Do you feel like you’re struggling to get your kids to eat more vegetables? If so, you’re not alone. Whether the children are toddlers, school-age, or adolescents, the majority of parents admit that at times it is difficult to incorporate a sufficient amount of vegetables into their child’s daily diet. Here are some tips and techniques to consider the next time your son or daughter voices their displeasure at the veggies appearing on their dinner plate.
Convincing Kids to Eat More Vegetables
Tip #1 – Be a good example.
We hate to break it to you Mom and Dad, but children pattern their eating after their parents. Make sure both of you are eating plenty of vegetables and following a healthy diet at the dinner table.
Tip #2 – Watch what you buy at the grocery store.
When there’s less junk food in the house, everyone will eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. While treats like candy, cookies, or chips can be delicious, relegate them to the “special” category that you eat only as a reward or for a special occasion. All too often hungry kids (and adults) grab a high-fat or high-calorie snack before dinner which fills them up and makes vegetables less appealing.
Tip #3 – Involve children with meals and meal planning.
If you get your kids involved in meal planning and preparation, chances are they’ll be more interested in eating those recipes. Plan out your weekly meals, so all the required food groups are represented, and then bring the kids along when you go grocery shopping or to the farmers market. Read our recent blog post about ways to involve kids in the kitchen, to get age-appropriate ideas for introducing your children to cooking and food preparation. It’s a great way to get them to eat more vegetables!
Tip #4 – Establish a “One Bite” rule at the table.
Many children need to be exposed to a new food eight to ten times before they will eat it. Enacting a dinner-time “one bite” rule, where your child needs to eat at least one mouthful of the foods they often reject, can be a successful behavior changing tool. By sticking to the “one bite” rule, the disliked food gradually becomes more familiar to the child, and they may begin to approach it more positively.
Tip #5 – Don’t make them finish the entire plate.
Making sure your child eats one bite of every food item on their plate is very different from making them eat everything. Forcing your child to eat foods they are uncomfortable with due to taste, texture, or smell, will not change their behavior. If anything, fighting and punishing your child will create a negative experience and can contribute to additional behavioral problems involving food and mealtime. Require that your kids take one bite of everything, but don’t start an argument when that’s all they eat.
Tip #6 – Provide positive reinforcements.
On the flip side, when your child has positive experiences involving food, picky eating can decrease. For example, when your young child successfully makes it through the “One Bite” rule without reminders, offer a sticker or another reward you know they’ll enjoy. Older children can often be influenced to change behaviors with information about the healthy eating habits of their favorite athletes or media personalities.
Tip #7 – Make the dinner plate colorful.
Whether you’re a child or an adult, colorful foods look tastier! Unlike adults though, many kids prefer to keep each food separate on their plate, so you’ll have better luck getting your picky eater to follow the “One Bite” rule if you arrange sliced carrots, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers in separate areas on the plate.
Tip #8 – Keep it interesting with sauces and dips.
If adding dips and sauces to vegetables makes them more appealing to your children, go for it! For picky eaters, pairing a rejected food (like broccoli or green beans) with something they like to eat (such as cheese or bacon), frequently makes the “One Bite” rule easier for your child to attain. Make healthy dips like hummus, salsa, guacamole, pesto and yogurt-based dressings and serve them with fresh vegetables for dipping.
Tip #9 – Don’t give up!
Every child is different. Some love a variety of foods and will gladly try, and enjoy different vegetables, while others will require more effort and patience. When the going gets tough, it’s important to remember that the eating habits children develop remain with them as they go older – sometimes even lasting into adulthood. When you always allow your child to avoid vegetables they initially refuse, this eating behavior can become ingrained, and their diet will stay very limited as they get older.
Take the time to set a good example of healthy eating habits, and try your best to create fun, positive experiences around mealtimes and food. Your consistent effort will pay off, and in time your child will begin to eat more vegetables that you serve at mealtime.
Looking for more kid-friendly inspiration?
Are you looking for more great ideas of ways to add vegetables to your child’s diet? Check out our recent blog posts, 7 Must-try Desserts with Hidden Vegetables and Healthy Snacks: Thinking Outside the Box.
Once you try some of these suggestions, let us know what you and your kids think by posting in the comments or tagging us on social media. Happy snacking!