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How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables - and Love Them!

Tips for Picky Eaters


Girl Looking at vegetables

Picky Eaters Can Come to Enjoy Fruits and Vegetables

Jim Esposito/Getty Images
Coping with picky eaters isn't easy. Everyone from the pediatrician to your mother-in-law to the neighbor down the street puts pressure on parents to get kids to eat vegetables. Five a day! The more the better!

And everybody seems to have his or her own set of tricks and tips for picky eaters who won't eat vegetables:

Make them stay at the table until they finish their green beans.
Institute a two-bite rule for everything.
Puree the vegetables and sneak them into their food.

Well, you've heard them all.

They mean well. They really do.

The problem is children can't be forced to eat anything they don't want to eat - at least not on a regular basis. And they shouldn't be (see my interview with Feeding Expert Ellyn Satter for why.)

What's more, all children are different. As any parent with more than one child knows, they don't master potty training at the same rate, and they don't have the same food preferences or eating habits.

The key is to model healthy eating habits and experiment with different ways of preparing vegetables.

3 Rules for Getting Picky Eaters to Eat Vegetables

Here are my easiest ways to get picky eaters to try and enjoy more vegetables:
  1. Make the Vegetables Taste Good.

    This would seem like an obvious strategy - one that moms have tried over and over to no avail. But actually, few moms ever try this approach. We act as if we actually add the things that make food taste good - salt, sugar and fat - it will somehow take away from all the benefits of eating vegetables.

    Ridiculous! Why serve bland steamed broccoli when you can enjoy broccoli bacon salad? Why force them to choke down one or two bitter boiled Brussels sprouts when they'll happily gobble up a plateful of fried Brussels sprouts?

    And that's the whole point: When you make food taste good, kids want to eat it.

    Now I'm not saying douse a cup of cauliflower in two cups of butter. That would be absurd (not to mention really disgusting). What I'm saying is a little salt, fat and sugar goes a long way to improve the taste of vegetables, and doing so doesn't diminish from their nutritional value at all (see my nutritional breakdown for my fried Brussels sprouts).

  2. Pair Vegetables with Foods They Like.

    Most of us already do this instinctively (think: broccoli with cheese sauce. And you know what? It works!

    Try mixing vegetables with potatoes or rice, as with mashed cauliflower twice baked potatoes and rice balls.

    Or mix vegetables into kid's favorite dishes, like macaroni and cheese. My macaroni and cheese with spinach is always a winner.

  3. Change the Texture of Vegetables.

Some of my favorite ways for serving - and eating - vegetables are when they don't seem like vegetables at all. Soups, like my broccoli cheese soup and carrot soup are so rich and creamy, they don't seem like they're loaded with vegetables.

Likewise, my green smoothies are full of fresh baby spinach, but they taste like frosty emerald milkshakes.

Finally, you can make all sorts of pestos, from spinach pesto to sun-dried tomato pesto, and serve them on everything from pesto pizza to pesto pasta.

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