7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Their Veggies

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7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Their Veggies on 100 Days of #RealFood

Getting kids to eat their vegetables is a quest that many parents find themselves facing. For whatever reason, kids often turn their noses up to vegetables – though there are certainly exceptions. My youngest is a FANTASTIC vegetable eater. Seriously – as a 1 year old he would grab a whole tomato and eat it as if it were an apple (pictured). He eats tomatoes of all sorts, asparagus, zucchini, even red pepper. I know, I am blessed with this one! Funny enough, my second youngest (age 5) is also a fairly good veggie eater. And then there are my older two…

I’ve tried to offer them vegetables through the years, with more of a push during the last 2-3 years. They are ages 7 and 10, so they have their own opinions on things and it’s definitely not as easy to get them to change. But I’ve remained consistent and have tried many different tactics. In a past job, I even reviewed The Sneaky Chef along with Jessica Seinfeld’s book – both which suggested sneaking in vegetable purees. But here’s the thing: why sneak it when you can try to teach them to like it? You won’t be cooking (and sneaking) their foods forever; it’s really better to set them up to learn to like foods themselves.

7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Their Veggies

For those who are seeking to get more vegetables into their kids’ diets, below are some approaches that have worked for me. Some may sound elementary, but read through and share your ideas in the comments at the bottom:

  1. Make a veggie tray.
    I discovered this trick about 5 years ago while grocery shopping with my kids. I purchased a veggie tray on a whim and put it out for them. They opened up the (not-so-appealing but at the time I didn’t care) dip that came along with it and put the tray on the table. I kid you not, I came back 10 minutes later and aside from the cherry tomatoes, it was empty. Raw broccoli, carrots and celery – I was shocked!
    I’ve wised up over the years and now make my own veggie trays and vary my veggies (and dips – see the next tip). Here’s the thing – if your kids are anything like mine, they are fearful that their sibling is going to get something they won’t or get more than them. So when I put the trays out, they all clamor to get as much as they can. I’m not sure who’s happier in the end – me or them.Get Your Kids To Eat Their Veggies on 100 Days of #RealFood
  2. Let them eat dip.
    Dipping vegetables can be fun and can also obviously make the taste that much better. Offer a variety so they feel they can choose; have a conversation about which they like best. Hummus is an obvious choice, and the varieties are plenty. How about one of our faves – simply mix honey and plain mustard for honey mustard. Or make your own ranch. Mix it up – and let them do the same. Try putting out a few dips for them to choose from. I know that my kids love having options. But beware the double-dipper:).
  3. Put out a salad bar.
    Another inspiration from grocery shopping with my kids. Week after week they wanted to make their own salad to take home like mommy (I let them). So why not create our own at home, I thought? I got some greens and asked them what toppings they’d like. Most everyone likes a salad bar for the simple reason that they can pick and choose – and so will your kids. Mine wanted peas, carrots and cucumbers. While they cut the carrots and cucumbers, I shredded some cheese, put out sunflower seeds, and crumbled some bacon. I can honestly say they are overjoyed when they see “salad bar” on the weekly menu. They’ll even take it for lunch (and make it themselves – BONUS!). Try it out – and be sure to ask ahead of time what your kids would like to see on your home-based salad bar.
  4. Grow a garden.
    Though I personally have not had experience with this one, I have friends who have had great success with getting their kids involved in eating the fruits of their labors. Again – ask them upfront which veggies they’d be interested in growing. If you have them help with the process, they’ll see the results that they’ve created – and hopefully enjoy them by eating them as well! While we haven’t grown a garden (yet), I’ve taken the kids strawberry, apple, etc. picking, and they always thoroughly enjoy the process and also eating the fruits that they bring home. Tip from Lisa: Start small by giving each child their very own pot to create a backyard (or balcony) container garden!
  5. Lead by example.
    This more applies to younger kids (not sure teens will jump on board here), but make sure that the ones that they look up to the most are also having their share of veggies and enjoying them, too. Hint-hint, that’s you.
  6. Vary your cooking methods.
    A while back, we did a post on roasting vegetables. My kids love almost anything roasted. Zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, kale chips … I could go on. Just because your little one doesn’t like something raw doesn’t mean she won’t like it steamed, or roasted, or served up in some other way. Try it. You may be surprised.
  7. Don’t give up.
    I know this sounds elementary, and I know you’ve heard it before. But just because they don’t like it the first time doesn’t mean they won’t like it the 10th time (it’s true!). It took me FOREVER to get my older two kids to eat sweet potatoes. Now they love them. They all ate the peppers pictured in the photo above. Only 2 of the 4 liked them, but they all tried a couple bites just to try them. A few years ago, that would have never happened. Don’t give up just because they don’t like it one, two or even three times. Change does happen.

I know that there are lots of other ways to get your kids to eat their veggies.  Please share your best advice in the comments below!

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  1. My boys (now 19 & 14) were extremely picky eaters. I kept at it and am now pleased with the amount of vegetables they will eat by choice. Their favorite was always broccoli, carrots and corn. I was content that I could get these into their diet. The turning point was when they learned to love home made soups. I have always told them if they didn’t want it to ” pick it out “. At some point the picking stopped and the eating began.

  2. Years ago a good friend suggested to me that ‘appetizers’ of vegetables with dip served about 15 minutes before a meal was a great way to get kids to eat their veg.
    Now, we start all our meals with a small tray of veggies or fruit about 1/2 hour before we eat. Even at breakfast, I put a small plate of cut up fruit on the table as soon as I make my coffee. I prep it the night before. Lunch is any leftover fruit plus veggies (if the kids are home) with dip and dinner is veggies and dip. They really don’t know any other way of eating than with a plate of ‘appetizers’ first, its just become a habit.
    The other thing I do is blanch veggies in boiling water for 1 min + – depending on the texture as soon as I get them home. Then I keep them refrigerated so I have a ready supply of broccoli, beans, even carrots. Blanching really enhances the flavor of these foods.

  3. I started my lil guy when he was young, knowing that the 10th time might be when he actually likes it. Now I have a 7 year old who devours his veggies on the plate before anything else. And when his friends come over he raves about how good veggies are. They eat up the plates of raw veggies I make for snacks.

  4. Every parent is familiar with trying to get dinner on the table while hungry kids hover around asking when it will be done. My husband came up with the trick of making sure the veggies are ready first. Anyone hovering is invited to sit down and start in on their veggies. They gobble them up and are kept busy until the main course is finished.

  5. Set it in front of them (and let them see you eat some.) When my kids were young. I would cut up produce an put it on the table. It’s amazing how often they would eat it and ask for more. If it’s sitting in the kitchen and I asked if they wanted it the answer was often no. Now my kids are big enough have been taught how to prepare food. I often find them adding produce to what they are making or as the main part of a meal or snack. Plus everyone at the family dinner needs to try every thing even if they know they don’t like it.

  6. My kids will eat ANYTHING will balsamic vinegar or homemade vinaigrette on it! Green beans, kale, spinach salad, you name it! They also love Japanese ginger dressing as a veggie dip, and I am planning to try the detoxinista’s fabulous vegan queso on broccoli and cauliflower! Yum! I think the kids will love it!

  7. I would make a tray with cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, cheese, cucumbers, broccoli, etc. and dip for my son when he was preschool and it extended into his lunch box later but with ham and crackers added. He ate it up!

  8. I like your ideas. While it’s okay to “sneak” veggies into dishes, I also agree we need to teach our kids to look, touch, and taste whole vegetables. I have some more great tips about how to get your kids to eat and actually like their veggies in my ebook, “Say Goodbye to Picky Eating, Your Guide to Preventing and Dealing with Picky Eaters” at http://www.healthykideats.com.

  9. I could not agree more that hiding vegetables in other foods is not the right way to get your kids to learn to make healthy food choices on their own! That being said, though, we do add veggies to certain things to up the veggie intake–like adding spinach or kale to smoothies–but my kids are fully aware that is happening. We also talk about “eating a rainbow” and making sure that the colors come from both fruit AND veggies is really important to have a good balanced diet. Eventually, hopefully, they’ll make the right choices on their own!

  10. One of my favorite ways is to chop and slice up a variety of different vegetables (and some fruit) and ask them to create a design or picture on a plate. The only rule I would give, is that they have to eat, or at least taste what they use. This could easily turn into wasted food (which is unacceptable to me), so this could be done ahead of any meal preparation, offering them chopped vegetables that you plan to use in your meal that day, ensuring that if it does not get eaten by them, it will get used in the meal you prepare later.

  11. We have grown cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and mild banana peppers in containers for years, and both of my children eat all of them like candy. Pride of ownership is huge for kids. Another tip is to try smaller versions of larger items, such as Persian cucumbers, baby corn, baby bananas, and champagne grapes. I also can’t agree more with your tip about roasting veggies. Years ago I read a comment from a chef on Alice Waters’ staff that the kids weren’t eating raw or steamed cauliflower, even when they grew it in the schoolyard garden. One day he started roasting it with olive oil and cumin, and they gobbled it up. So I tried it, and my kids now request it at least once a week. Maybe if I don’t give up, I’ll eventually get them to enjoy Brussels sprouts that way!

  12. Sometimes it seems that it is not the vegetable itself they object to but the form in which it is served :) My daughter wouldn’t eat sweet potato but turn it into chips and she would consume a whole sweet potato herself. Likewise mushrooms. She hates normal mushrooms but will eat oyster mushrooms sautéed in garlic and butter. Go figure. I don’t necessarily hide vegetables but rather cook meals that are far to difficult to pick all the bits out that she doesn’t like (although she tries). My attitude is “that is your dinner. Eat it or don’t. I don’t care. I’m not the one going to bed hungry.” As I have become less stressed about her eating she has become a far better eater.

  13. These are such great tips! Something that I know works is gardening with kids. They love to eat what they planted and watched grow. I blogged about making an awesome mason jar herb garden at http://www.cayisa.wordpress.com, check it out for some fun kids activities centered around learning gardens and sustainable farming!

  14. I have four boys ages 7 and under and I discovered the secret to getting them to eat their fruits and veggies (with the goal of every day eating one item from each color of the rainbow) was to unveil the “super powers” of each item to them. They’re all picky eaters to varying degrees, but they all agree on one thing – they love Super Heroes! So, I created different heroes (Captain Carrot, Brawny Broccoli, etc.) who explain to the kids the super powers that each color category represents. To get that super power in their own bodies they just need to eat that color of fruit/veggie. The kids loved it so much that I took it to our area elementary schools and introduced other kids to the idea. Parents can get free downloads of the Super Hero Fruits and Veggies on my blog http://www.junkfreejourney.com.

  15. I have been blessed with great eaters, but I have noticed the more they have a “say” in what we eat it the more it pays off! We are part of a CSA that is run like a farmers market. Each week both of my kids get to pick one of the vegetables for the week. Also, being a part of the CSA has helped me step out of my comfort zone as well.

  16. I have to give credit where credit is due for my above Blueberry Bliss smoothie. I adapted my smoothie recipe from this recipe.


    I bought my ingredients at Costco, except the orange juice came from Aldi.

    Also, you could certainly use less orange juice concentrate. I would have only used a spoonful or two if I was making the smoothie for myself.

  17. These are great tips! Another great way for everyone to get more veggies: Green Smoothies! And they don’t have to be green either. I am all for serving veggies outright AND sneaking them in whenever you can. I love The Sneaky Chef and have used her books for years. Here is the green smoothie I served my husband & 9 year old for breakfast. (neither of them are very big veggie easters). My 9 year old named it.

    Blueberry Bliss

    1 cup coconut water
    1 cup packed baby kale
    1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
    1 and 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
    1/2 cup frozen blueberries

    The smoothie turns out a beautiful dark reddish color – not green at all.

    I mixed this in my Blendtec, but if you don’t have a high powered blender you may need to first blend the greens with the liquid so you don’t have ANY green chunks. Also, you may need to half the recipe for a regular blender.

    1. Allyson, I use the “green” smoothies as well. I am always pleasantly surprised to see how much kale or spinach I can get in there and it still has a pink or purple color to it depending on fruits added. I also add to my smoothies any needed supplements that are in capsule form that can be opened and poured in (probiotics, turmeric, echinacea, etc). Sometimes my smoothies are “too green” for their taste, in which case I freeze the smoothie into ice pops, which they gobble down, though they had refused the exact concoction as a liquid smoothie the previous day.

  18. One of the best ways I have personally found to accomplish this is to have my kids involved in our vegetable gardening activities. Specifically, each one has their own 3′ x 3′ garden bed where they can grow anything they like, on one condition … they must eat what they grow.

  19. I’d try blindfolding them and making it a game. Taste the first veggie and talk about it. Is it sweet? Is it crunchy? Is it bitter? Can you tell the difference when you can’ tested one strip of bell paper is green, one is yellow and one is red? Ihow about a cooked versus an uncooked carrot? Does the taste change after it’ sheen steamed? How about broccoli vs. cauliflower vs. brocoflower? What properties does the latter get from each of the others? This could be a weekly activity over the summer…Blindfold Taste Test ir something.

  20. I would add #8 Avoid ordering off the kids menu or cooking kid friendly meals that offer the same minimal color foods, usually laden with more carb and fat content than nutrition. If we go out, I try to order either an adult entrée or veggie plate for my girls to share. There’s usually always at least one thing each I know they’ll eat and then the other two are experimental or newly eaten (liked squash casserole or spinach Maria – two things I know i love but that they wouldn’t typically give the first taste unless they’re hungry).

  21. Good article. I have four year old twins and had to do the “sneaking vegetables” into their food for a long time. One of my girls had a turnaround at about 2 and a half but the other held strong until 3 and a half and would only want to eat pasta, which i hid all sorts of blended up veg in but i got so fed up and upset, and it made mealtimes horrendous. She would literally push the plate away untouched if i tried to give her anything new. I found books for fussy eaters very unhelpful as they were more recipe based rather than how to encourage you child to even attempt new things. It wasn’t until i came across the book French Kids Eat Everything that was recommended on here that things began to change. It kind of took my fear away and gave me the power back and i started with very small changes so rather than giving her whole new meals i would serve her favourite pasta but with a little something new on the side and it was amazing. She would never even eat mashed potato before then and now you should see what she will eat. I do think it’s ok to sneak veg on occasion though so i will still blend certain vegetables they wouldn’t yet eat whole into a sauce and i make a green smoothie with apples,kiwi and spinach and then freeze it in lolly moulds although they drink it too and another one is soup, i can put anything in. I would recommend that book for anyone struggling, it was a complete turnaround for me and ultimately my daughter as this site has been.


  22. Someone else mentioned it above, but I would also add, let them see you eat your veggies!
    And let them shop with you. When my daughter was about 2, we were in a local farm market together. She kept grapping a red pepper and I kept putting it back. (I can’t eat them, so I wasn’t being very open-minded!) I finally relented and bought a pepper for her. She loved it and still does!
    As far as the don’t give up – seriously, don’t. I didn’t like beets until I was in my mid-20’s, and now in my mid 40’s I have finally learned to like radishes.

  23. With my lower-elementary-aged kids, what has worked is encouraging them to be “big kids”, as well as never forcing it. I always put a portion of everything on their plates, and then they can eat or not, but they can’t have seconds of anything until they finish everything they already have. The first portion is a little less than I know will fill them up, and often they will eat something they don’t love just to get more. Second servings are in the same proportions as the first – you don’t just get more mac & cheese, you get a little more of everything!

    If they really don’t like something, they are welcome to not eat it as long as they don’t talk about it (b/c once one complains, no one else finds it appetizing).

    If I know someone doesn’t like something, and they give me “the look”, I try to encourage them: “don’t worry, I know you don’t like it now, but I bet when you are 9 you will be big enough to like it. You just aren’t quite big enough yet.” They will often keep trying it just to see if they are “big enough”. :)

  24. I tell my kids (toddlers) that veggies make them fast. There is value in kids knowing that some foods are healthy and good for their bodies and that they help them grow strong and perform better.

  25. Diedre Birkmeyer

    I have tried all of these plus some. I sneak veggies into baked items and I tell them what is in it (black beans, spinach, pumpkin, etc. I roast veggies, have raw, steamed, with butter, etc, etc, etc!!! My 4 yo will not even attempt to taste new foods so I am stuck at this point. I have just stopped caring and just place the food in front and if he eats he eats.

  26. I agree with all of your tips above!
    I think two additional things have helped in our home.

    1. We model trying new foods and also model how we deal with things we like and things we “don’t care for right now.” We talk often about how dad likes x but mom doesn’t care for it. Or dad didn’t care for y in the past but now that mom fixes it a really yummy way, he does. Anytime a “non-preferred” food is served everyone tries a bite (adults too!) to see if maybe we like it this time. This isn’t a forced bite, just something we’ve incorporated into our routine, there’s no pressure it’s just on the plate.

    2. I don’t hide veggies but I openly mix them into “yummy” foods. My daughter will gladly load the blender full of spinach for a smoothie – but doesn’t care for it in other ways. We talk about how it’s not that she “doesn’t like” spinach, instead she prefers to eat hers in a smoothie.

    Although her tastes vary from day-to-day and week-to-week, overall my daughter is a great veggie eater and generally open to trying new things!

  27. At mealtime I serve veggies (and other challenging foods) first. Same for snacks, always veggies before any other snack. If he requests something else I’ll say finish your xyz first. If he won’t eat then I will save it for later when he gets really hungry. I also try to give at least two options & let him choose.

  28. I think #7 is the most important and I would add to it “and don’t get discouraged.” I find that a lot of this advice doesn’t really take into account that you can do ALL these things and still have kids that most of the time refuse to eat veggies. With my 4 (all under 6) they mostly refuse veggies but for each kid, there is usually one or a few that they like – of course, not all the same things!

    After being at this with little success for about 4 years (that’s when my oldest two started being picky) I have noticed small changes. The 5 year olds are finally willing to try new things. I try not to get discouraged when they try but don’t like them. My persistence is also paying off in that with all my attempts, I have found ways to prepare veggies that they do like. We’ve found some salad dressings that most of them like and soups have been a big hit, too. Dipping is getting there – my 3 year old still mostly uses the carrot as a vehicle for licking off the dip. Oh well – I will keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Oh, Nicole – you are busy! And I’m sure you get that comment all the time:).

      All kidding aside, good for you for keeping at it with your kids and their veggies. It sounds like your work is paying off! And I giggled at your comment about licking off the dip – we have definitely been there and done that also.

  29. My kids nor my husband will touch vegetables. I have 3 kids aged 8, 4 and 1. My one year old is a lot better about eating veggies but the older two not a chance. The older two will eat carrots and that is it. I have tried shaping the veggie into cute shapes, I have done the garden thing, I have had them with me in the grocery store to see if I could get them to pick out something they would like to try and it was literally a melt down in the grocery store. I keep offering it to them and every single time a vegetable is served they cry and when it hits their tongue they gag. I am so frustrated in the veggie department that I have given up and I know that is not the thing to do but I am lost. I now make smoothies and load them up with Spinach. I am open to any and all suggestions. I would love it if by the end of summer they all will at least eat 3 vegetables in their natural form and not in a smoothie. Please help!! :) Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      For the gagging you may want to check with their doctor (or ask for an OT or ST to evaluate them) if your kids have some sensory issues and may need to see a speech therapist or occupational therapist who deals with feeding therapy. My oldest son has issues accepting any food (not just vegetables) with texture so everything has to be pureed for him. We’re finally making progress to get him to accept and swallow a few bites a day with texture (he’s 9) but it’s been a long, long “battle”.

      My daughter (she’s 5) always saw her brother’s “special” meals and so she decided what she would and wouldn’t eat and like a fool I accepted because I didn’t want to be “unfair” to her since her brother did get special meals. So of course the first thing she ruled out were vegetables! Little by little I started to hide them in food she liked. For instance when I would make spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce I would cook up a bunch of vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, celery, etc.) and then mix with an immersion blender with the tomato sauce before adding the ground beef, etc. As she got used to the flavor I would make the sauce chunckier and chunkier and now I make the same vegetable laden sauce and don’t even blend it any more for her. I also make a lot of soups in winter with this method but she doesn’t always accept them yet. The items she has accepted I tell her what vegetables are in it to prove that she does like the various vegetables, but it’s still hard to get her to eat vegetables on their own. Although she does like carrot sticks (but hates dip).

      I hope you find a solution for your kids, nothing worse than making them gag at mealtimes, I’ve been through it for years and it breaks my heart because you never know if they’re doing it on purpose or not. Good luck, Monica

    2. Girl, I so hear you! Stick with it. After 10 years my oldest is finally caving. Keep offering and telling them that their taste buds change over time (true) and it might pay off!

  30. I’ve been lucky with both kids eating vegetables. My youngest is now seven and at school, but the other day the lady serving me at the checkout of my supermarket asked if he still eats capsicums like an apple (like your youngest does with tomatoes). I used to give him one as we walked around the supermarket and he’d eat it all. (I’d get the server to weigh one of my capsicums twice so I’d pay for the one he’d eaten.)

    I think my best tip is to give them a vegetable platter when they are hungry, just before dinner is served. If they have a plate full of the main meal they can choose not to eat the vegetables, but if the veges are all that is available right now they will eat them.

    1. Mine wouldn’t (with the veggie tray) but its still a great idea. I think it might work after a few months or years of trying it regularly if you have really picky kids.

  31. It took me a very long time to like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, green beans, ect) because they have a chemical in them that tastes bitter to some people but not to others. I am one of the unfortunate ones who can defiantly taste it. I second trying cooking your vegetables, especially roasting. Raw broccoli is TERRIBLE and I will not eat it in any form no matter what the dip is. Roast it for a few minutes and it is like magic. If you cook things properly (not too much) they can actually become more nutritious than raw, sometimes.

  32. I find that having them grocery shop with you and help choose the produce … especially if you can go to a farmers market … and getting them excited about helping you in the kitchen (whatever is age-appropriate) … chopping, stirring, sauteing, etc. … are great ways to create “buy-in” and a deeper interest in healthy foods.

  33. I’m not for hiding the vegetables as well…at least not exactly. I hide them or disguise them as much as possible the first time. For example, the first time I made spaghetti with zucchini in it, I sliced the zucchini in strips like the spaghetti and I wasn’t so heavy-handed with the quantity. The next time I made it, I did the same thing but put more. If any of the kids said anything about not liking the green stuff, I answer “you ate it last time and loved it”. This usually results in confused looks back at me because they do remember eating the dish before and telling me they liked it. Eventually I start slicing them in circles and use normal portion sizes and by then they don’t know what hit them. This worked when I did sweet potatoes as well. They wouldn’t touch the large slices my MIL made initially. I made them into crispy thin french fries at first and gradually made them thicker until low and behold, they were eating them in large slices (less oiled) just like my MIL makes them.

  34. The salad bar idea is a great idea and I also love dips. I don’t have kids yet but I have friends with kids. One of them likes to make veggies look “fun” but arranging them on colorful platters or arranging them in way that makes them look like a cute animal or such. I know it takes extra work but it works for her kids!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      SO true. Kids love fun-looking foods! If they are old enough to get involved in the process, it’s a win-win:).

  35. I think all of your advice is good. When my oldest was 3 I set up a reward system for eating vegetables. I’m sure this technique has plenty of nay sayers, but it totally worked for her. She had hit the independent, I’m-not-going-to-eat-what-you-want-me-to-and-every-veggie-is-yucky stage and stopped eating almost every vegetable she’d liked up until about 2 1/2. The sticker reward system totally turned her eating around and got her tasting and liking more vegetables than she had before. And now at 5 1/2 she eats them, no sticker needed. :)