Here’s How a Royal Chef Got Prince William and Harry to Eat Their Vegetables

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Royal children may have more ponies than most of us, but they’re still just kids. They throw tantrums sometimes and refuse to eat their vegetables, just like ordinary children do. According to a former royal chef, Prince William and Prince Harry had palates like any ordinary children, and they did not want to eat their broccoli. But a lot of effort went into making sure they grew up to eat a wide variety of foods, even though at the time they just wanted pizza and peanut butter sandwiches.

Former royal chef Darren McGrady, author of Eating Royally and The Royal Chef at Home: Easy Seasonal Entertaining, was private chef to Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana. He worked for Princess Diana when Prince William and Harry were small children, and he says the young children would have ordered things like chicken fingers and ketchup if they’d been allowed to.

“The boys were royal princes, but they still had children’s palates,” McGrady said in an interview with Today.

Some children are extremely picky eaters, and some kids will eat anything. Most kids, however, fall somewhere in the middle. It’s normal for kids to be a little picky about food, and it’s very common for small children to not want to eat vegetables. McGrady describes young William and Harry as being about average levels of pickiness for young boys. But even though they were little princes, they didn’t get to have whatever they wanted. McGrady says their nanny was always in charge of the menu, and she was not running the royal nursery like a Chuck E. Cheese’s.

“The Royal nursery wasn’t just for educating the minds of the young royals but educating their palates, too,” McGrady said. “Nanny always had control of the menu and made sure they ate balanced meals that included not only lots of healthy vegetables but introduced them to new grown-up dishes too.”

Princess Diana was also adamant that the children be served the same food as the adults when she was entertaining. There were no royal kids’ meals.

“She insisted they have what the rest of the guests were eating,” said McGrady.

To get other kids to eat their vegetables, McGrady suggests a similar approach. He says if the adult food is put in front of children without a fuss, chances are good the kids will eat it because “children are inquisitive.”

McGrady also utilized a trick known to parents for generations: Stick the vegetables in something they like. He says he used to chop up broccoli and put it in mashed potatoes for William and Harry.

While a lot of effort was put into making sure the kids ate a wide variety of grown-up foods, including vegetables, McGrady says Princess Diana thought it was important to be flexible. She was not strict about the food rules being followed every day. When they were alone with her, she’d take them to McDonald’s and let them have treats if they wanted.

“The princess wanted the boys to be happy and would let them eat pretty much what they requested when they were alone with her,” McGrady told Today.

A big part of parenting is picking one’s battles, and a little bit of flexibility sounds like a very good thing for parents who want to foster a good relationship with food while also not going crazy from having to be a drill sergeant at every meal. Many children are a little picky about food, and that can be frustrating for parents, but most kids do grow out of it eventually. One day they only want to eat peanut butter and jelly muffins, the next they wake up and suddenly realize vegetables are delicious and can make an Ina Garten-level roasted chicken, like Prince Harry.