Getting your little one to eat veggies is key to building healthy habits. But how to get your picky eater to eat more veggies? Don’t miss our 7 best tips.
Getting your little one to eat more veggies is key to building healthy habits that last a lifetime.
But the struggle is real: many little ones are picky eaters who refuse many of the foods you put in front of them.
That’s especially true when it comes to veggies. If your kid keeps rejecting veggies, you’re definitely not alone.
So, how can you get your child to eat and enjoy veggies?
We’ve got you covered with our tips.
1. Start as early as you can
Introducing your little one to veggies with a variety of colors, flavors, and safe textures, as early as you can, is the number one way to get them to eat more veggies.
Giving them lots of veggies before age 2 ½ is key.
After all, according to the Scientific Report of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, feeding choices during a child's first 1,000 days of life are vital because they "not only contribute to long-term health but also help shape taste preferences and food choices."
This means that feeding baby many different types of veggies will encourage them to enjoy these foods---and make healthy eating choices later in life.
But if your little one’s a bit older, don’t worry. The tips below will help convince them to try more veggies.
2. Make recipes with "hidden veggies
“Hidden” veggie recipes will help your child’s veggie intake and get them used to the taste. They won’t know that there are veggies in the recipe --- they’ll just see a kids’ favorite --- but they’ll be eating healthier. Plus, the meal will increase the veggie intake of everyone in the family, and not just your kid!
Try recipes like these:
- Mac and Cheese with Hidden Veggies from My Kids Lick The Bowl
- Hidden Veggie Pizza from My Kids Lick The Bowl
- Quesadillas with Butternut Squash from A Mind “Full” Mom
- Homemade Healthy Sloppy Joes from Morgan Manages Mommyhood
- Any recipe with hidden veggies added in a sauce or puree
Of course, it’s best to use this tip with at least some of the other tips on this list. It’s most helpful if your child knows they’re eating some veggies, so they can get used to the taste and texture and choose these veggies later in life.
3. Get creative in how you offer the veggies
You don’t necessarily have to hide the veggies in a recipe if you get creative in how you present them to your child. Sometimes, all it takes is kid-friendly presentation. Remember, most kids “eat” with their eyes first!
- Baked zucchini fries, squash “fries,” or carrot “fries”
- Cauliflower “tater tots”
- Hummus as a veggie dip (it’s got chickpeas, another veggie, inside!)
- Veggies with low-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat Ranch dip
- Veggies arranged to make a fun picture, like these veggie people
- Peppers, squash pieces, or cucumbers cut into stars or hearts
- A “veggie parfait,” with chopped veggies arranged in a cup in layers
- Fruit smoothies with added kale or spinach (try a 3 to 1 ratio of fruits to veggies)
- Veggies arranged as a rainbow, like on this veggie flatbread pizza
- Veggies with creative names, like “X-Ray Vision Carrots,” “trees” (broccoli), “jewels” (beets), or “Iron Man Peppers” (red and yellow peppers).
Learn more creative and effective ways to offer veggies to your kid, from Audrey Dunham:
4. Model veggie eating
Eating veggies looks way more appealing to your child when they see you eating plenty of veggies. After all, impressionable little ones want to be like their parents and other older family members --- and constantly want to imitate what you do.
So, eat lots of veggies in front of your child, say the veggies’ names, and express how much you enjoy what you’re eating. Also, talk to them about the veggies’ flavors and textures.
5. Serve veggies when you know your kid is hungriest
Serve veggies by themselves before the rest of dinner, when your little one’s hungry and there’s no “competition.” Or, serve creative veggies after they’re hungry from lots of playtime --- or any time they’re hungry for a snack.
6. Get kids involved in growing, picking, and prepping veggies
If you’ve got the space for a veggie garden (or even planter pots), planting veggies and encouraging your child to water and tend the veggies will help get them excited about eating veggies. You could also take them to a pick-your-own-produce farm, if there’s one nearby
And whether or not you have space for a garden (or have a farm nearby), you can get them involved in veggie prep.
Point out the veggies you select at the grocery store (or even let them pick out new veggies to try --- kids love choice).
Have them watch you prepare veggies, as well as other parts of meals. And when your child gets older, let them wash the veggies (or even add chopped or pureed veggies into a recipe).
7. Don't give up!
Even if your little one refuses the veggies you offer at first, or appears not to like certain veggies, don’t give up.
It often takes young children 8-10 times eating a new food (or more) before they accept it and enjoy it.
After more exposure, it’s likely that your little one will start to love the veggies you’ve offered them.
And if your child doesn’t try the veggies you offer them, that’s still a valuable exposure --- especially if they touch, smell, or play with them.
Also, remember, consistency is key. Whether they’re visible or hidden, include veggies during every lunch and dinner you give your child. The more times you offer veggies, the more likely it is that your kid will try them.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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