How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables

My boys eat pretty voraciously—eggs, hummus, even sushi—but every time I clean up after dinner, I notice the vegetables left on their plates. No peas, no broccoli, no zucchini, no thanks. So! In an effort to prevent them from getting scurvy, I tracked down 8 ways to encourage kids to eat the good stuff…

1. Serve veggies first. My friend Abby gives her sons their vegetables before bringing out the rest of the food. That way, they scarf them up before filling up on pasta and bread. “They actually like vegetables now,” she reports.

2. Don’t say anything. A new study reveals that serving food “without giving any message about the goal” (health! strong bones!) maximizes consumption of healthy food. So, when you bring out the vegetables, “just put them on the plate—’Just a regular part of dinner, nothing to see here’—and wait, and watch.”

3. Make it a game. Radio producer Hillary Frank shared a brilliant tip: She got her kids to eat bell peppers by asking them to close their eyes, taking a bite and seeing if they could guess the right color—red, green or yellow. They would end up eating a bunch. You could do this with other foods, such as tomatoes or cauliflower.

4. Make sure they’re hungry. After all, say the French, “hunger is the best seasoning.” Also, if you serve a smaller main dish (say, just a bit of mac n’ cheese), they’ll eat more of their side dish (say, garlic broccoli) because they’ll still be hungry. This is both common sense and scientifically proven.

5. Employ marketing tactics. Andy and Jenny of Dinner: A Love Story half-jokingly rebrand veggies to make them sound yummier (and cuter). Brussels sprouts are “baby lettuces.” Dried cranberries are “red raisins.” Cauliflower is “white broccoli.” Says Andy: “It’s the oldest trick in advertising and that’s not by accident.”

6. Stay at the table longer. When they’re done eating, I try to get the boys to hang for a while, because I want them to know the joys of sitting around the dinner table and chatting (one of life’s great pleasures!). I’ll start conversations I know they’ll be interested in (what color they think our rental car will be, how funny that sandwich Halloween costume was). But I’ve noticed that a great side effect is that they often end up absentmindedly munching the food they had originally refused.

7. Try seaweed. Have you seen those Trader Joe’s packets? My boys WOLF them up (the crackly paper-like texture is really appealing), and seaweed has tons of Vitamin A, as well as other vitamins and minerals.

8. If all else fails…sneak it. Obviously, the dream is to help kids learn to love vegetables, revel in them and seek them out. But there’s nothing wrong with dropping a few frozen broccoli florets or a handful of peas into smoothies, or stirring sweet potato into mac n’ cheese. (And Seinfeld‘s family does it, so you’re in good company.)

Thoughts? Do your little ones like vegetables? Any tips? Or recipes? I would love to hear what has worked!

P.S. Six words to say to your child and two-ingredient pancakes.

  1. rachel says...

    Sitting around the dinner table IS one of the greatest joys!!!

  2. Fay says...

    I love this. I think about this a lot in the context of my field, aging services. Atul Gawande writes about this type of aiming-for-yes idea, and allowing for risks as people age. We’re so quick to protect, worrying about all the things that could go wrong (falls, chocking, etc.), that people end up miserable and completely limited as they age. Anyway, I’ve always thought about this in aging-care, but never in my role as a parent! Thanks for the eye opening perspective.

  3. Emily Pilling says...

    I found great success in increasing my family’s veggie intake by adding them into “treats” pumpkin chocolate muffins with shredded carrot and zucchini, using avocado in place of the oil in the recipe… The kids love it and they are packed with veggies. And quiche, you can put just about any type of veggies in, and kids will think they are getting a nice treat. I have also found that when I let the kids help prepare meals they are more likely to eat what they cook. And bragging about their culinary masterpiece gives them extra encouragement to try new and different foods in the future.

  4. Natalie says...

    Also another great method is skipping the “baby food” and “kid food” all together and always have them eat what you eat, baby led solids. It creates a great start and I have had great success with it. Now that my little guy is a toddler he is way less picky then most kids his age! He has his moments like most kids but very rarely and eats most things.

  5. Mary Ann says...

    hi! I was blessed to marry a man with 5 young children ages: 3, 3, 4, 5 and 6 mos. Being a single Dad and outnumbered, the children lived on pizza, peanut butter, and mac n cheese and don’t forget McD. Yikes! To be the best (step)mommy, I read parenting mags and articles galore. I did sneak veggies in things like spaghetti sauce (finely diced carrots, which added a natural sweetness, spinach and of course the onions and garlic. I introduced food prep and cooking, which not only got them interested in what goes in the food, but a necessary life skill. They were used to bread and cheese. I just offered finger fruit and veggies like grapes, cut up apples, carrots, etc. They learned to love raisins simply because they were in small boxes! I would serve fruit and vegetable juice combos again to develop their bland palates. Within a year, they loved stir fry veggies and chicken so much that instead of a lemonade stand they wanted to sell the stir fry, brown rice in tortillas! LOL

    An occasional treat is ok. We served NO soda! Choices were either milk (sometimes chocolate milk as a treat) or water. My kids love water! Finally, teach your children to join into the dinner conversation, that’s when we learned so much about each other and extended family. Let the children have a little extra time to eat based on their age. A three year old needs more time than the twelve year old. Make food fun. Broccoli becomes “little trees”. lol Gradually introduce different flavors in different ways and they’ll learn to like what’s good for them.

  6. When we were all younger, my Grandma put our veggies in mash potato. It was called ‘rainbow mash’.
    We thought it was ‘fun food’ because only the kids got to eat it, not realising that she was fooling us!

    As we got older and savvier, she would tell us that the only reason she did that was because we were ‘babies’ and ‘adults don’t need to eat rainbow mash’. A sneaky use of reverse psychology meant we opted to be ‘grown up’ and stop eating rainbow mash.

    I love the idea of spending time to talk at the table. Not just to make them eat their greens, but to build a better relationship too!


  7. Growing up, if I didn’t like a vegetable I was allowed to put vinegar on it. Now that I am grown up I don’t need vinegar to enjoy veggies, I love all of them! Because it worked for me, we use the same tactic with our 5 year old daughter. She eats most vegetables without vinegar, but she will eat almost all vegetables with vinegar. As far as the tough veggies go: she eats broccoli and spinach plain, but she needs a little bit of vinegar on her brussel sprouts. If your son likes pickles or other acidic foods this may work for him.

  8. Something I’ve done that worked was to always tell them the various things we’re having, even if blended up or unrecognizable. So when they say, “good spaghetti sauce mom!”
    I say “thanks, it is good huh! I put in tomatoes and onions and mushrooms and peppers…”

  9. Agree with the other posters on green smoothies. My 13 month old reaches for mine every time I have one, which is most days. Easiest veggie infusion ever!

  10. Edamame, both in and out of the pods. Yum.

  11. My kids are all adults now, but with four children, someone was always unhappy with the dinner menu. The solution that worked for us: every child got to pick two things that he/she never had to eat. Everything else had to be tried. We would explain that tastes change for everyone; something you didn’t like one day might taste delicious another day. If we served something that they really didn’t like, they could update their list, which they liked to do. Meals became much more relaxed. They would eat brussel sprouts, squash, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, no problem. But for some reason, they all loved to hate on stewed tomatoes. How could someone not like stewed tomatoes!

  12. thanks for these!
    I sometimes struggle, but lately we’re all about role play, so Mama Bunny serves her Baby Bunny’s favorite carrots and cabbage. And somehow she eats it all. I get to wear bunny ears around the kitchen too (needless to say my husband doesn’t mind at all for the whole different reason)

  13. Where I’m from (Dominican Republic), we eat rice and beans for lunch almost every day, with any type of meat and salad. When I was little I didn’t like beans, but I was obsessed with growing my hair so my mom would tell me that beans had lots of iron and iron makes the hair grow faster. Guess what, worked like a charm!

  14. We do a combination of most of these with our 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year olds. First of all, no special meals for them. They eat what we eat, or they don’t. My sons both love fish and meat and all fruit. And they eat a good amount of veggies, but not all, and not always. I think it’s important to be realistic. Most toddlers do go through a picky eating phase, and it will most likely pass. My older son was really inspired to try new things when he saw his baby brother eat them. We also light a candle at dinner and linger at the table. And we have a rule to try everything, but you don’t have to like everything. For snacks, I feel like if they’re really hungry, they will eat what I bring (a bag of carrots etc.), or they don’t eat. It works magic. Sorry, kids, this is all I have. They were fighting over the carrots this morning at the playground. We call frozen peas “ice peas.” Oh, and I do sneak veggies into other kinds of foods…quinoa patties, muffins, pancakes, smoothies. But I don’t make it a secret. My boys drink a smoothie every day with carrots, spinach, an apple, mango, a banana, and they help me make it. All that said, I try not to obsess over it. I feel like my kids already eat way healthier than I did as a kid. So if one day we eat donuts at the playground instead of a healthy treat, that’s fine too. Everyone needs a donut every now and then.


  15. That’s funny, b/c my 3yo doesn’t like many veggies – though he loves peas and loves going foraging with his dad, but he adores those seaweed packets! He begs for more! I get them at the Asian market.

  16. My personal opinion – and observation – is that children pick their cues from their parents. If parents at home do not eat vegetables and enjoy them, kids will resist eating their dutifully. In addition, they will pick anything but vegetable if other options are provided. Especially, if kids figure out other options will eventually be provided even after a long and strenuous session of bargaining, they will put their feet down until they get their way. They are more determined than adults.
    The bargaining, bribing and argument over meals just stresses me a out a lot. I want meal times to be happy times as a family. My kids know I will not negotiate. If they are hungry, they will will eat the food put in front of them. If they don’t it means they aren’t hungry. We don’t get angry or upset. That was the rule from day one.
    Between, us parents being a good example and eating all kinds of veggies and healthy food and no negotiation rule, they eat most things I cook. If not, I don’t pressure. They eat a healthy, well-rounded diet as it is.

  17. My one-year old LOVES seaweed too!

  18. I have problems getting my boyfriend to eat them. Definitely going to try a few of these tricks out. :)

  19. Bribe them with vegetable Tattly. It worked with my kids.

  20. I’ve found that my kids will eat almost anything if they are snacking on it in front of the TV.

  21. We do talk about how veggies make your body strong–and then after dinner we have jumping contests. It’s amazing how much higher you can jump after you eat all your broccoli (wink, wink)! It’s worked on my now 4-year-old since she was a baby and she naturally gravitates to good food now.

  22. I have to say, I’ve used a lot of these tricks on my boyfriend who grew up eating hamburger helper and Kraft mac n cheese for dinner.

    I remember my dad using the “call it something else” trick when I was a kid to get me to be more adventurous with food in general. My favorite is “white ketchup” which was really vinegar but I’ve been eating it on my fries ever since.

  23. Oh, number 6 is everything. We did this last night and I cherish the way the laughter is still ringing in my ears.

    Lately we have been encouraging our daughters not to order of the kids’ menu, which incarcerates them in a carousel of chicken tenders, hot dogs and grilled cheese.

    I’ve notice that they love the ceremony of the grown up dishes, the presentation and the various flavors.

    It’s also such a memorable way to punctuate the traditions we have at home.

  24. Eli will eat anything baked, so I like to sneak carrots and zucchini into muffins or breads. I make them with yogurt or applesauce to make them a bit more nutritious. He’ll also eat anything in a smoothie! I have found that most tricks or attempts to sneak veggies into regular dishes don’t work, but he will eat Ants on a Log all day long – celery or carrot sticks with peanut butter and raisins. Also, for some reason he seems to enjoy vegetables in soups and stews better than eating a plate of veggies.

  25. My little guy is a bit young to do this, but I’ve seen it work with plenty of picky eaters – first serving of everything is a teaspoonful, then they can have seconds (thirds! fourths!) of whatever they want, but ONLY after they’ve eaten the first serving of everything. Eventually you up the teaspoon to a more reasonable serving size, but keep the same rules. No veggies? No problem, but no more mac and cheese either.

  26. My trick is to envolve my son in the cooking process. He is helping me cutting vegetables since he was a todler (no sharp knifes! :)) It is a mess, but they learn to deal with food and are proud to contribute.
    Also, I used to make myself a green smoothie and pretended it is only for me. My boy wanted it immediately.
    Today he eats ALL THE VEGGIES.

  27. I think my son’s a pretty good eater but he was better when he was younger. He’s currently 2 and a half. The only thing is my son doesn’t like eating vegetables on their own (meaning steamed or sauteed served on the side of something). For instance when I make fish with garlic green beans he’ll eat the fish but won’t touch the veggies. The only veggies he likes by themselves are orange ones (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin). The other ones I have to puree in a soup and he LOVES those. I do broccoli soups, cauliflower, butternut squash, etc. I also like mincing things and adding them to eggs like mushrooms or zucchini. He also has no idea how many veggies are in his marinara sauce which I make at home. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hiding foods or ‘tricking’ kids. All you’re doing is getting them accustomed to the taste of something. Later, they’ll realize they like it!

  28. These are all really great tips. I do not have children yet, but I would definitely employ these “tactics” if I did! And hiding the veggies in other things like smoothies is also not even a bad idea for adults!

    rae of love from berlin

  29. My no.1 kid just turned 18 on Sunday – I tried all those tricks over the years – the little blighter once held sweet corn in his mouth for a solid half hour before spitting it out. We finally managed a formula of raw carrots or broccoli every meal with other veggies on his plate, but those were the only 2 he will eat to this day. He’s now 6 foot and a nationally ranked swimmer – don’t sweat it, they turn out alright in the end ��

    Notes From A Stylist Blog

  30. Love this! I totally agree with the seaweed. My two year old could eat pounds of it and still ask for more.

  31. Serve the peas frozen!

  32. Great suggestions! Each child/family is different but 2 things worked with our boys:
    1- make sure they are really hungry when u sit down
    2- more of a long-term, and time commitment but growing our veggies really helped. Get the kids to help fm planting to harvesting. My 5 year old will now go to the garden, pick spinach and eat it.

  33. My grandma used to make me ‘sunshine plates’, bright plates of veges in the shape of a sun or sometimes a face. She also made ‘birds nests’, veges and an egg wrapped up in a lettuce cup. I used to love them
    & am planning to try that strategy with my kid (39 weeks pregnant today!) I think it did help too that they grew a lot of their own vegetables so everything was very fresh and sun-sweetened. We used to help pick and prepare the veges as well which I’ve also heard helps!

  34. I credit my vegetable love to parents who involved me in meal preparation at every step, from going to the farmers’ market and grocery store as a fun outing to see what’s in season and what’s at its loveliest, to prepping and cooking all of it. I was in the kitchen alongside my parents from age three onwards, helping in any way I could, and the excitement of getting the food and preparing it, and my parents’ obvious delight in cooking and thoughtful approach to eating, made it impossible for me to be other than TOTALLY INTO ALL OF IT. Except mushrooms. It took some years to get totally into those (though I eventually got there, and how!)

  35. Here are my best tips:

    1) Everybody has to taste everything (even if they just lick it), and nobody has to eat it if they don’t want to.

    2) If your toddler or preschooler says, “I don’t like it,” you say, “Oh, you don’t like it yet.” Try not to make a big deal out if it, but let them know that they’ll grow into it eventually. It seems to make them want to like more foods.

  36. Joanna, you have GOT to make your boys (and your husband) rissoles – a great Australian meal! My husband is from Boston and loves them, as do his parents, and when I lived in Boston a few years ago I made them for the kids I was an au pair for and they couldn’t get enough of them! They are sooooo good (and super simple to make) and my mum recently told me she used to make them for us to try get more veggies into us.

    Rissoles Recipe
    1/2 lb hamburger mince
    1/2 lb beef mince
    1 potato, peeled
    1 onion, peeled
    1 carrot, peeled
    plain flower

    1. Grate the potato, carrot, and onion in a large bowl. Add the hamburger and beef mince.
    2. Mix everything together in the bowl with your hands.
    3. Portion the mix into around 8-10 balls (they should be around the size of a tennis ball, maybe a little smaller – so they sit comfortably in the palm of your hand – think of them like a giant meatball).
    4. Roll each ball in flour and put in a baking tray that has either been sprayed with cooking oil or a dab of butter/margarine has been placed under each ball to prevent sticking.
    5. Bake in a 350F oven for 1 hour, remembering to turn the balls every 20 minutes.
    6. Serve with ketchup (most important!) and a side of veggies! Enjoy!

  37. I actually just read a study about this! Researchers in England had nursery-aged kids in different classes explore unfamiliar foods in a non-eating setting, utilizing all their different senses. Basically, they got to play with their food. The different classes read stories about, say, beets, got to hear how different veggies sounded when they snapped, smelled them, and after this multi-sense based approach they were far more likely to eat the vegetables when they showed up on their lunch plates versus kids who didn’t get this familiarization. I mean, it seems pretty obvious after reading it, but I think helping in the garden helped me become accustomed to different foods that I might normally have turned down! (I did fight eating green beans for a loooooong time, I’ll admit.)

  38. Number 6 (staying at the table) has worked a treat for us. We always insist that she stays at the table until everyone has finished eating, and then we make conversation and almost always she’ll end up snacking a bit more on her food.

  39. When I was little, it never even occurred to me to think that vegetables might be anything other than delicious because my parents were always pointing out how much they loved vegetables and sharing their favorites with me! Probably the thing that helped the most, though, were the “surprise snacks.” At bedtime, when I would inevitably be hungry again, my dad would tuck me into bed and then whip me up a bedtime snack of various vegetables, cut up and arranged in shapes or beautiful patterns on my plate, with a little bit of sea salt. This tradition began when I was around 5 and continued for years! To this day I love vegetables and have only the best associations with them :)

  40. I do not buy into this “kid meal” business of serving only mac and cheese and PB&J. I love these tips!

  41. @AWads Yes, there are children in the U.S. with vitamin deficiencies. Many children in the U.S. only have full-on meals at school and never at home. I have a teenage relative who found out she had a severe Vitamin D deficiency. Of course, she’s African-American and lives in a cold climate, which upped the chances of this happening, but she needed medical attention because of it. Being poor and/or uneducated about nutrition can all increase one’s chances of suffering from malnutrition.

  42. My parents are both kind of picky, and don’t really like to cook, so for a long time I was picky too. But now I’m proudly adventurous and love trying new foods!

    My husband’s mom founded a non-profit that teaches families about nutrition, so you can imagine his adventurous palate is much more innate. When he was little he and his siblings weren’t ever made different meals, but they were allowed to say “No thank you” to certain foods… and in return they’d get a “No thank you portion”! Just a few bites worth.

    I absolutely love the idea and can’t wait to try it out on our future children. Growing up there were a bunch of things I just *assumed* I wouldn’t like, that I now love!

  43. Dips! My kids will eat just about any vegetable or meat if they can dip it in barbecue sauce, light ranch, soy sauce, ketchup, hot sauce, salsa, etc….We have cute little kid-sized dipping bowls and the boys are free to access the condiments at any time during the meal, no questions asked. They can’t always choose their meal or what I’m making, but they can always choose their condiments. :)

  44. I love these tips, especially the sneak it in one. Hehe oops. Wish these would work on my though. I can’t eat a tomato without gagging. :] // ☼ ☯

  45. I totally love these tips. I don’t have kids myself yet but I can still remember how dinner worked in my french household growing up. I was never really given a choice about the food (unless my parents were brainstorming meals before grocery shopping). So if you were hungry, whatever was served at the table was what everyone was eating. And we used to eat everything, chinese, indian, italian, etc. And like many people said, it’s easier to eat when you are part of the process. My dad used to make homemade pizza dough on wednesdays and we’d be allowed to choose the toppings we wanted on our own individual pizza! It was awesome! I’m a big fan of build your own dinners (crepes, tacos, pizza, etc)!!

    It always baffled me when I moved to North America that some people made separate meals for the kids and the parents.

  46. my boys like their veggies, but having fun never hurts. sometimes it’s good to have animals ;) at the dinner table….especially dinosaurs love to eat little broccoli trees.sometimes we even make simple paper animal ear headbands for snack time – bears and bunnies will eat just about anything :)!

  47. Growing up, my mom would tell my sister & I that red cabbage turned our cheeks rosy pink! We would scarf it down and turn to each other, asking “do my cheeks look pink yet??” Worked like a charm. Totally using this trick with my future kiddos.

  48. This is going to sound absolutely horrible, but I told my son that he’d get gout or something if he didn’t eat veggies and we’d have to cut off his feet. It was obviously a joke… but he took it to heart. I also told him that vegetables are the BEST thing to put into your body. Now I swear he loves vegetables! He says “Is this a vegetable?” I say “Yep!” he says “This is the best! And if I eat it I won’t have to cut off my feet!”

    Horrible I know…….. whatever works.

  49. My mom used to call broccolis and cauliflower “mini trees”. Me and my brother loved it! She also used to buy us mini carrots, which I still love (I know they are sort of expensive, but I think they’re worth the investment). We also used to have tomatoes with salt or sugar as snacks. One way I find easy to eat veggies, specially in winter, is on yakisoba. It is sooo easy to do, all you need extra is the yakisoba sauce, which you can find on Amazon (I did), and it’s really tasty. Good luck with your little ones Joanna!

  50. Toddlers actually have pretty high calorie needs 1,000-1,400 a day depending on activity level. That is the same amount as an average woman on a diet. So it makes sense they want energy rich foods, like cheese, eggs, and sushi rather than filling up on low-cal fare, because their stomach are so tiny. I would focus on the more energy dense vegetables like avocado, corn, olive, potatoes (actually very high in vitamin C) etc. Stir fry or vegetables minced or pureed in main dishes are other options.

  51. I’ve been listening to the podcast “Turning This Car Around” (three dads talking about parenting) and one of their earlier episodes had some great and funny tips on how they get their kids to eat the healthy stuff…

  52. My kids do love their vegetables. Strongly agree with tips 1,4 and 6, which is all we’ve used in the list.
    Additional tips not mentioned:
    1. We do make sure to always season them, whether as simply as with a little salt and butter on peas, or with some minced garlic, chicken stock, good olive oil, grated parmesan, thyme, etc.
    2. I’ll let my son pick out 1 vegetable of his choice at the supermarket. it helps him focus on what he likes about vegetables. (I did this to take his focus off of a sweet treat, and now he looks forward to getting to pick out whichever vegetable he wants)

  53. I often work color, number, and alphabet skills games into the mix.
    “Can you eat something the color of a basketball?”,
    “Do you think you can eat 3 more bites because your three?l” after one “So how many bites now, 3-1 is?”
    “What about something that starts with P?” Or make the sound and they can tell me the letter before or after eating.

    They like to impress me and I let them quiz me too. Then I can model what to do if I get it wrong.

  54. `I give my boys a little bowl of frozen peas as a snack before dinner – straight from the freezer, we call them ice pop peas! THey actually fight over them!

  55. Love these tips Joanna! We recently did a series on ‘How to Raise Healthy Eaters’ and realize getting kids to eat veggies is hard. We love your idea about making it a game and made this ‘Veggie Discovery Table’ to help kids track their veggie adventures:

    You can print out a copy for each kid and hang it on the fridge. Hoping it makes life a bit easier for you and eating veggies more fun for your kids

  56. Our children are pretty good eaters. I think most of it is down to just sticking with it and not just serving those easy meals that you know they will always eat. I try to keep it really varied and a little adventurous and not make too big a deal of what is what. I also try to get them involved in preparing food because I think that makes them more likely to taste. Our eldest is totally into mushroom-picking in the woods this fall – he’s been with pre school and with my parents in the country. And he gets really excited about preparing and tasting the chantarelles that he has picked. When he has tasted them, it’s pretty clear to us that he doesn’t actually like the taste. But also that he really really really wants to like the taste. So he keeps trying. It’s kind of the same when he has been part of buying ingredients and cooking the meal.
    Some more tips for picky eaters:

  57. Hmmm, not a parent (yet), but a pretty good cook with a niece and nephew; plus, several friends with kids. As a kid, I disliked raw vegetables, other than salad, and it was because we ate our vegetables – mostly – cooked as part of a dish; be that soup, stew, etc.

    It’s easier and far more palatable to eat a roasted or cooked red pepper, zucchini, chunk of cabbage, eggplant, carrots, onion, herbs, etc, cooked as their volume has been reduced and *flavor* intensified by the process of cooking them. So, a good solution is to chop or diced them very small-sized (for young children such as yours) and cook them with your protein (chicken, fish, beef, seafood, tofu, eggs, etc). As I got older I appreciated and liked uncooked or sauteed vegetable, but I still find them inferior in taste compared to cooking them. Plus, nutrient and antioxidant-absorption is improved by cooking and pairing vegetables complimentarily.

  58. Great ideas!! Another spin on the game category: my kids (ages 3 and 6) love to cook and I discovered that they’ll eat anything they help make, usually over the stove “taste-testing”. My 3 year old will eat half a pan of brussels sprouts or green beans as we adjust salt and pepper (or whatever other seasonings) but won’t touch them at the table.

  59. The approach that has worked best for us is to let our daughter serve herself. So we put all the components of dinner on the table (often even dessert if we’re having it, though “dessert” usually just means fruit, maybe with some plain yogourt) and let her decide how much to put on her plate. If there’s something I need to physically serve, then I offer it, and let her tell me how much, if any. I always err on the side of serving less, so it’s not overwhelming and letting her ask for more.

    Our attitude with the dessert is based on the idea that I’d rather her eat dessert when hungry, not stuff it in at the end just because she doesn’t want to miss out on it. We want her to pay attention to feeling full and stop eating and I think the “dessert as reward” style of eating encourages us to ignore our body’s signals.

    Something else that we found helped when she was too little to really serve the main parts of the meal was to allow her to add toppings or “sprinkles” (e.g. cinnamon/seaweed/herbs/paprika depending on what the dish was).

    It’s also important to recognize that small children will naturally eat a balanced diet over the course of several days, not at a single meal. So they might eat tons of veggies one day, then focus on the carbs the next, and so forth. As long as most of what’s offered is healthy, it is probably working out in the long run to a good balance.

    So far this approach seems to have resulted in an adventurous and healthy eating style with our small person.

  60. Such great tips! These mini totes are also perfect for little shoulders to carry home their farmers’ market loot and get little ones excited about eating the veggies they picked.

  61. Haha! We call peas “green berries” and it works like a charm.

  62. I don’t really get this. I actually ate more veggies when I was a kid than I do now. I think in North America it’s cool to be like “kids hate veggies”… and even commercials (like the Cheez Whiz ones I grew up with in the 80s/90s where they’d dump it all over broccoli) encourage it. There’s no way in hell I’m doing the Canadian/American thing of making separate meals for kids when I have one. I will do it European style all the way… the moment they can eat solid food they will get the same as everyone else is having.

  63. My son eats fruit and veggies – it’s meat that he won’t eat (along with 1000 other things it seems). One great way to get them to eat a good dose of veggies – put them on cheese nachos. We use whole wheat tortilla chips and shredded mozza and cheddar, throw on diced peppers and black olives and broil on a baking sheet for a few minutes. Add partially home made guac (avocado – great healthy fat) and salsa – jarred or home made and my son will chow down and get a whole bunch of veggies. You can add some chicken or ground beef if your toddler will accept that and no make sounds like he is being tortured.

  64. My 13-month-old will eat ANYTHING if you roast it – squash, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels, carrots, sweet potato, beets, whatever. She’d eat roast dirt if you put it on her plate…

  65. One trick that I’ve seen work with great success is to make a little plate of veggies and serve as an “appetizer” to your guys while you finish preparing dinner. They are usually hungry and need a distraction. This way they fill their tummies first with healthy foods. Sliced bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, etc. all work great.

  66. Great tips! Last week, when we got home later than usual and discovered that we had nothing prepared for dinner (I blame all the traveling of the previous weekend), I went to my old college stand-by: frozen veggies heated up with some sauce (I used dill mustard as that’s what we had in the fridge) with egg drizzled on top. My 2.5-year-old son, who’s a good eater in general but has been on an anti-veggies kick lately, gobbled up his portion and then asked for seconds and ate that, too.

  67. I’m not going to lie, I’ve done variations of almost all of these on myself in the past. :) I have to try really hard to get myself to eat veggies, and these tricks really do work. Most important ones for me – make sure I eat the veggies first, and make sure I’m hungry.

  68. i’m really opposed to sneaking vegetables into food. kids are smart and they’ll figure it out, eventually not trusting you. plus, the whole idea is to get them to LIKE vegetables. i doubt any kid in the US is in danger of scurvy or are mal-nourished.

    What works for us is just putting it on the plate and encouraging just a taste, every single time. my son gets so used to it that he hardly thinks about not eating vegetables.

    can you please tell me how to get kids to use silverware???

  69. My 3-year-old twin boys do a lot of snacking on raw vegetables–to the point that other parents playfully tease me about whether it’s okay to give my kids goldfish crackers.

    The secret is that I always have washed and sliced baggies of bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and other vegetables handy in the refrigerator, so whenever we go out I can just grab a few veggie baggies. When they ask for a snack, that’s what I pull out, and they snack happily because that’s what they are used to.

    An added bonus is that they are allergen-free, so I don’t worry about letting my boys snack at the playground or other places where there might be kids with nut allergies or gluten intolerance.

  70. My best tip : duck the veggies into something else, blending them into a yummy dish will help. For instance, I add raw grated zucchini into crepes’ dough. it adds a nice greenish look to the crepe once in your plate. Spread Philadelphia onto the crepe and roll it. Et voila.
    Another tip : stir together in your mixer : zucchini, feta cheese, onion and egg – keep an eye on your mixer bowl so that all vegetables are still in chunks! Sparkle with bread crumbs, smashed crackers or biscottes, and form little pancakes on your oven dish. Bake for 20 minutes…
    There you go ! Hope this helps, these are my personal tricks to help my French kids eat everything…

  71. My dad actually just shared with me what they used to do to get us to eat vegetables. They would always give us two choices, and we’d get to make the decision, making us feel like we had control over the situation. So it was either cooked green beans, which my parents would be eating, or raw baby carrots (which they’d always keep in the house). We’d usually choose the carrots, but over time, we would want to try the green beans and mimic our parents. It didn’t work with every vegetable, but most.

  72. These tips are great!
    Have you tried making green smoothies or juicing veggies? As long as they’re combined with a fruit (like apples for juicing or banana for smoothie) at least in the beginning, they’re pretty sweet but still pack a vitamin punch. In my experience, the key is the get the kids to help. Then its a fun activity that ends with a treat:)

  73. Good timing! We were just discussing how to get our 16 month old to eat more veg!
    I hide it sometimes but I’m trying to get him to eat it because he wants to. So I’m just putting them on his plate to see what he will go for. Me & DH don’t eat many vegetables so we are trying to eat more ourselves to lead by example :)

  74. My girls are much more likely to eat anything they helped prepare, vegetables included.

  75. So well timed. My will-eat-anything 17 month old is suddenly turned off by veggies of any kind. I’ve tried #1, #2 and #8 (the latter sometimes works if I make a smoothie) and will try these others. I remember a friend motivating his kids to eat veggies by rewarding whoever ate the most colors off of their plate.

  76. Ha! My husband should try some of those on me as I am notorious for not eating my veggies – which is tricky as I’m a vegetarian!

  77. These tips are great!
    -We serve frozen veggies as an appetizer for the kids (they love frozen peas) and they will eat a full bowl of them prior to having dinner. Plus they like saying they are having an ‘appetizer.’
    -We found that calling beets “jewels” to my daughter really worked.
    -We also have a juicer so we make about 7 types of juices, separate them in clear glasses and taste them separately and together in small dixie cups. The portions aren’t overwhelming for them and they love mixing up all of the flavors.

  78. There’s no magic. Just keep putting it on the plates – serve your kids the same things you eat. Set a good example – it’s hard to tell them to eat their green beans if you’re not doing it too!

    My boys go through phases and they like different veggies, but overall they do well. Some nights better than others. Our rule has always been that they have to try at least one bite. If they really don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it.

    All good suggestions. Keep trying until you find what works for your kids.

  79. I did #1 as babies and we haven’t had a problem since (ages 6 and 4 now) but I love the rebranding idea. The school even builds on what is healthy versus what is a treat and my daughter (older) self-governs and knows she shouldn’t eat the cookie before salad, entrée and veggies at school (the meals are better than your average school, too!)

  80. I love that you are trying to cultivate enjoyment in chatting at the table after dinner so young! I’ll have to remember to try and do the same :)

  81. Another good “trick”? Let them put whatever they want on them to make them palatable – ketchup, cheese, etc. Studies show over time, they’ll be more likely to both like vegetables *and* eat them without a topping.