Many parents tell me that their kids won’t eat vegetables. While this is a problem for many parents, it’s easy to feel desperate and a bit alone as you endlessly fight your kids to get down even one bite.
As parents, we know vegetables are healthy – and often kids do too. As much as parents do their best to be creative and make vegetables a part of their kids’ diet, it’s often the case that our kids just aren’t interested.
Vegetables often get a bad rap. They tend to be less sweet and less appealing than fruit, and most kids seem to go through a phase where they dislike some (or all) of them. So, what can you do if your kids won’t eat vegetables?
What are vegetables? You’d be surprised!
Before we go any further, maybe we should clarify what foods are actually considered vegetables. My sister, the scientist, informs me that there is no such category as “vegetables” in botany. Strange, right?! What we call “vegetables” are plant parts that we eat. Just about every part of a plant is known to provide us with vegetables:
leaves (like lettuce, kale, and spinach),
roots (like carrots, radishes, beets and turnips),
tubers (like potatoes)
bulbs (like onions and garlic)
stalks or stems (like celery, asparagus and fennel),
seeds and pods (green and yellow beans, peas, and okra),
fruit (like cucumbers, avocado, tomato, peppers and squash),
flowers (artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, and squash blossoms).
We also tend to categorize mushrooms and sea vegetables in the vegetable category, even though they aren’t technically parts of a plant. For simplicity sake, I define vegetables based on popular quote:
“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
For our purposes, I’m including all these foods in the vegetable category. Even if tomatoes are technically fruit and mushrooms are fungi, if you eat it like a vegetable (i.e. in a salad or beside a main dish), then I’ll consider it a vegetable. You can make your own decisions on how you want to define things.
To spark some interest, you could talk with your child about how there is no such thing as a vegetable in science-terms, but that might not help with dinnertime disagreements.
So, it’s always a good idea to tell your kids why it is important to eat vegetables. BUT you need to go a bit further than, “Because they’re good for you!” in your convincing. That’s too general for kids to care about. By getting more specific with them and doling out fun facts, you just might motivate them a bit more to at least have a bite.
Why are vegetables cool?
However they are defined, vegetables have lots of health benefits. You can share these benefits in fun ways through did-you-know nutrition facts and through little-known information nuggets.
Here are few conversation starters that are interesting for kids:
- Vegetables are a great source of vitamins (including vitamins A, C and folate) and minerals (including calcium, magnesium and potassium). Talk to them about which veggies have which vitamins. You can find this out using this resource. Saying things like ‘eating carrots is good for your eyes’ is much more tangible for kids to understand. Phytonutrients are what give vegetables their colour. They have been found to decrease the risk of some cancers, as well as supporting overall health.
- They tend to be high in fibre and water, which help with hydration and digestion. Nothing will provoke a rousing conversation with kids like talking about constipation!
- Vegetables nourish our body so well that some people choose to be vegetarians and focus on these plant-based foods for their main source of nourishment. The truth is you can get almost all the vitamins and minerals your body needs from just eating fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, grains and nuts, all of which come from plants.
Fun veggie facts your kids will love.
Most of the nutrients in a potato reside just below the skin layer. (Fact Monster)
Mushrooms have their own immune system! (Bored Panda)
Corn is a member of the grass family. (Bored Panda)
Lemons can act like batteries to power a light or a small motor. (Lifehack)
Apples give you more energy than coffee. (Lifehack)
How do I get my kids to eat vegetables?
I’m understand that sharing the nutritional facts about vegetables won’t necessarily change your kids’ opinions. So, here is a step-by-step way to help your kids to eat veggies without the stress:
- Find out why they don’t like vegetables. Is it the colour, taste, smell, texture, or look of the food? Is it because the vegetables are mixed with or touching other foods? Are vegetables awkward to cut or put on a fork or chew? Is there a problem digesting their food or a bodily response they associate with the food?
- Once you understand your child’s perspective, look for patterns. Is the vegetable served with something more appealing so your child isn’t hungry? Does your child dislike the texture of vegetables that get slimy when they are cooked like peppers, mushrooms and zucchini? Is your child teething or dealing with loose teeth that make crunchy raw vegetables uncomfortable? Does your child dislike the spicy sauce you serve over stir-fry, or does having too many textures and flavours mixed together make a meal less appealing?
- Figure out which vegetables your child likes to eat. Maybe there are only a few to start, but that’s okay! Based on what your child likes, look for ways to offer similar options. If your child likes baked potatoes, try baked sweet potato, which will have a similar texture. Similarly, if your child likes roasted carrots, try roasted beets or roasted cauliflower as similar options.
Tips for making vegetables more appealing.
Once you identify why your kids won’t eat vegetables, and which ones they do like, find ways to make vegetables in general seem more appealing to them:
- Make it look good
A dried-out veggie tray probably won’t motivate anyone to eat vegetables, so try a tasty dip or sauce. Serve vegetables with seasoning to make them more flavourful. Offer salad dressing with a bright and colourful salad.
- Get them involved
Get your kids involved in shopping for and preparing vegetables. Flip through cookbooks or scroll through Pinterest together looking for ideas. Kids are often more interested in trying foods they’ve helped to prepare. Here’s a great resource that describes 42 ways to explore a carrot.
- Make trying new things fun and with no expectations
Focus on variety and trying new foods. Kids need to learn to try new foods and that takes time. Focus on small steps and making it fun to try new things to develop these habits over time. Don’t get discouraged, keep finding new ways to serve vegetables, until you find ones that appeal to your kids (and you too!).
Here are some tasty carrot recipes from one my other blog posts to help you get started:
Disclosure Statement: I am a participant in several affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products. Some posts on my site include affiliate links; if you click on the link and buy the item I recommend, I’ll earn a bit of revenue (thank you!). My personal policy is to only recommend products I have tried myself and that I believe would be beneficial to my clients and readers. I offer these links for your convenience, so I hope you find them useful.