How to Raise Kids that Like Vegetables
The other day we got two stalks of Brussels sprouts in our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm share.
First of all, I never knew that Brussels sprouts came on stalks like that! I have never received Brussels sprouts straight off the farm before, and when I purchase them at the grocery store, they are usually frozen and most definitely not on a stalk anymore.
Second of all, The Maestro roasted them with olive oil and some spices and our children LOVED them. They all gobbled them up like candy.
Score one for Mom and Dad! Our children will eat Brussels sprouts!
Our children will happily eat most vegetables, actually. It is one of the very few things I feel we have done very well as parents. And when I say very few, I mean that I can only come up with maybe one other thing.
But my kids eat vegetables without a fuss. And maybe it isn’t anything The Maestro and I did as parents, either, maybe we were just blessed with children that aren’t overly picky.
Except….they are picky. Sophia has big issues with textures and Bria has a long list of foods that she doesn’t like. In fact, getting Bria to like eating vegetables wasn’t always easy–we had lots of tantrums about it when she was younger.
Chloe is picky, too, but she has always preferred vegetables and fruit over sweets. She actually did come that way. Her pickiness is more like she hates soda and prefers water instead. I don’t try to quash that kind of pickiness.
I’ve thought about the things The Maestro and I have done that have helped our children to learn to like vegetables, and I came up with the following five things. I recognize that some children are just more difficult in the food department, so your mileage may vary, but these things have worked well at our house.
1. Be a Good Example and Eat Your Vegetables Yourself.
According to the State of the Plate report, 9 out of 10 people in America do not eat enough vegetables. I know that lots of parents don’t love to eat vegetables. And, while I do like vegetables, sometimes I’d rather eat a bag of candy corn or a juicy steak with absolutely no vegetables on the side. We all know as parents that it’s awfully hard to require your child to do something that you don’t do yourself.
Our children look up to us–probably much more than we’ll ever know. They watch us. They do as we do and not as we say.
Se eat those vegetables, Mom and Dad!
2. Don’t be a Short Order Cook.
Whenever my brothers or I complained about what was being served to us at dinner time and asked if we could have some other meal instead, my mom simply said “I am not a short order cook.” I have observed parents who make their child a peanut butter sandwich every time they don’t want to eat the meal that was prepared. Pretty soon, all they ever want to eat is that PB&J, so don’t do it.
Don’t offer options. If you made Brussels sprouts for dinner along with the chicken and potatoes, that is what is for dinner, period. Your child can choose to eat it or not, but she can’t have something else if she chooses not to eat what you made.
3. Institute the “One Bite Rule.”
My children have to take at least one bite of everything on their plates if they would like dessert (if it is being offered) or if they would like seconds of the part of the meal that they do like. This means foods that they already know they hate as well as foods that they’ve never tried before.
Interestingly, the more often they are served foods they think they don’t like, they become more and more willing to eat them. And it almost always happens that they eventually stop complaining about them, and even start to like them. It’s kind of amazing. All because they have to try just one bite to get the cookie they so desperately want.
4. Have Your Children Help You Prepare the Vegetables.
Kids are much more likely to want to eat the things that they made themselves. My girls get really excited about serving the family a dish that they helped to make. Put them to work chopping vegetables, helping you stir things, or putting together chicken broccoli casseroles, and you might be surprised at how willing they are to help you eat them, too!
5. Offer Vegetables at Every Meal.
And yes, I do mean every meal.
Okay, so maybe I’ll let you off the hook for breakfast, because aside from green smoothies, it’s not as easy to get your vegetables into breakfast foods. However, we have green smoothies at our house all the time for breakfast, and my girls really love them. So don’t be afraid to try them.
That leaves lunch and dinner.
Too often our kids are sent to school with lunches that contain absolutely no vegetables. Don’t do it! Send veggies with them to school. My girls get spinach and lettuce in their lunches several days a week in the form of salads, on sandwiches, or as lettuce wraps. They get carrots, tomatoes, cucumber slices, and celery sticks pretty often, too. This morning I sent snap peas in their lunch boxes. These are super easy vegetables to send to school. Don’t neglect the veggies in the lunch boxes!
I think you will agree that it is easiest to get vegetables into your dinner plan. Make a salad, roast them, steam them, eat them raw. Just make sure they’re there.
I know dinner can be crazy sometimes, and preparation time is a hot commodity when you’re chauffering kids all over town. I know that sometimes we’re just lucky to even sit down to dinner all together for five whole minutes.
That’s why–as much as I love my CSA–we don’t cook fresh vegetables at dinner every single night. We rely on frozen veggies quite often to make sure we have a vegetable component in our dinner menu. I stock up on Birds Eye Steamfresh frozen vegetables every single week, and we use them every single week. I am so thankful to be able to offer my family healthy vegetables at every dinner without always having to wash, chop, and cook them myself. I mean, if you call throwing the bag in the microwave and pressing a button cooking, then I guess I cook them. On the crazy nights when we have just come from a cross country meet and are barely able to shove dinner in our mouths before we’re running off to violin lessons, I am so thankful for my Birds Eye frozen veggies!
I’m also thankful for Birds Eye’s Step up to the Plate campaign and their commitment to changing kids’ perceptions of vegetables. Vegetables get a really bad rap amongst today’s younger crowd and often end up in the cafeteria garbage can instead of their bellies. Let’s do what we can to change that by teaching our own children that vegetables are awesome.
Starting right now!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
I love Melissa! I watched her season of Next Food Network Star and was totally rooting for her. I wish my kids were better veggie eaters, and I do need to be better about not offering other choices. It's tough… but I'm inspired to try harder now. Thanks!