Children can be picky eaters — which is why many parents struggle with influencing their kids to practice good nutrition and healthy eating. Vegetables are packed with the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your kids need for improved energy, mood, and cognitive function. Getting your kids to eat more vegetables can help them develop healthy habits guaranteed to improve their overall well-being, and lower their risk of illness and disease as they progress through life.
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, so now is a great time to practice good nutrition with the whole family! Follow these tips to get your children excited about vegetables, and to help them understand the importance of healthy eating.
- Lead by example. Eliminate all boxed, canned, and processed foods from your home, and stock up on healthy fruits and vegetables. Raising your kids on fruits and vegetables indirectly teaches them how to be healthy, especially when you’re eating the same foods. Plus, your kids won’t focus on the unhealthy meals they’re missing out on if they’re not available in your home.
- Let them choose their favorites. Take your kids grocery shopping and encourage them to pick out their favorite veggies. This introduces more vegetables to their diet without forcing them to eat veggies they don’t necessarily like. Taking your kids shopping also empowers them to feel more excited about eating the veggies they helped pick out.
- Explain the health benefits. Find creative ways to explain the health benefits of veggies to your children so they find vegetables more appealing. For example, explain to your kids that Brussels sprouts are high in vitamins and antioxidants that can make them big and strong, and prevent them from getting sick.
- Involve your kids in cooking. Kids feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they can help you in the kitchen. Ask your kids to help you wash, season, and cook the veggies, which can make them feel more enthusiastic and excited about eating the end result.
- Make veggies easily accessible. Stock up on vegetables that can be eaten and enjoyed raw such as celery, carrots, and cucumbers, as well as fruits like apples and pears. Slice them and store them in sandwich bags so they can be grabbed and eaten anytime, including on the go.
- Hide them in food. If your children are adamant about not eating any vegetables, start “hiding” them in your meals. For example, puree vegetables and add them to sauces, soups, and fruit smoothies. When you’re ready, consider announcing to your kids that their meal included vegetables!
- Make veggies seem fun and interesting. If your children are younger, think of creative ways to make vegetables more fun to eat. For instance, pretend that cauliflower and broccoli are miniature trees, and that carrot sticks are logs. Your kids may play with their food, but at least they’ll be eating more vegetables!
- Season and flavor. Use garlic, olive oil, sea salt, and other healthy seasonings to improve and enhance the flavor of veggies. If you typically serve veggies plain, it’s possible your kids aren’t eating as many vegetables due to lack of flavor! Also keep in mind that some people are more sensitive to bitter flavors, so if your kids don’t like broccoli, let them add a little more salt, and try serving sweeter veggies such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Explain the consequences. If your kids strongly dislike most vegetables, talk to them about negative health consequences associated with low veggie intake, such as decreased energy and poor memory. Or, explain to your kids that they’ll miss out on dessert and other delicious snacks if they fail to eat their veggies. These incentives are sometimes enough to motivate your kids to finish their plates.
- Be patient. It’s common for kids to be picky eaters, and for people’s tastes to change as they age. If you find a certain veggie that your kids like, serve it often, while continuing to stress the importance of a balanced diet. As they get older, add more and more different vegetables into their meals — they may discover they don’t mind them as much.
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on June 6, 2017