferences of children and the development of obesity. International Journal Of Obesity, 28(7), 858-869.

Driscoll, L. C. (2013). Parenting Styles and Self-Esteem. Scripps Senior Theses. 155.

Judah, G., Gardner, B., Kenward, M.G., DeStavola, B., & Aunger, R. (2018). Exploratory study of the impact of perceived reward on habit formation. BMC Psychology 6, 62. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-018-0270-zv

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