Make Vegetables Fun for Children

Make Vegetables Fun for Children
Make Vegetables Fun for Children

By Kristin Louis
Contributing writer

Make Vegetables Fun for Children

How many of us despair that our children will never eat vegetables? The struggle is real.

Consider this: All foods taste better when you’re hungry. Try putting vegetables on their plates before adding any other foods. Texas A&M researchers discovered that it’s way too easy to ignore a vegetable when it’s upstaged by other, more tempting food.

Experts also agree that food presentation affects kids’ eating habits, so go ahead and arrange that amazing roasted red pepper like a smiling face!

You can also try these ideas:

The one bite chew-and-swallow rule. Every time a new (or disliked) vegetable is served, require your child to eat one healthy-sized spoonful. If they pass on eating more, it’s okay.Pro tip: Serve a veggie she likes along with one she’s not too sure about.

The many-try rule. It takes many exposures for something to become familiar. Don’t allow your kiddo to pass on a vegetable or say he doesn’t like it until he’s tried it multiple times. Pro tip: Try preparing the same vegetable different ways. She may absolutely hate raw carrots but gobble them down when they’re roasted.

Go easy on snacks. Kids arrive home from school practically gnawing their arms off from hunger—and pre-dinner-time is rough for toddlers and preschoolers, too. But hungry kids will be more likely to eat what’s on their plates for dinner. Pro tip: Provide raw veggies and fruits for pre-dinner snacking. If your kids are truly hungry, they’ll munch—and get healthy vitamins as a bonus!

Kids’ Choice night. Encourage your kids to help with meal planning. Ask them to plan a vegetable and dessert for at least one night each week. Pro tip: Kids are more likely to eat what they’re served when they chose it.

Get ‘em in the kitchen. Very young children can “play” with vegetables and fruits to create their own fun snacks. Older kids can assemble vegetable kabobs or google tempting recipes to try. Pro tip: Solicit everyone’s opinion on different herbs and seasonings to try. She might like broccoli with cheese, he may prefer it with lemon. Mix it up to accommodate tastes.

Have fun with veggies. Broccoli is boring. Elven mini-trees are much more tempting! Corn is bland. Baby giant teeth? Much more fun! Peas don’t appeal, but rabbit cannon balls do! Pro tip: Make up stories about the vegetables, and invite your kids to do the same thing, too.

Make patterns. Who said presentation should be boring? Take a tip from the pros and try plating vegetables in fun patterns and diverse colors. Pro tip: Ever notice how your child “deconstructs” his food? Kids like separate piles around the plate’s perimeter, so why not roll with it, shaping it into a heart or smiley face—or channel your inner Picasso.

Add flavor. Who doesn’t love bacon, butter, garlic, or cheese? If your kiddo loves these flavors, they’ll make vegetables more appealing. Pro tip: A few calories of flavor is far outweighed by the benefits of vegetables.

Do the dip. Another way to add flavor is to add a dip. Toddlers especially love to dip, so capitalize on that obsession—and go ahead and let them play with their food. Pro tip: Give these 49 healthy recipes a try.

For more ideas, like throwing a vegetable celebration or disguising veggies in other foods, check out this article from Eat This, Not That! And if you’re really stuck, these 20 veggie recipes from Parents may tempt even the most picky critic.

Visit the farmer’s market

Want to really get kids excited about vegetables? Take them on a veggie scavenger hunt at the farmer’s market, which will have tons of produce options to get them excited about healthy snacking. Challenge kids to find the funniest-looking, weirdest-shaped, most colorful, largest, or smallest veggies. Choose a different veggie each week to take home to prepare, and get the kids involved with figuring out how to prepare it!

No matter what, recognize that some days will bring more veggie success than others, and that’s okay. Keep at it! Involve your kids in meal planning and picking out veggies they like or are willing to try. Continue to set a good example by creating fun, positive experiences around food. That persistence will pay off.

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