Veg Out: Easy Ways to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables

bowl of vegetables

It's an age-old battle: Moms want kids to eat more veggies.  Kids want to eat, well, anything else.  "Don't give up!  Keep offering veggies," says Jeanne Muchnick, mom to two girls and author of  "Dinner for Busy Moms."  "And don't let them off the hook without trying several bites of something new.  Eventually, veggie love will happen."  Here's how to up your kiddos' intake of greens until the day comes when your kids beg for broccoli the way they do for a brownie:

Blend 'em.  Want your kids to eat veggies without a fuss?  Befriend your blender or food processer, says Muchnick.  "Sauté veggies, such as Vidalia onions, carrots or zucchini, until soft.  Then puree the vegetables so that they are super smooth," she says.  Sneak the puree into tomato sauce that you can use to top pasta and store-bought pizza dough.  Another option: pureeing red pepper, spinach, or cucumbers and mixing them with yogurt or sour cream to make dips that kids can dunk a carrot, crackers, or rice cakes into.

Hide 'em.  It's easy to hide, er, add minced like spinach, squash, broccoli, avocado, zucchini or asparagus to lasagna, scrambled eggs or pasta.  "I add shredded or cooked carrots to mac and cheese.  The orange color mixes with the cheese and kids don't suspect a thing," says Muchnick, who is also a fan of adding pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes, as well as carrots and peas to hamburgers and sloppy joes.  "I also puree black beans and put it in my meatloaf," she says.

Make it fun.  Let kids make their own kabobs: add cherry tomatoes, pineapple chunks or grapes to a stick with chicken.  Or experiment with cooked versions of sushi rolls--a california roll has carrot, avocado, and crab--and the kids will get a kick out of working their chopsticks.  Above all else, let kids help you cook and assemble their foods--especially ones with lots of veggies.  "Kids are more likely to eat what they help make," says Muchnick.

Roll-up Recipe.  Getting kids to eat raw vegetables can be a real struggle.  Jennifer Carden, chef and author of The Toddler Café came up with this recipe to get your kids interested in lettuce.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 head crispy romaine lettuce hearts, washed and separated
  • 1 pound ground chicken, beef or turkey
  • 1 carrot minced or grated
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, minced

Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • Chopped Peanuts or Cashews for sprinkling (optional)

Directions:

Put sauce ingredients in a bowl and break up lumps with a fork, set aside.

Heat a sauté pan on medium high heat, add meat, let it cook untouched until meat looks like it is cooking underneath and juices start to be released.  Add vegetables.  Start breaking up meat with a wooden spatula.  Continue stirring and breaking up chunks until meat is thoroughly cooked.  Drain meat before adding sauce.  Give the sauce a stir and add it to the pan.  Mix together and cook 2 minutes more, continuing to break up any large chunks of meat.

Serve meat and lettuce leaves together.  Have your child put the meat in the leaves and sprinkle with nuts, then eat like a taco.

Tip: Give your child the small inside leaves that will be easier for them to hold and bite.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan.  Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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Comments (3)
Alicia W.
Alicia W.
I use to feed veggies like a fruit juice or boil with butter and brown sugar. I had a sister, friends kids, and other kids. I worked with that all natural items are used to with awareness to parents and request. I feel we all need to find special ways to activate all children to more veggies than anything else. That alone is LOVE.
Posted: February 27, 2013 at 1:38 AM
Photo of Meredith S.
Meredith S.
Great article Another trick is to cook vegetables into things so that the children cannot remove them, for instance made some rice, stir in veggies and melt in cheese Most of the children I have taken care of in the past love this recipe, and eat the veggies also.
Posted: October 03, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Photo of Suzanne B.
Suzanne B.
Amen to this article! My 2-year-old has picky days, as they all do, but I keep "hiding" vegetables as well as offering them whole. Even if she says "no, thank you" to a carrot stick today, she may just eat it tomorrow if I don't make it a big deal. It does take more effort, but what is more important than her health?

I also do my best to make sure I am modeling good eating and exercise habits. It makes me step up and live healthier, too, and even my husband is catching on!
Posted: May 31, 2011 at 3:44 PM
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