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As parents, we want the best for our kids. We want them to be happy and healthy. So it’s worrisome when we have a picky eater. Are they eating enough to support health and growth? Are they getting the proper nutrition?
My first child was a “trick baby.” By three months he was mostly sleeping through the night, he was rarely fussy, and he took to solids easily. It didn’t matter if it was applesauce, peas, or chicken: he pretty much ate it all.
I thought to myself, “wow, I have this parenting thing down!” This is the problem with trick babies: they lead you into a false sense of security.
And then came my second son. He did not sleep through the night. And while he wasn’t that fussy over all, he didn’t take to solids. Well, let me be specific: he did not take to vegetables. He would eat fruit every hour of every day if I let him. Breads, meats, and cheeses were no problem really. And boy does he have a sweet tooth! But vegetables? No.
I started worrying that he wasn’t getting the proper vitamins and minerals. So I did what every parent does and turned to Google.
Our Parenting Philosophy
I read articles that said parents shouldn’t force kids to eat what they don’t want to eat. I read how as long as you keep providing a variety of foods, they would probably get sufficient nutrition. But something didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t want to have battles at dinner time, but I didn’t want my kids calling all the shots either.
My husband and I grew up in families where we had to at least try all of the food that was on our plates. This is how we have chosen to raise our children too.
To us, it teaches polite manners. When my boys get older, I don’t want them going to friends’ houses and refusing to eat what is served. I don’t want them to make scenes at holiday meals when family serves something they’re not used to. I want them to know that it’s polite to try what is offered, and if they don’t like it, they shouldn’t make a fuss.
Requiring kids to try everything on their plate also guarantees that they are exposed to a variety of foods.
However you choose to raise your children, at some point or another you’re probably going to face a vegetable battle.
So far I have come up with one nearly guaranteed way to getting kids to eat vegetables. And it’s stupid easy. Because while I admire people who can puree vegetables and hide them in delicious meals that kids love to eat, I just don’t have time for that. I need something fast and easy.
The Super Easy Way for Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables
So what is this near-guaranteed way for getting kids to eat vegetables?
Serve them raw.
That’s it! I told you it was simple.
Here’s why I think it works: kids are very texture driven with food. If something is warm and mushy, it has an immediate yuck factor.
But if something is cold and crunchy, it’s much more appealing. Even better, raw veggies are brighter than when they are cooked. Kids are much more likely to start chomping down when presented with a plate full of brightly colored, cold, and crunchy vegetables than a plate full of bland-colored mushy ones.
Even if they’re still wary about vegetables, getting them to take a few tentative bites is better than them pushing the vegetables around on their plates, or having a battle at dinner every night.
Getting kids to eat vegetables raw is easier for you too! It’s one less side dish to cook, making them perfect for those rushed evenings (if you need more ideas for quick dinners, check out my post on fast dinners that will keep you from blowing your budget on take out!).
To make things even easier, chop veggies over the weekend so you have a week’s worth of side dishes ready to go.
Some of my family’s favorite veggies to eat raw are:
- Baby carrots
- Bell peppers
- Zucchini (though a quick sautee usually works too)
- Green beans
- Snap peas
Tomatoes are often deemed “too squishy” so we haven’t had much luck with those, but try them and see what your kids think. Keep experimenting with different vegetables to see what works for your family.
Don’t forget the sauce!
When I am trying to get my kids to eat vegetables, I usually present them plain first. But if they protest or aren’t willing to try them, I will offer a dip to encourage them.
My kids love ranch dressing so that’s a favorite, but you can try other salad dressings, dips, or hummus too. Heck, I don’t care if my kids want to dip their green beans in ketchup. If it gets them to eat their vegetables, I will consider it a victory!
For veggies that need to be cooked
Of course there are some veggies that need to be cooked, like corn, potatoes, and shelled peas.
Remember what I said about kids being focused on texture with their foods? Warm and mushy just isn’t appealing to most kids.
Instead of boiling vegetables, use a steamer basket to gently cook your veggies without killing them. Or do a light saute until they’re just cooked through and still firm. Little changes like this can make a big difference when it comes to getting kids to eat vegetables.
Bonus Tip for Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables!
Another nearly sure-fire way for getting kids to eat vegetables is involving them in the preparation.
I know cooking with kids can be daunting, especially if you’re in a rush. I actually don’t usually love cooking with my kids but I do it anyway for two reasons:
- They are eager to help and I want to encourage their contributions to the family.
- They learn important skills that will serve them well in the future (I don’t want them going off to college not knowing how to make a few basic meals)!
With sharp knives, hot ovens, and boiling water, you may be asking yourself what is safe for kids to do in the kitchen. To borrow a line from Daniel Tiger, “Everyone is big enough, big enough to do something!”
For the tiniest tots, you can have them help you wash vegetables or rip leaves of lettuce. You can give them a plate of vegetables and have them drop them in the salad bowl.
For slightly older children, you can teach them how to peel veggies, or invest in a set of child-safe knives and let them chop with you. They’re dull, plastic blades, so your veggies will be rough cut, but the pride your child will feel by completing such a grown-up task will be worth sacrificing an Instagram-worthy food picture.
And to get any child excited about helping in the kitchen, get them these cute, personalized aprons for them to wear. Both of my boys have these and whenever I tell them it’s time to cook or bake, they go running for their aprons!
Another trick to make cooking with kids easier is to make child-appropriate dishes. You need something quick and easy, without a ton of ingredients. I highly recommend Sesame Street’s Let’s Cook! cookbook. It’s full of healthy, child-pleasing recipes that highlight their favorite characters from Sesame Street.
When I’m cooking by myself I usually use my phone to look up recipes, but when I’m cooking with the kids, I find looking at a cookbook easier. It’s only less thing I have to fiddle with, which helps me to supervise my tiny chefs!
End Dinnertime Battles
No one wants to spend dinnertime fighting. If dinner is a constant battleground for your family, try these tips for getting kids to eat vegetables and drop me a line to let me know if they worked for you!
What other tricks do you have for getting kids to eat vegetables? Leave a comment below, because when it comes to getting kids to eat healthy, we all need all the help we can get!