How do you get picky eaters to eat vegetables?

In this article you will learn plenty of strategies to help you get your picky eater to actually eat their vegetables! The answers you were looking for, for ‘How do you get picky eaters to eat vegetables?’

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vegan dinners for kids

Whether you’re raising a vegan child or not, you’re bound to have some disagreement with your child about the food they should be eating.

Unless of course, if your children are perfect eaters, have gone through all the different stages and phases of childhood without even so much as leaving a pea on their plate at dinner! 

But, let’s get real here; that’s not gonna happen!

If they don’t go through a picky phase during the toddler stage, then there’s always the teenage years to look forward to! Another milestone for our kids to want to speed past and show their independence during.

It’s those independent stages that most parents have to worry about with getting the healthy, nutrient dense foods, such as vegetables, into their kids growing bodies that need them so bad.

Luckily, those stages eventually pass, whether we want them to or not, and the picky eating usually passes with them.

But, what happens when the stage passes and the picky eating doesn’t?

What do you do when your little one is no longer in the ‘independent, testing you every minute of every day’ stage passes and they still refuse their broccoli, you find peas on the floor, and squash is thrown across the room, leaving a wet stain on the wall?

Despite your best intentions, your child prefers to wear their green smoothie than drink it; and don’t think your child doesn’t know that kale chips are still ‘kale’!

How do you get them to actually eat their veggies?!

Include Them in Making the Food 

Teaching your kids to cook has so many benefits!

From teaching self reliance and life skills that they’ll appreciate they have before leaving home to being more adventurous eaters!

Kids can feel proud of the food they make or help make, and what’s a better reward than eating them masterpieces!

Grow a Garden

Similar to making their own food, growing their own food can help them feel like they’ve accomplished something huge!

Because, well, they have!

Growing veggies isn’t a piece of cake, it takes responsibility to remember to water the plants when they need it and to make sure they get the amount of sunlight they need.

Growing food from a seed not only helps them understand a plants lifecycle on a deeper level, but also gives your child plenty of time to plan on how they would like to use the veggies once they’re ready to be picked.

Or maybe they’ll just eat them right off the plant, as is!

Let Them Help You Meal Plan

Letting my picky eater help me with the meal plan has prevented quite a few food wars between me and her.

Not only does she get to influence which meals we eat as a family, but the fact that she’s helping means that she can’t be upset when I make her the food she’s requested.

Sometimes it’s not the veggies that are the problem, but the lack of control over what they eat!

The ‘Don’t You Dare Eat It!’ Game

This is best used rarely and when you can get your child in a bit of a fun mood!

What you do is tell your child, in a daring voice, “don’t you dare eat it!”

This will in turn help encourage your child to do the opposite and actually eat their veggies! At least, it will if you can get your child in the right mood to play along.

To be fair, this tactic works best with younger kids, such as if you have a toddler going through a picky eating phase. I have tried this on kids older than 8, and it doesn’t work too well after the child knows what you’re doing and why.

Be a Good Example

The ABSOLUTE WORST thing you can do when trying to encourage your kids to eat their veggies is to not eat yours!

I know, you’re an adult and can eat whatever you want. 

But, when it comes to teaching our kids healthy habits with what to eat; you better put your ‘I can do whatever I want cus I’m an adult’ attitude away, and be the good example they need!

There is a very slim chance that they’ll eat their broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots side dish, if your side dish is cranberry sauce or cookies.

Everyone should be eating the same thing, no special food for you or for them. (An exception would be for allergies or food sensitivities.)

Plus, it’s a lot easier to get our little kids to eat what we eat, because they want to be just like us when they’re little. I’m not sure the same can be said for older kids or teens! But I can guarantee that they won’t eat vegetables as a side if you’re eating something tastier; they’ll still want what you have.

Don’t Stop Offering It

Especially when they’re little!

They eat it when they’re babies, there’s no need to ever stop serving them veggies.

If they refuse to eat it one day, you better make sure you give it to them the next, or find another veggie to serve with each meal.

If you stop serving them simply because veggies aren’t your childs favorite food, or they refuse to eat it one day, or a week, you’re only going to make it harder on yourself in the long run!

Make It Seem Like Something Super Special 

Vegetables get a bad rep. I’m not sure why or when that started, or if it’s some type of instinctual thing. 

But for one reason or another, we love to hate on veggies!

We tend to think of them as ‘blah’.

What if we reversed that, and made them seem like a special treat?

What if…

…instead of throwing a bag of veggies in the microwave and then giving them to our kids ‘plain’, we seasoned them with garlic and onion or other herbs and spices?

Or, grilled cauliflower slices and added seasonings to it?

Turn them into desserts, like we sometimes do when making carrot cake, chocolate zucchini bread, or sweet potato cupcakes.

Wouldn’t you rather eat ‘green monster nice cream’ than a bowl of cooked spinach?

They would too!

Don’t Share Yours

Another way to make vegetables seem special, without going to great lengths, or do any extra work at all, is to eat them and tell your kids that you’re not going to share with them.

Yep, a little bit of reverse psychology again!

If you’re eating veggies and won’t share them, that must mean that they’re special and super delicious, otherwise you’d be more than happy to share, right?

Just Let Them Eat Off Your Plate

On the other hand, kids love to eat off their moms plates.

Not their dads, or their brothers or sisters, and especially not their own!

Just moms.

Use this to your advantage and put a double serving of veggies on your plate so there’s plenty to go around!

Don’t forget to say ‘hey!’ every once in a while!

Have Them Eat the Rainbow!

Kids love colors, they’re one of the first things kids learn, along with shapes, the alphabet, and animal sounds!

Eating the rainbow is a fun way to get all sorts of veggies into your child’s diet! Or at least get more produce in their diets. 

Sometimes kids like to fill up on fruits and avoid the veggies. But, you can easily combat that by what you choose to buy and have in the home, or what you offer.

Cook it in Different Ways

If you child doesn’t like their vegetables steamed or boiled on the stove, try roasting them in the oven.

Or, saute them on the stove with different spices!

Spices will bring out different flavors for your kids to try.

Maybe they won’t eat their broccoli and carrots plain, but if you saute them, add some garlic and cumin to them; they’ll eat them right up!

Play around with spices and cooking methods, have some fun and experiment.

Prepare or Cut it in Different Ways

Turn them into veggie tots, fries, or wedges!

Believe it or not, the shapes and sizes DO make a difference.

My own picky eater is about 50% more likely to eat potatoes or sweet potatoes if I cut them in wedges rather than fries.

Don’t Forget the Sauce!

There are two ways to use sauce to get kids to eat their vegetables.

First, your kids can dip their veggies in sauce, or dip it in peanut butter, non dairy yogurt, or something else!

Second, you can make sauces with veggies! 

Especially cheese-tasting sauces!

For example, the ‘cheese’ sauce my girls (even the picky eater one) loves for their mac and cheese, is made up of cauliflower, carrots, veggie broth, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and onion powder!

Turn Their Vegetables into a Craft Snack

Yes, it is ok to let your kids play with their food!

Sometimes, you should too!

You’ve probably seen these food ideas on Pinterest, where you make a scene out of food.

You don’t have to be good at art or even very creative to do this, most kids really don’t care what the result looks like; they enjoy playing with food with you!

Just remind them that they’ll need to eat it when they’re done ‘playing’.

Put Their Veggies in Foods They Already Love

If you have a child who doesn’t like eating veggies when they look like veggies, you’re not alone. 

You shouldn’t necessarily hide veggies in their food, especially for older kids, but sometimes it’s a bit easier to get kids to eat their veggies when they’re in something else, such as;

  • Popsicles
  • Smoothies
  • Nice Cream
  • Muffins
  •  Cakes
  • Quick Breads
  • Pizza
  • Cookies
  • Pasta sauce

Talk About It

Do your kids even know why they don’t want to eat their veggies?

Next time they have a veggie, ask them about it.

What does it taste like?

What texture do they feel when eating it?

What does it smell like?

Tell them how eating the vegetables will help them!

Whether it’s helping them not get sick or helping with helping them grow!

ALWAYS Have Them Available

No exceptions!

If you want them to eat veggies, you need to have veggies available all the time!

Whether it’s raw veggies or in the freezer in the microwavable bags, if you need them ready ASAP.

Or if it means you make a batch of chocolate zucchini muffins on the weekend and keep in the freezer for the coming week.

Whatever you have to do to make sure there are always veggies available for your kids to eat, do it!

Don’t Bribe Them to Eat Their Veggies Just For Dessert

One more note on how to get your kids to eat veggies, or how to NOT get your kids to eat veggies; don’t tell them that they need to eat their vegetables in order to get dessert!

This doesn’t work very well, and it can cause your kids to have a bad relationship with food.

Unlike when we were growing up, you shouldn’t force your kids to clear their plates in order to get ‘dessert’ or before they get up.

Kids’ stomachs are small and can only hold so much food at once!

Let’s Review How to Get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables

There are loads of strategies for getting kids to eat their veggies!

The ones covered above that you could try are;

  • Include Them in Making the Food 
  • Grow a Garden
  • Let Them Help You Meal Plan
  • The ‘Don’t You Dare Eat It!’ Game
  • Be a Good Example
  • Don’t Stop Offering It
  • Make It Seem Like Something Super Special 
  • Don’t Share Yours
  • Just Let Them Eat Off Your Plate
  • Have Them Eat the Rainbow!
  • Cook it in Different Ways
  • Prepare or Cut it in Different Ways
  • Don’t Forget the Sauce!
  • Turn Their Vegetables into a Craft Snack
  • Put Their Veggies in Foods They Already Love
  • Talk About It
  • ALWAYS Have Them Available
  • Don’t Bribe Them to Eat Their Veggies Just For Dessert

The most important thing is to never stop encouraging your kids to eat veggies!

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How do you get picky eaters to eat vegetables?

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