Mission Impossible: Getting a Picky Eater To Eat Their Vegetables

Sweet toothed child that won't eat vegetablesCredit: Microsoft ClipartChances are that if you are a parent of young children, you have asked the question, “How can I get my child to eat vegetables?” at least once. For some reason, the little scamps don't seem to want to eat anything healthy or green, it's like they can taste if it's good for them and it tastes disgusting! My generic answer to the question of how to get your child to eat vegetables is, however you can! With that being said, I scoured many sources to try and find some good answers to this question because I'm sure I'm not the only parent out there that struggles with this quandary on a daily basis. So here goes, if you are on the search for tips and tricks, look no further!

1.)Hungry kids eat. Sounds stupidly simple right? Well, it makes total sense! Kids that are allowed to snack close to dinner time eat can afford to be picky about what they eat at the dinner table! If your child has had time to let a decent hunger build, however, they are much more likely to eat whatever it is that is put in front of them! You all know how much kids like to bother you while your cooking with the inevitable, “Mom – when's dinner going to be ready?” and “I'm staaaaarving!” Well as much as they love to snack while you're trying to prepare the meal, why not put out a small plate of veggies and let them “cheat” by snacking on that? That way, they feel as if they're getting away with something and you can feel good that they're getting in veggies before the meal even starts! A really popular choice in my house is frozen peas...while they're still frozen! I know, I thought it sounded disgusting when I found my husband feeding it to our girls, but I tried it and it's so good! They get a kick out of eating them frozen and they will consume them by the handful! This trick also works for green beans straight out of the can.

2.)Let your kids help you cook! Most kids are more than eager to lend a helping hand in the kitchen, and while it may not be convenient to accept that “help”, it may be beneficial for your little ones. A great method of getting your kid to eat vegetables is to allow them to have control over their food. This can start in the grocery store with having them help pick out the veggie and is a great way to get them to be more adventurous in trying new types of vegetables as well. Then allow them to help prepare and cook the vegetables too. Their pride in what they've done will help the food to seem much more palatable to them and they may accidentally like something!

 A bowl of veggies you wish your child would eatCredit: Microsoft Clipart3.)Another great way to get your child to eat vegetables is to teach them the value of what they're eating. You could learn something too! It takes the work of just minutes to look up a  particular vegetable online and find out what vitamins and minerals they contain and how they help our bodies to function properly. Kids like knowing that carrots will help them see better – it makes them feel a little like a superhero with “supervision!”

4.)Keep your big mouth shut at dinner. I struggle with this one every night. I sit there and watch my kids push the veggies around their plates and make “yucky” faces. As a parent, it is my first instinct to say, “eat your vegetables!” at least 5 or 6 times during the meal. And, as a kid, it is there instinct to rebel by not eating them just because I said something! So stay quiet until they ask for seconds of something else and then say, “as soon as you eat some more veggies!” Or when they are trying to get down from the table say something like, “If you eat 3 more bites of those veggies, then you can go play.” This method is much more effective and stressful and your child is much more likely to decided to eat the veggies independently without your constant prodding.

5.)Always put vegetables on the plate, whether they've been rejected before or not. I know that sometimes I tend not to cook something if I feel like my kids won't want to eat it, just because I don't want to deal with the stress of trying to force them to do so. But when you're struggling with how to get your kids to eat vegetables, this is an essential part of the process. You can even prepare previously rejected veggies in different ways so that the child doesn't even know it's something that they didn't like before. My kids especially are emotional when it comes to dinner time. If they were in a bad mood yesterday, then nothing I tried to feed them was good enough, but if they are in a pleasing mood today, that very same food may look much more appealing to them. Studies have shown that some foods need to be introduced to a child as many as 12 times before they learn to like it. Besides, how can your kids ever learn to like something that they aren't offered?

6.)Substitute junk food with vegetables. I know what you're thinking...”yeah, right!” But I'm totally serious and this is one of the most effective ways to get your child to eat vegetables. Instead of french fries, make up a fresh, tasty batch of sweet potato fries! Instead of potato chips, try making a batch of kale chips! I know, that sounds weird, but I actually made them myself and they were really good! Your kids can even help with most of the prep work! Then there's mashed steamed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, and with the right seasoning this could easily become a favorite. The internet is full of so many fabulous and healthy alternatives to junk food, you just have to look. Your kids will get some great extra nutrients without missing the junk foods they love.

Credit: Microsoft Clipart

7.)Stealth veggies. There is much debate about whether this is a good method of getting your child to eat more vegetables, but I think it is a really good way to get some extra nutrients into a picky kid's diet as well as your own! Just don't forget to also offer a side of recognizable vegetables at each meal as well so that your child can make the choice to eat them for him/herself. Camouflaging vegetables can be done in so many ways. By pureeing many veggies, you can sneak them, almost completely unnoticed in to pizza or spaghetti sauce, mashed potatoes (this could even make “fun” colored potatoes!) You can also chop them up very small and put them into scrambled eggs, a cheesy quesadilla or any type of casserole! Baking with veggies can be a very effective way to get your picky eater to consume some vegetables. I remember my mom made the best zucchini brownies – yum! Then there is the favorite of most kids – just cover it with melted cheese! Everything tastes better with cheese, right? Well, that and ranch dressing!

Basically – you do what you have to do. There are so many ideas you can tap into when trying to figure out how to get your kid to eat vegetables, you just have to commit to making the effort. The simplest and most important tip of all is to always offer them and set a good example by eating them yourself. There will always be a child that will REFUSE to eat vegetables. I was one of those kids and I grew up perfectly healthy and have since learned to love veggies, although, that didn't really start until I had my own kids, but I learned eventually! There's bound to be at least one vegetable that your child will take a liking to and that's something to strive for and celebrate! So just do your best, keep trying and don't be discouraged, your child isn't the only kid on the block with a picky mealtime attitude and they won't be the last!