How to Get Your Kids to Eat Veggies


Posted by LOOK! Squirrel | Posted in Roasting Acorns | Posted on 04-01-2012

It is a modern marvel when a child of today actually likes vegetables.  And I’m finding less and less adults that like them as well!  And I’m not here to tell you that you are the reason that your kid hates them.  But no one can argue the fact that if you are interested in them, it is a step in the right direction and certainly doesn’t hurt.  And I agree with you, look at the alternatives?  I certainly would rather scarf down {insert favorite prepackaged junk food here} when I’m famished, wouldn’t you?  Who wants vegetables?

It’s a hard battle, but one that certainly can be surpassed.  To justify my expertise in this field, I give you the following excerpt from my life: 

Me to one of my children:  please tell me what veggie you want for dinner? 

One of my children: Brussel Sprouts!!! 

My onlooking neighbor seated at my counter:  What?  Are your children aliens?

So to that end, here are a few tips that helped me to create that situation and hopefully it can help you in your journey, and I say journey because liking veggies is a journey not a destination.  Happy Travels.

  1. Learn to cook them.  HAHA like you don’t know that!  But seriously, if your idea of serving veggies includes opening a can and heating them in the microwave, you will have big issues.  Go to a nice restaurant and try theirs, find what you like and learn to make it.  Yet another argument as to why you should spend $500 on a good set of stainless cookware.  Saute is a slow even heat process.  Need a good pan and some patience to get the flavors to be full and delicious.
  2. GO SLOW.  Your child or you for that matter will not suddenly start liking veggies just because you decided that it should be so.  Start with mild flavors and ordinary veggies and work your way to the more unusual.  It took a long time to get to leafy greens such as collard greens and kale.  Immature palates will turn their noses forever to such strong flavored veggies if you don’t work up to them.
  3. The 15 Times Rule.  I read somewhere once that you can’t develop a taste for something different until you have tried it repeatedly.  And that could take up to fifteen or more tries.  So I insituted the 15 times rule.  You must eat it each time that I serve it, one Tablespoon full.  After 15 times, if you still don’t like it then you never have to eat it again.  My son came close to exercising this rule with Green Beans.  He got to about the 14th time before he decided they were o.k.  My oldest daughter made it with Lima Beans.  She never has to eat them again.  But I’m o.k. with that since there are so many more that she will eat now, like the brussel sprouts that she has grown to love.  And the thing that gets them hooked is the competition of it all.  One, there is an end in sight.  And two, they think they can win.  HAHAHA.  Joke’s on them.  Just make sure you stay true to your word.  15 times and done.
  4. Allow them to eat junk food or dessert as an after school snack.  What? I thought they were supposed to be eating vegetables?  Well yes.  Here’s the deal, if you never let them eat junk food, they will revolt, so after school snack every day is allowed to be junk food or dessert.  It’s full of empty calories and so by 7:00 they are ready for real food.  And since they already had their junk food for the day, they have no arguments to the contrary.  No need to save an appetite for dessert.
  5. Carbohydrate.  Whether it be potatoes, doritos, ice cream or a candy bar, as long as it is being used by the body as sugar, it is still sugar.  Potatoes, Lima Beans and Corn are not veggies, they are carbohydrates.  So mashed potatoes and corn count as two carbs not as a carb and a veggie. So serve baked beans as the carb and a salad as the veggie.  No potatoes needed.  How does this help?  Variety and opportunity.  I only serve potatoes once or twice a week.  One meat, one carb, one veggie.  So that means occasionally they are getting two veggies for dinner, ie, grilled chicken, lima beans and broccoli.  This kills two birds with one stone.  It not only teaches them about healthy alternative carbohydrate choices but it increases their veggie intake opportunities.  And also, because a potato is about the most nutritionally devoid food next to iceberg lettuce.
  6. COLOR!!!!  Pick a theme.  Let’s say orange.  Announce loudly, it’s orange night!  And try to find combos of orange foods and veggies that are orange?  Sweet Peppers, Yams, Squash, Carrots,etc.  Pair it with orange glazed chicken or sweet and sour pork, etc.  You get the drill, expand on it.
  7.  The Something From Every Food Group Before You Get Seconds Rule.  I have always measured my kids’ food.  It teaches us all about portion control and allows healthy room for seconds (plus I have these nifty serving spoons that just happen to be measured).  And surprisingly, a serving of veggies is only 2 Tablespoons for toddlers and small children, 1/4 cup for kids and tweens and 1/2 cup for those who have gone through puberty.  That’s not a lot of food on a plate.  So instead of facing a heaping mound of succotash,  your child can mentally make it through.  Then once the plate is clean they can have seconds of anything they want.  And I have more to say about Clean Plate Syndrome and forcing “often oversized for adults” portions on children, but that is for a whole another rant.
  8. Lemon Juice and Salt.  When steaming a bag of frozen veggies is all you have time for, turn to the quick taste helpers of lemon juice and salt.  Steam your veggies, drain, melt a pat of butter (yes, the real stuff) and sprinkle with lemon juice or “True Lemon” dehydrated lemon juice crystals (in the lemon juice section at the grocery store) and add salt to taste.  This is a real game changer for a lot of boring veggies such as green beans, brussel sprouts, spinach, asparagus spears, etc.
  9. OH BABY.  Smaller the veggie the less time it has had to develop a robust flavor.  Do not even attempt brussel sprouts more than 1/2″ in diameter in the first few years, if ever.  The larger they are the more bitter they are.  Same with fresh asparagus and many others.


Comments (1)

Love it! With the abundance of fresh foods here in CA, I’ve starting early…by training DH to enjoy them and set a better example for our little guy :) I usually introduce them as a part of a larger recipe so that the flavor doesnt overwhelm (our latest: sausage & kale soup, quinoa stuffed acorn squash). I’ve also found that roasting any veggie with a little EVOO, salt & pepper at high temps (400+) brings out great flavors. DH’s fav “recipe” is brussels sprouts prepared this way. Cut them inhalf, then roast for about 40 mins (or until they’re brown and a little crunchy on the outside leaves), and VIOLA! Delicious nutty sprouts without that bitter cabbage-y flavor. Now, we love coming home from the farmers market with a new-to-us vegetable and exploring its flavor!