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How can I Encourage my Child to Eat Vegetables?

By Nychole Price
Updated: Feb 15, 2024

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 21 percent of children eat enough vegetables to satisfy the daily requirements. Some children eat vegetables readily while other children are picky eaters, or they only eat certain colors, shapes or textures of foods. Fortunately, for parents, it isn't difficult to encourage children to eat vegetables.

Children who only eat certain shapes, colors or textures of foods can be easily accommodated. Vegetables can be cut into any shape using a vegetable peeler. Vegetables also come in a large array of colors. For those who prefer crunchy foods, vegetable can be left raw or lightly cooked. Kids who prefer soft foods can eat vegetables that were steamed for a long period of time.

Children who find fun in dipping their foods can easily be encouraged to eat their vegetables. Celery and carrots can be dipped in peanut butter. Bell peppers and cucumber taste great dipped in Greek yogurt dip. Most children love ranch dressing, and it tastes great with any vegetable.

Some children only eat pasta. They, too, can be encouraged to eat vegetables. Spaghetti squash, when steamed, and scraped out with a fork, resembles spaghetti strands. Children love it topped with spaghetti sauce and cheese. If never told, most children wouldn't even know it was a vegetable.

If your child is a snacker, he is more likely to eat his vegetables if they are placed in a bowl within reach. Mini bell peppers have a sweet taste and are easy for young children to grasp. Cucumber sticks are also a popular snack among kids. Children are more likely to snack on vegetables if they see you doing the same.

Some children, no matter what, will refuse to eat their vegetables. Fortunately, for you, you can sneak vegetables in their food without them ever knowing. Pureed broccoli can be mixed in spaghetti sauce and shredded carrots can be snuck into muffins. The book Deceptively Delicious, written by Jessica Seinfeld, shares with you the many ways to hide vegetables in your child's favorite foods.

Your child will develop healthy eating habits as long as you encourage them to eat vegetables. They don't have to actually eat them to develop these habits. Even if you end up sneaking vegetables into their food, make sure you place them on their plate as well. Eat your meals as a family and make sure your children see you eat vegetables.

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Discussion Comments
By anon259370 — On Apr 05, 2012

Nice try. I am among those who refuse to eat vegetables whether people like it or not. Just saying.

I don't mind eating most vegetables, especially carrots, so I'll be able to live healthily in my own way, but again, if I could avoid vegetables, I will. In fact, I prefer fruits any time over vegetables.

Meat > Fruits > Vegetables > Nothing.

By Markus — On Aug 04, 2011

@whitesand - I agree with you that a child should know what is being served to them. If we hide the vegetables in other dishes then they won't eat them as an adult either because they won't remember ever eating them as a child.

The thought of deceiving our little ones that way is absurd to me. The vegetable should be presented to the child in it's true form for what it is. They each contain there own unique flavor and nutritional value.

It's been my experience that if a child doesn't like the taste of a particular vegetable today, just wait awhile and they'll probably change their opinion of it the next time it's served.

By aviva — On Aug 03, 2011

@Sierra02 - I'm so sorry to hear that your family including your husband won't eat their vegetables. Maybe it would help if you try explaining to your husband how important it is to you that your children be taught to at least try the vegetables. Who knows, your husband might even acquire a new taste for them as well since our taste buds change as we get older.

I think as long as your honest with him about your feelings then he might help you better discipline the children at mealtime.

Another thing that might help you get your children to enjoy their vegetables is by allowing them to help you prepare them for the meal. When you rave over how much more delicious they are when the kids make them, then they'll probably want to try their own creation for themselves and maybe they'll even encourage dad to do the same.

By Sierra02 — On Aug 02, 2011

Oh please, how can I possibly get my children to eat their vegetables when their father won't eat them either? He wasn't forced to eat them as a child, so he doesn't see the importance of enforcing that rule upon his own children.

I was raised on a farm where we grew our own vegetables and were taught to finish all the food on our plates including the vegetables. My family won't eat anything but corn and potatoes and occasionally raw carrots after they've been smothered in ranch dressing.

I've tried being creative by sneaking vegetables in spaghetti sauce, meatloaf and casseroles but they always find me out. They can detect a green vegetable coming a mile away.

If they don't like it then they won't eat it. Daddy just loads them up and takes them out for the famous fast burger and fries. There's been too many wasted meals in our house that it's just not worth it anymore.

By whitesand — On Aug 02, 2011

I agree with the article where is says you should place the actual vegetable on the plate alongside the disguised vegetable dish.

If the child doesn't see what their eating in it's true form, then I believe they'll never really understand how tasty and nutritious the vegetable really is despite it's texture and appearance.

This is a great article. I'm glad that parents are finding new and creative ways to get their children to eat their vegetables.

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