10 Parents on How They Got Their Kids to Eat More Vegetables
“How can I get my kids to eat more vegetables?” is a question I get often as a mom who also cooks and writes about food for a living. It is also a question that I ask myself often. Vegetables are a pain point at mealtimes because parents know they are nutrient-dense, but kids often think they taste gross (even when they are coated in cheese and butter).
So I asked 10 other parents — some who also write about food and some who just know from their own experience raising tiny humans — how they got their kids to eat more vegetables. Here’s some of their best advice.
1. Dress them up!
This seems obvious, but taking the time to dress, sauce, or cook vegetables in ways that make them delicious and exciting to eat is the easiest way to get your kids to eat more vegetables. If your little doesn’t love raw shredded carrots, they may actually prefer them roasted or steamed and toasted with honey butter. They’ll eat more vegetables when they taste great! —Meghan Splawn, Associate Food Editor, Kitchn, @stirandscribble
2. Double down on dips.
My secret weapon is Greek yogurt, which my 2-year-old surprisingly loves on just about everything. I’ll use it most frequently as a dip for veggies and meat; often it’s the difference between her pecking at something and devouring it. —Melissa Harrison, Food Director, Kitchn, @melissaharrsion
3. When in doubt, roast them.
As a kid, my veggies were usually boiled and mushy. That’s why I always like to roast our veggies for mealtimes. The kids love the chewy, caramelized texture, and I’ll usually add a sprinkle of grated Parmesan or a drizzle of balsamic to keep things fun. Roasting veggies creates a whole new flavor! —Gerry Speirs, Foodness Gracious, @foodnessgracious
4. Build your own.
One of the ways I’ve gotten my kids to eat vegetables is to plan a few build-your-own-meal dinners. Their favorite is taco Tuesday, where I place all the ingredients on the table and they can select how they want to build their taco, tostada, or burrito bowl. It’s the continuous exposure (without the pressure to “take a bite”) that helps my kids try new things when they see the rest of the family enjoying the meal. —Laura Fuentes, MOMables Founder and Author of The Taco Tuesday Cookbook, @laurafuentes
5. Take veggies off the table.
By focusing on only mealtimes, you miss how significant exposure is to developing a kid’s curiosity toward vegetables. Before serving a broad variety of veggies, share your genuine excitement for them when the pressure to eat doesn’t exist, like at the farmers market, the store, or during meal prep. And if they still don’t eat veggies, have patience, take the long view, and stay positive. You’re doing great! —Lou Perseghin, @feedingc
6. Serve, eat, repeat!
Patience and consistency are key when it comes to getting kids on board with vegetables. From the time mine were tiny, I fed them vegetables of every stripe in every iteration. Sometimes they went under the radar in a smoothie, but more often they were served straight-up without disguise. If my kids rejected a particular vegetable, I tried not to comment. Instead, I let them see me loving every bite and would try again another day. —Katie Morford, MS, RD, Author of Best Lunch Box Ever, @momskitchenhandbook
7. Start early — and serve vegetables first.
My 14-month-old loves green veggies — like broccoli, green beans, and peas — and we didn’t do anything other than introduce at a young age. Our only “trick” we have is that when we put him in his chair for a meal, we sometimes only put one item on there at a time, so he’s forced to at least try it before we give him other things we know he likes. —Vijay Nathan, Senior Product Manager, Apartment Therapy Media, @noshonit
8. Take advantage of their hungriest times.
I set out some cut-up veggies and fruit during homework time or downtime before dinner. I count on the fact that my son is hungry and he’ll eat just about anything — even healthy stuff! Then when it comes to dinner, we aren’t in a trap of “eat all of your veggies” because he’s already eaten them. —Tracy Benjamin, Food Photographer, @shutterbean
9. Try a 3-step approach.
Here’s mine: Plant something. Whether it’s an herb in the windowsill or an entire yard full of veggies, being hands-on encourages kids to try new things. Take your child to the grocery store. Make a game out of discussing veggies (think: colors, shapes, textures) and let them pick out any they want to try. Cook together. It can be challenging at times, but even the simplest recipes can turn your child into a veggie-lover. — Catherine McCord, Founder of One Potato and Author, Weelicious Lunches, @weelicious
10. Plant a garden.
I’ve found that having my kids around in the garden and while I’m cooking encourages them to nibble and steal bits of produce they might not eat or like when we’re at the table. But if you encourage the kids to taste and explore vegetables away from the table, it can be much less intimidating than during a regular meal. —Amy Palanjian, Host of Comfort Food Podcast, @yummytoddlerfood