Nutrition for kids: How to get your kids to eat vegetables

You’ve tried and tried, yet your child may still push the vegetables to the side of his or her plate or toss them under the table for the family dog to find. What’s a mom to do when this happens? Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD, and co-author of No Whine with Dinner, prefers the “weaving” method over hiding vegetables completely. “Kids should learn to eat vegetables and enjoy them as they grow up because they want to and because they think vegetables taste good. Serving vegetables out in the open from day one, and sprinkling them throughout most recipes is an effective approach.”

Boy eating broccoli

1Give vegetables the wow factor

The No. 1 thing to remember when getting your kids to eat their vegetables is that they must taste good, according to Bissex. Start with vegetables like carrots and winter squash since they’re sweeter, and asparagus that can be picked up with fingers and dipped. Bitter vegetables like Brussels sprouts are a tougher sell. Bissex says, “If you’re going to serve plain steamed broccoli, good luck. Drizzling cheese on top or sautéing it with garlic will make it more flavorful.”

2Don’t make a big deal out of eating veggies

While it’s important that kids eat vegetables because of the vital nutrients they contain, parents need not call attention to the issue. Kids don’t have control over many things in life, but they can get to decide what they will and won’t put into their mouths. Bissex believes that the more you show that you want them to eat their vegetables, the more they may resist and dig in their heels: “You can’t force a kid to eat them.” And parents eating vegetables (yes, they should too!) in front of their kids should just treat them like any other food.

3Respect your kids’ palate for vegetables

Also consider that it’s estimated that 25 percent of children are “super-tasters,” making them more sensitive to the bitter taste of some vegetables (which non-super-tasters may not even notice). If they really do gag on vegetables, don’t make them follow the “one bite” rule. They may eventually start to enjoy vegetables, but in the meantime it is advisable to respect their likes and dislikes.

4Add vegetables to foods your child already enjoys

Finely diced onion and mushrooms weave well into meatloaf, along with a chunky marinara sauce on top. Mix finely chopped carrots and celery into tacos and serve chopped green onions alongside as a topping. These vegetables blend in with the flavors and textures already in a dish that kids have come to love. Bissex also recommends always adding shredded carrots to tuna salad and sloppy Joes. Chopped spinach or pureed squash stirred into ricotta cheese layers beautifully into lasagna, and white beans pureed into dips provide creaminess while adding a fiber and nutrient boost.

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