Kids and vegetables. They go together like oil and water sometimes, right?
Not in our house! But that was after intentional decisions and work. I bet there are some children who are born loving broccoli, and that’s great. But that was NOT the case for my daughter. It was a struggle, every. single. meal. for. a. year. to get her to try anything new.
But here we are, she’s 2 and a half, and she eats everything.
I am writing this to share some of the tips I found successful when trying to teach my daughter to love vegetables, and also to encourage you to endure those tough days and not give up. Eating a variety of foods is so essential for proper nutrition and starting children early is the best tip I have.
Here are 10 of my favorite tips to get kiddos to love their veggies:
- Cook them deliciously! SO often people have said things like “I hate Brussels sprouts” to which I reply “Really? How have you had them?” Most common answer is boiled or steamed. Um, I wouldn’t like that either! The best way to eat Brussels sprouts in my opinion is to slice them and saute them with onions and garlic in a pan or roast on a sheet tray in the oven. They get such delicious texture and flavor, a family favorite. Another example is broccoli. My daughter loves it when I serve the broccoli roasted with lemon, garlic, and salt.
- Serve with a Dipping Sauce – kids LOVE to dip. Do they like ketchup? BBQ sauce? Vegan cheese sauce? Cook the veggies, cut into spear type finger food and serve with a sauce. This instantly makes it more interesting! My daughter also loves it when I steam broccoli, season with garlic & salt, then serve with a vegan cheese sauce to dip in! My favorite vegan cheese sauce recipe is one I adapted from Oh She Glows and the Minimalist Baker. I’ll share on my blog soon!
- Serve with their favorite foods! OK, we don’t want to totally torture the poor kiddos. Sweeten the deal a little with making a delicious and balanced plate. What do they like? My daughter loves pasta. I try to get her to take one bite of something new every 2-3 bites of her favorite on the plate.
- Set an example. Your children are watching. You can’t just make salad, broccoli, or green beans once a week and expect them to hop on board. They have to see their parents eating them, loving them, and serving it to themselves before they are willing to do it themselves. If you want your children to eat healthier, you have to be willing to eat healthier yourself first.
- Be consistent! If there’s something you’d like your children to eat more of, make it regularly. They have to be exposed to healthy foods regularly in order to be more open to try them.
- Guacamole Trick: This one is from a fellow mama that I follow, Ellen Fisher. (She has a plant based e-book that’s incredible!) To teach her sons to love salad, she finely chops spinach and blends it into guacamole. As her children age, she slowly lessens the avocado and it turns into more of a salad and less of a bowl of guacamole. I tried this with my daughter and it works. I chop spinach, tomatoes, onions, and season the mashed avocado and serve with a spoon. She loves it!
- Sneak them in if you have to! One of my favorite ways to sneak in veggies is to shred carrots and chop spinach then mix them into pasta sauce. My daughter always loves to eat pasta so loading up the marinara with veggies is a great way to get her to eat a more balanced meal.
- Smoothies every day. My daughter did not love smoothies. It took me a while of consistently making them for myself and offering them to her to get her to actually want her own cup. I love to add spinach, flax seeds, powered greens, kale, and other goodness into smoothies. I got her a stainless steel thermos that hides the color of she smoothie so she doesn’t refuse it based on color. Her favorite smoothie is more like a milk shake and is a mixture of: bananas, flax seeds, almond milk, peanut butter, dates, and greens.
- Make it Fun! I also love to tell my daughter stories. I talk to her and tell her how broccoli are little trees! Aren’t they cute? Make it fun. Let them see you enjoying your meal and they’ll follow your lead….eventually!
- Don’t give up. Kids will take their own lead if you let them. Sure, some kids just will not love broccoli, and that’s ok. It’s up to you to find healthy foods that they’ll love. It’s not an easy job, but it’s worthwhile. I am so happy I put in the effort with my daughter as now she eats salads, veggies, and pretty much anything I make. I cook one meal at each meal time and we share. Keep the faith, my friends! The effort you’re putting in is worth it to help instill a sense of vibrant health and a life long love of veggies.
If you’d like any specific recipe ideas or to chat more about this, feel free to comment or message me!