How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Veggies

by lydia on August 24, 2010

More and more I hear parents asking the question, how do I get my kids to eat more vegetables? Is it even possible? Of course it is! With a little of perseverance, love and some creative fun, you certainly can transition your kids into veggie lovers!

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But first I need to encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself first the question, is my child eating enough healthy fats? Without fats many of the nutrients in vegetables cannot be absorbed properly. In fact, fat is more crucial of a nutrient to be concerned about for your child’s overall well being than vegetables. The body uses fats as fuel for energy, as building blocks for cell membranes and to absorb vitamins. Fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A. So don’t bother feeding your kid a mess of carrots without all those good fats. They simply won’t be able to utilize the benefits within the carrot. We all know how crucial vitamin A is, in fact we are all most likely deficient in it in this day of processed foods. Carrots contain beta carotene which has to be converted into vitamin A in the body, a process that requires fats to do. Children make vitamin A from beta carotene with difficulty, so it’s of ultra importance to ensure pairing good fat with carrots. Buttered cooked carrots or carrots with some homemade ranch dip made with sour cream are two awesome kid friendly ways to serve carrots to kids! (Photo below: Aren’t these rainbow carrots gorgeous?)

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Fats are also needed for mineral absorption and many other processes. Make sure your kids are NOT eating lowfat dairy products, they need the fat, it is crucial for their brain development, and will truly satiate them as well. That shared keep in mind while you are attempting to get your kids to eat more vegetables, you really need to be getting those wonderful fats in right along with the veggies. Don’t worry it’s not hard to do. I will share several ideas with you further along in this post.

There are several things that I believe may hinder your attempts at getting your children to increase vegetable consumption. For one thing, if you are a parent and you allow your children access to lots of snack foods, such as crackers, pretzels, chips, granola bars, popcorn as well as sugary drinks and snacks, your child will favor those items. In my home we no longer have store bought snack foods of any kind. And yes, I learned the hard way too! Now that those nutrient-less foods aren’t lingering around calling out to my kids, they have no choice but to go for what I do have on hand. One of their favorite snacks happens to be celery and peanut butter. They also love carrots! They’ll just go to the fridge and grab a whole carrot and chow down. I’d much prefer they dip that carrot in some Healthy Ranch Dip or Domestic Goddess Dressing, but if they are overall gettting fats like whole fresh milk and cheeses along with their carrot snack then I am happy!

Another thought to consider when hopefully encouraging (rather than forcing) your kids to eat veggies, is preference. When I was a kid I despised the canned peas my parents used to insist I eat. Guess what though, now as an adult I love fresh peas! Encourage your kids to at least TRY the veggies you are offering, and let them decide if they like it or not. A lot of times it’s really all in their heads that they may not like certain veggies. They may need time to warm up to the idea, kinda like me with liver. It took me half a year of convincing myself it was good for me before I tried it straight up.

Don’t EXPECT your kids to eat lots of new veggies overnight or out of the blue. You may have to just let them see how much you enjoy them for awhile. Also make sure to prepare them in fun ways if possible, as well as get your kids involved in the preparation. Often times you can talk about the nutrition in the vegetables with them while they help you in the kitchen. They most likely will be more eager to eat something that they are proud of having helped to make. And remember, every child will be different innately when it comes to preference of veggies along with their bodies unique craving for them. (just like adults, some of us lean towards lots of salads, while others just don’t.) I have one child that is open to most vegetables and one who barely eats any, but I also know they both lean in different ways when it comes to food. You can take an overall view of each child’s diet and see where their nutrients are coming from. If they are eating lots of good fats and proteins, you can rest assured knowing they are getting a good dose of nutrition from those foods alone. That’s not to say you should stop encouraging an open mind in your kids when it comes to trying new foods, including vegetables.

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Always continue to offer a wide array of seasonal fresh vegetables at your dinner table. If you keep offering them, they will eventually try them. I promise. My one son used to only eat 2 kinds of vegetables, now he will eat about 6-8 different kinds. I suspect as time goes by his mind will open up and he’ll try a few more out! I try to offer two veggie choices per dinner, since we do not eat very many starches, though that is more in the warmer months when fresh vegetables are easy to come by.

I also always put at least one, if not more, fermented vegetable on the table with dinner. This is a great way for your kids to consume veggies. Fermented foods are much more assimilable and loaded with probiotics and enzymes. The most popular fermented veggies for my kids are carrot pickles, bread and butter pickles, sour pickles and green beans. Their current favorite just so happens to be my kolhrabi pickles. (Now that’s an unusual veggie choice for ya) I am always trying new ferment ideas out and my youngest son usually likes them all. He was very young when I started fermenting so it was a natural shift for him to take to them right away.

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I hope some of these suggestions have encouraged and inspired you to not fret or give up on this seemingly daunting feat of getting kids to eat their veggies. As a parent our overall goal should be getting the best nutrient dense foods into our kids, and if we look at it that way we won’t focus solely on vegetables alone. It will help to seem less daunting in that one category and cause you to look at the big picture. Nutrient dense foods are best for you and your children. Foods like animal fats (butter, ghee, lard, tallow, whole milk, cream), grass fed/pastured meat and wild seafood (loaded with omega 3 fatty acids), fermented foods, (as I mentioned above), whole dairy products, nuts and fresh organic produce.

Now I would like to share with you some more basic ideas for getting more veggies into your kids. I often, especially in the summer, make a veggie tray with some kind of dip (with good fat in it) and just put it out on the table. I will do this at dinner time, or even right before dinner while I am finishing up cooking, or at snack time. If they are hungry, they most likely will snab a few. Homemade pickles are a great option as well, and this is the time of year to make them. Believe it or not cucumbers house some pretty good nutrients. Eating lacto-fermented pickles is a great option for your kids to additionally get all those good probiotics into their guts. Another favorite in our house is simply some steamed cauliflower or broccoli with lots of butter. What kid can resist butter? As I mentioned earlier my guys love their celery and peanut butter snacks, and they don’t get sick of having it either. It’s a real go to snack when they are hungry and dinner is still a ways away. I know they will be filled up by the fat and protein in the peanut butter, making that celery just a conduit to get good fat into them.(of course you need to make sure you are buying healthy peanut butter with no added sugar or oils, except for palm oil – Whole Foods has a good peanut butter with palm oil in it.)  Salads are actually quite appealing to my kids as well. If I have a good dressing they like, (again with lots of good fats) they will at least eat a small portion of a salad. And often times if one is having a salad the others will follow suit.

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Speaking of others following suit, funnily enough I think peer pressure can be a positive thing at times. Maybe your child has a friend that is more open minded than they are when it comes to eating healthy veggies. Invite that friend over for dinner and let peer pressure do it’s magic. If your child sees his/her friend enjoying veggies, it may just open his mind to trying it out. Last night I made Green Lasagna Bolognese, loaded with veggies. I wasn’t sure how this dish would go over with my boys, but I went ahead with it. One of my most particular sons came into the kitchen to see what was for dinner. When I told him lasagna (and I waited for the outburst of complaint), he said ‘Oh cool, did you know that Garfield LOVES lasagna?!’ Who knew that even a cartoon would have a positive influence on my son being willing to eat veggie laden lasagna. And I must say, he ate it eagerly and LOVED it, just like Garfield! Any positive outside influence can help, try finding age appropriate shows that encourage your kids to eat healthy (ex. Sesame Street for the little ones, maybe Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution for the older ones).

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Another wonderful way to encourage vegetable consumption is to let your kids take part in growing a garden. If that is not possible, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and have them help you harvest the vegetables. They often will get more curious and open to trying different things that are becoming a part of their world. My now 8 year old’s favorite part of our local CSA is actually the herb garden (pictured above). Or even, just take your children to the Farmer’s Market with you, they will see all the beautiful fresh vegetables in season, and may just pick out a few for themselves.

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There really are a myriad of ways over time to ensure your child has a well balanced nutrient profile in their everyday diets. Adding veggies to soups, stews and chili, or even meatloaf and meatballs. Not to mention some hearty tomato sauces with lots of veggies added in, you could even puree the sauce to hide the veggies. Additionally, you could juice some veggies. If you are inclined to that and have the equipment. Although I wouldn’t recommend it as your sole method, nor would I use it too frequently as most often kids will lean towards the sweeter tasting veggies. Let’s not forget adding vegetables to baked goods, such as zucchini bread or muffins and even winter squash in some peanut butter brownies.  Have you ever tried sun gold cherry tomatoes? Wow are they ever good! My kids love ’em! Stir fry is a good option as well (see my Easy Beef Stir Fry pictured above). At least they will most likely eat some of the veggies all slathered in whatever yummy sauce you use. A last option that comes to mind, is crispy kale! Yum-o!! Kale is chock full of some great nutrition – you’ve just gotta try this snack at least once! They taste like a healthy green chip of sorts.

I am sure there are other ways, and I know you will find what works for you and your family. The key is to just keep offering a wide variety and don’t worry if your kids take slowly to what you offer. They say it takes 10-15 times of being exposed to something before a child may try it. So again, lots of perseverance and love!!! Happy veggie eating!!

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesdays, Monday Mania and Hidden Veggies Linky Party.

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Lydia - Color - December 2013Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. Sign up for the Divine Health From The Inside Out newsletter! Pick up a copy of Lydia’s eBook; ‘Divine Dinners: Gluten-Free, Nourishing, Family-Friendly Meals’.

Lydia offers specialized step by step counseling to transform your health. Personalized consultations to suit your specific needs are offered via phone or in person. Lydia offers a variety of packages offered to suit your individual needs. Lydia also offers 3 online courses: Heal Your Gut, Revitalize Your Health and A Calm Mind. Contact Lydia today to get started as well as to learn more about what she has to offer you!

 

 

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Norma Wierschem August 26, 2010 at 9:23 am

thanks, very well written post, found it through a random google search and i shared it on my stumble upon account

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Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist August 30, 2010 at 8:24 am

Hi Lydia, I can totally vouch for the “keep on trying” approach. If you stick a food in front of a child enough times (I read somewhere that it needs to be about 10X) they will eventually try it. Building up familiarity is key to getting them to try a new food, particularly a veggie. Thanks for sharing this great post at Monday Mania!

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roclafamilia October 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

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Caroline Cain May 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Great post Lydia – very opportune as a few people have been asking me about this lately. I will re-post on FB.

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Raine May 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Hi Lydia – we do much of the same things in our house, but variety and mixing things up, as well as usual local and seasonal is definitely the key…and COLOR! Hey, your new site design looks great, keep up the great work. You have a great blog and your passion is definitely in the right place. :)

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Kelly @ The Nourishing Home June 7, 2011 at 2:33 am

what a great post! I happened to find you through your link on KerryAnn’s blog carnival on hidden veggies. I completely agree with your advice to keep on encouraging, and to not having empty calorie snack foods in the pantry. Those two tactics have resulted in my boys eating far more veggies. Also agree about lacto-fermented foods. My boys LOVE fermented dill pickles, salsa and carrots. Looking forward to following your page. Many blessings, Kelly :)

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lydia June 7, 2011 at 6:35 am

Hey there Kelly! Glad you stopped by! Awesome to see you enjoying your real food journey! Fermented pickles rock, don’t they!! Peace to you!!

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