Getting Children to Eat Their Veggies
For most parents, getting children to eat vegetables can sometimes be a difficult task. Dinner table tantrums and cries of distaste are a familiar scene to many households, leaving parents to come up with clever ways to coax vegetables into fussy tummies. From hiding vegetables in children's meals to dramatic battles between wills, ("no you can't leave the table until those carrots are gone!"), these techniques can be exhausting and certainly, exasperating. In response, we have prepared the following fact sheet with suggestions for taking a different approach.
Tips for Parents:
- Instead of trying to force your children to eat vegetables, encourage them to simply try them, individually. If your child doesn’t like a certain vegetable, try to maintain a positive attitude and do not get upset. Consistently encourage your child to try a new vegetable. Through this trial and error process, your child will likely discover some vegetables that they can, at the very least, tolerate.
- Teach your child about the nutritional value of vegetables. While your child may not like them, it is still important that children understand why they are necessary to eat. This may make them more inclined to eat vegetables in the future.
- Try to work around your child’s individual tastes. Most children do not hate ALL vegetables. Experiment with creative recipes using some of your child’s favourites.
Tricks for parents:
- Make vegetables the most easily accessible snack to your child. This may mean keeping pre-cut vegetables in the fridge or on the table. When children are hungriest, they may be inclined to eat the vegetables that they wouldn’t otherwise choose.
- Make your child familiar with vegetables by serving them in some form at every meal.
- Add additional vegetables to ready-made packaged foods. This will add some nutrients to the meal without largely changing the taste.
- Serve vegetables with salad dressing or sauce for dipping. When children can use these sauces to mask the taste of the vegetables, they may be more willing to eat them.
- Cook with vegetable-based sauces whenever possible. This way, children consume a serving of vegetables without even realizing it.
- When grocery shopping, let your children choose their favourite vegetables, and get them involved in the meal preparation. When children are given input and their preferences are considered, they may be more willing to eat the meals that are prepared.
Practices to avoid:
Avoid constantly trying to hide vegetables in everyday foods. If your child notices the hidden vegetables, they may feel deceived and distrustful about future meals. Also, children need to recognize that vegetables are part of everyday foods. This way, they can identify the importance of vegetables in daily eating.
Some families may benefit from individualized consultations to work out strategies to deal with severe cases of food avoidance or associated conditions. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.
View article references
- Information for this article was gathered from Kimberley O'Brien, Child Psychologist, and the Raising Children Network