A friend of mine and I took our kids to the park a few weeks ago and brought lunch. I busted out a small Tupperware container of sliced radishes and my friend looked at me like I had three heads. “Please tell me he does not eat radishes” she says.
Since then, I’ve had a few one-off conversations with others about The Kid and the Vegetable dilemma. I’d honestly never given it a lot of thought. My kids have always eaten their vegetables, but I decided to throw my hat into the ring and address the issue.
We all know vegetables are extremely important in our diet, each unique vegetable comes with it’s own set of vitamins, nutrients, amazing taste and just darn pretty colors. Great, right? We all know this. So what do we do about it?
Figure out their personality
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been really paying attention to what my kids eat and don’t eat. Even though I know my kids are pretty good eaters, I honestly never noticed that there was a pattern to what they ate. This was a good exercise for me to help figure out my kids’ Vegetable Personality.
I would recommend this to everyone, especially if you haven’t been paying attention (like me). Do your kids prefer raw vegetables? Cooked vegetables? Steamed? Roasted?
I have one Little Dude who will only eat raw vegetables. Salad with a little ranch or honey mustard is his favorite thing to eat. Along comes Little Dude #2 who wouldn’t touch a raw vegetable to save his life. I kept trying to fit him into his brother’s mold and surprisingly, was beating my head against the wall.
So now what?
Get cooking and get creative. I hear a lot of people say that their kids won’t eat vegetables because they don’t like the taste or they don’t like the texture. Let’s mix it up! Every which way you cook a carrot makes it taste slightly different, try a variety of methods until you hit on one that works.
I would get bored if I had to eat the same vegetable cooked the same way every day. Let’s make vegetables sing for our kids, make them a part of their everyday life and make them GREAT.
So how do I get it done?
- Grill, roast, saute, steam, bake. Try, try again. Use olive oil, butter, coconut oil. Try different seasonings. Let your kids pick the seasonings. Let them toss the veggies onto a baking sheet. Unless it has a really strong flavor, just about everything tastes good roasted in coconut oil.
- Serve a side of vegetables with vegetables as the side. I made macaroni and cheese the other day with steamed broccoli and asparagus, to which my son promptly insisted as he sat down “MOM! This is NOT macaroni and cheese, this is macaroni and broccoli!”. My response? I told him to skip it and eat the rest of his dinner. What else did he have? Roasted carrots. Hunger may have taken over as he did eventually eat his pasta, veggies and all. However, I would have been pleased if he had just eaten the carrots. Try not to give too many empty-calorie options, as most kids will just fill up on those.
- Variety is the spice of life. As best I can, I give my kids multiple vegetable options. Of course, this time of year makes it so easy to mix things up, but even two different vegetables is better than one. If you notice on the plates below, they have bell peppers, celery and kohlrabi. If they only ate one of the three, I would have been happy.
Wondering what the plates looked like after dinner?
Obviously they didn’t eat everything and obviously the Tasmanian Devil came for dinner, but you can tell they ate their fair share.
- Eat YOUR vegetables. If you or your spouse are not a vegetable eater either, I encourage you to find something that you enjoy while you are figuring out your children’s tastes. I can almost guarantee my kids would never touch a vegetable if I wasn’t heaping them on my plate.
- Get sneaky. I’ve read several articles where people are debating whether to make the vegetables a highlight of the meal or to sneak them in. Those that are against being sneaky say that kids need to learn to like vegetables, not just ingest them without knowing about it. My take? Do both! Why not? I grate zucchini and shred carrots into everything. I add sweet potato or squash puree into muffins, waffles, on grilled cheese sandwiches. I freeze pureed raw kale and throw it into pasta sauce. I do believe that kids should learn to eat veggies on their own, but what is it going to hurt to add even more nutrients into their meal?
- Incorporate them into a popular main dish. Your kids like pizza? Add extra veggies on top like mushrooms, slivered bell peppers, julienned carrots. Add shredded carrots into the pizza sauce. Try pesto as the base instead of red sauce. Try doing half with one vegetable and half with another and then let them choose. Throw vegetables into macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, make chicken nuggets with shredded zucchini. Get creative!
The pizza below has half spinach/cheese sauce with red bell peppers and asparagus. The other half has red sauce, diced red bell peppers and finely minced asparagus. My kids wolfed down the half with red sauce. Obviously, I would have been fine with either option.
- Eat from the garden. Even if you only have space for one pot, grow something that is fun for the kids. We have grown sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes the last two years and I can’t ever harvest enough to throw them into a dish. My kids “sneak” them straight off the plant. We don’t use any type of chemicals or pesticides to grow them and I don’t mind a little dirt. They won’t always eat tomatoes when I put them on their plate for lunch or dinner, but they think it’s hilarious to eat them while running around the backyard.
- Dip it. How did I originally forget to mention this? I’m perfectly fine with my kids eating a plate full of vegetables dipped in ranch or any other kind of dip. I try not to give them a huge bowl of it, but I would prefer they eat veggies with dip than no veggies at all. My kids eat this fantastic Honey Mustard dressing/dip by the bucketful. You could also try hummus or even a sweet fruit dip.
Bottom line? Try, try again. And then try some more. I’ll be perfectly honest, my kids are not anywhere close to perfect when it comes to vegetables. My 4-year old will eat asparagus for every meal for a week and then decided he doesn’t like it. My 2-year old will throw his snap peas on the floor for lunch and then wolf them down for dinner. I know you’ve heard it before, but sometimes it takes several (and by several, I mean 172) times for a kid to like something or accept it. Sometimes they like it one day and then despise it the next. The best you can do is keep trying.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! What are your best tips and tricks for incorporating vegetables into your daily meals?
Some of our favorite recipes:
- Quinoa Salad with Corn, Tomatoes and Black Beans
- Zucchini Bread Pancakes
- Sweet Summer Vegetable Enchiladas w/ Squash and Zucchini
- Stacked Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
- Pumpkin Spice Muffins w/ Grated Carrot
A few additional resources:
You can also check out my Pinterest board dedicated to fantastic and creative ways to use vegetables.