Written by Kiran Dodeja Smith of 100 Days of Real Food
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:
- 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.
- 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:).
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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