21 answers

How Do You Get the Kids to Eat Vegtables?

I am raising 7 grandchildren. Three of the seven are great eaters and the other four are very picky. I need some ideas or some cookbooks on how to hide or get the kids to eat vegtables. The 6 year old girl loves mac and cheese and hot dogs and turns her nose up to most everything else. The 9 year old girl will eat most of what I cook but very little vegtables. The 2 year old boy will eat meat and pasta and potatoes. He will spit out the veggies. One of the 11 year olds doesn't want to eat anything, it is a fight to get him to eat. I fixed fried rice with chicken and had celery, onions, carrots and bell peppers in it. I got the 3 younger ones to take a bite and that's about it. The 3 older boys, 11, 13 and 16 will eat just about anything. I try to fix a meat, potatoe or pasta and vegtable for each meal. I try to serve a salad a couple of times a week and we have canned fruit or fresh fruit quite a bit. They are very picky on the fruit also. Does any one have any ideas about getting them to eat veggies. Thanks for your input.

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So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the good ideas. I tried letting each child be in charge of the supper veggie, they get to pick, the only catch is that have to eat the veggie. So far it has worked, I actually got two of them to eat a veggie. However, they don't eat the veggie if they didn't pick it, still working on that. I think I will get a couple of the cookbooks and hide the veggies, but I do prefer that they know what they are eating. It's still a work in progress. Thanks again.

Featured Answers

Try the new V-8 Fusion (not Splash) with fruits and vegetables mixed.It taste mostly fruit.My son hates vegetables, but he loves to drink this.There are about 6 flavors.

D.

More Answers

Going through the same thing. First of all, I don't make her eat anything she doesn't like. I ask she tries it, and if she doesn't like it, don't eat it. But I keep putting it on her plate. I bought Jessica Seinfields book about hiding vegtables in food. It really does work like a charm, especially the desserts. Akins has some chocolate mix that is a full serving of veggies and fruits to add to milk. My duaghter hates it, but yours might like it. But really, as long as I don't push and keep putting it on her plate, Audrey is starting to eat her vegtables. Sometime they just like to be in control. Until they do get the hang of it, cut down on regular snacks. It worked for me. If she's really hungry, she eats that carrot.

Try the new V-8 Fusion (not Splash) with fruits and vegetables mixed.It taste mostly fruit.My son hates vegetables, but he loves to drink this.There are about 6 flavors.

D.

We try to make veggies fun. When they were really young - monkey see monkey do - we would serve cut green beans from the can. They are about an inch or two long. Instead of eating them properly, we would suck them in like spaghetti. The sillier, the better. The kids thought this was so fun, they never considered not eating it. One of their favorites is Edamame (soybean pods you can buy in a bag at Wal-Mart). You're only supposed to eat the bean, not the pod so it's fun to squeeze them and pop out the bean. (A few might accidentally get aimed at someone...) They taste really good, too. Kinda like a cross between peanuts and veggies.

My daughter dips her broccoli in ketchup. That's two veggies, right?

I also agree with making sure they are very hungry. It really helps a picky eater to be hungry, I think. No junky snacks, etc.

I read a great article on this once. I KNEW I wanted to xerox it but it was at the dentist's office....

But first, some recipe websites that I like:

http://www.vegcooking.com/searchRecipes.asp
http://vegweb.com/index.php?action=recipecategories
http://www.vegan-food.net/category/vegetables/
http://www.veganvillage.co.uk/recipes/index.htm

Anyway, in short, never put the veggies on the side of the plate. People subconsciously undermine their own efforts in teaching kids to appreciate veggies by making meaty dish the main attraction. Will spend most time on the meaty dish, dress up, etc., and then even put it in the center of the plate! <Laughing>. We are a riot, aren't we?? Then, we say "You can eat X if you eat Y first." This reinforces to a kid that X is the obligatory food while Y is the fun food!

Put it in your mindset that vegetables are delicious and marvelous, and this mindset will come across in your cooking. And your grandchildren will pick up on it, too.

Because you have a few kids in this mix who are really opposed to eating anything other than meat, potatoes and mac n cheese, you might want to consider just not bringing these items into the house. But instead of leaving them only with the same old veggies that they hated before, definitely offer new recipes that you think they might like. Tell them you are all in a new adventure together. It also helps to include them in the food prep, and in choosing some things (but you provide the list of available options!).

Stir fries are really good. Lots of veggies with some kind of sauce - I bet the Veri Veri Teriyaki by Soy Vey would be a popular one! (you can find it at Wal-Mart) - on top of brown rice (add a little extra water, overcook it a little, and add a little olive oil toward the end and they'll like it just as much as white rice) or quinoa (much quicker cooking time). Add some boulion to your grain of choice to make it more appealing. You can add tofu to the stir fry for protein. But before you add it, marinate it in a little soy sauce, or the teriyaki sauce, for about 10 minutes.

Soups are great, especially blended ones, because they can't pick anything out of them. And they're pretty easy to make them delicious. Here's one that I love to no end:

http://www.edenfoods.com/recipes/view.php?recipes_id=652 - but it's much easier than this. Just cook the fresh vegetables, add spices, and keep them cooking till tender, then add the canned tomatoes, and then, after it has had a minute to cool, I add the water or broth, then the soy milk and whatever else is left. Now, it is cool enough that you can blend right away. Then, I add frozen corn, preferably sweet white corn. It's an awesome addition, I've found. You're done with this amazing soup in about 15 minutes!

It's also really good that you are cooking them fresh vegetables. Try to also offer fresh fruits instead of canned. You might have to cut up the fruits and otherwise prepare them, since doing the legwork might be enough to discourage hungry snackers.

One big thing that really stood out from that article was: Don't Be a Short-order Cook. Don't cook them particular foods that you know they hate (like eggplant or whatever). But if they say, "I don't want this, I want X," don't get up and fix X for 'em.

Good luck! Hope this helps.

L.

One thing I do that at least gets the veggies in them is adding V-8 to things like spagetti sauce (I also put diced carrots in and they never know) or soups, also I've heard you can cut cauliflower up really small and add it to mac & cheese and they will never know the difference, I've not tried that one. Also, this may sound strange, but my kids (ages 2 and 4) love to eat fruit and veggies with a toothpick and will eat twice as many if they get to do it that way. Don't fight over eating, it's one of those things you can't force them to do, if they dont want what you've fixed for them they dont eat-my 4 year old understands that-and if she doesn't eat her dinner she doesn't get anything else until breakfast (she loves to have a snack before bed.) I also always put some of everything that I've made on their plate even if they have never eaten it before and I'm almost sure they wont eat it this time either-it goes on their plate. Sometimes you gotta be tough! God Bless!

Hi C.!!

WOW, you have a challenge on your hands!!! Have you heard about the cook book "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld? that may be a great investment for you because she hid veggies inside mac and cheese and even chicken nuggets and brownies. I saw it at Marshall's the other day for $5.99 so it may be worth that to look into it. That way you dont have to "tell" them to eat their veggies--it is already in there. they wont be none the wiser :)

when I make Mac and cheese I add peas. that may help with the little girl. Also if any of them are "dippers" letting them dip them into things...even yogurt or ketchup...may help. I know a lady who lets her son use ketchup on salad becuase it gets him to eat it and he dips carrots and stuff into it. Maybe a couple times start with the veggies, and don't let them have anything else until the amout you desired them to eat is gone...no they won't starve for that one meal...and eventually they will see that it's a requirement, not an option.

My aunt got me a book for Christmas called "Deliciosly Deceptive", I can't remember who it is by. It is a cookbook for parent of picky eaters, and tells how to sneak foods in!! It is wonderful and has TONS of menus, for everyday stuff that kids like, too. You can probably find it at Barnes and Noble or Hastings, probably any major bookstore! Good luck!

Hi C.,
God Bless you for raising your grandchildren! I have a very picky eater in my house as well. His older and younger brother will eat so many more things than he will. I have had great sucess with hiding pureed veggies in things. Mac and Cheese is a favorite. First, I buy either whole grain or organic to start and add pureed cauliflower, carrots, red peppers or white beans. We only have this a couple of times a month, when I really don't want to fight over dinner. I highly reccomend the Sneaky Chef. It will give you a jumping off point. Cauliflower mixes into lots of things without being detected. I was surprized because it is such a strong flavor. but my picky one has never guessed it's in there, even in a peanut butter sandwich! I also serve V-8 Fusion which is 100% fruit and veggie juice. V-8 Splash has high fructose corn syrup. I also buy 100% fruit snacks at Target, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods for snacks. They have a serving of fruit in each one.
I agree in theory that kids will eat what's in front of them, they will model you and they will eat when they are hungry. But I am a vegetarian who eats tons of fruit and veggis in front of my kids. I have tried so many different methods and still haven't figured out how to get him to willingly eat many veggies. He will be 6 next week. I offer veggies at every meal, but I sneak them in where I can too. All is fair in love and food! Good luck.
D.

Go to your book store and ask for the cook book by Jessica Seinfield. I know several people who have used this to get picky children to eat veggies because you hide them within the meal. They all say it's a little more prep time, but well worth it in the end.
J.

C.,

I am a firm believer that kids will eat what's in front of them when they get hungry. So, the trick is to make sure they are hungry when the healthy food comes out. That means eliminating or limiting access to the "junk" foods that they love- whether that be mac and cheese or chips or sweets. I think it's important to serve items that they like, but it's also important to train them to like the veggies, not to hide them under sauces or in recipes where they are unrecognizable. We put a healthy, balanced meal on our kids' plates and if they don't finish, that's fine. But, they may not have anything else until the next meal - when they will once again receive a healthy balanced meal (including vegetables or fruit). We don't allow "seconds" of any item until everything on the plate is gone. And - if we have something new - every kid is required to try a couple of bites. As a result, we have 3 very good eaters. My daughter's favorite part of the meal is salad (with spinach, mixed greens, cucumbers, etc)! They love broccoli and green beans. And they eat all kinds of fresh fruit: from kiwi to star fruit. Give them lots of options and they will eventually find things that they like. In the meantime, don't give in to the whining that is sure to arise! You're preparing them to be healthy adults when they don't have you around to make choices for them.

C.,

I read ahead and much of what I was going to say has already been mentioned but I'll say it too. I have the cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld and have used it extensively. But long before her book, and several others like it, came out I was pureeing things like tomatoes, bell peppers and onions to put in chili, pureeing beans for soup, and making all sorts of shakes. My children are served the main items for their meals and it's up to them to eat it. If they choose not to then they go hungry until the next meal. At the next meal, whether it be lunch, breakfast or dinner, they get the food they refused to eat the last meal. In my opinion, it's extremely rude to not eat what's given to you and does not produce a sense of gratitude in children. After all, there are children to our south who eat what comes out of the backs of garbage trucks and are thankful for those little scraps. I know this sounds hard but that's the way we do it. And so far, the children have learned to eat just about everything. There are times I can tell they are just gagging to swallow something but they do it.

Stick with your guns. If you cook it and put it on the table they should eat it with a smile and a thank you. If they are served hot dogs and mac 'n' cheese twice a day they will develop a taste for that (no nutition whatsoever) and one day be obese and have high blood pressure. It's better to wean them off of that stuff now.

K.

C., i have a grandson that's so very picky, sometimes i wonder how he survives but appears to be growing at a normal rate. I dont' know if my daughter-in-law has just come up with things on her own or if she has some source but she was telling me the other day that she fixed scrambled eggs for him for breakfast and instead of milk in them she used pureed cauliflower and he loved them. I think you have to take the things that they like and add pureed stuff to them instead of milk or butter. Most kids if it looks the same and tastes pretty close to the same they will eat those things that they have decided that they like...maybe add something to the potatoes....make a smoothie with fruit and yogart so it's a "shake" for a treat....i think you just have to get very creative. My boys wouldn't eat celery or onions, etc. i would chop them up so tiny that they couldn't see them. FOr those things, you might try grating them, then they cook to almost nothing but you still have the food value and the flavor. Get creative Grandma....try till it works. Good Luck. R.

Looks like you've gotten some good advice. While my daughter likes most veggies (her favorites are raw broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and bell pepper, she does like cooked squash, green beans, black-eye peas, green peas, cooked broccoli and cole slaw too) there are some things she doesn't care for...I always put about a tablespoon of that item on the plate and if she doesn't it but wants more of something else, she has to eat it first...also if she doesn't it and says she's full, then before she can have a snack later she must eat what she left on her plate....I think both of these things were said by others.

When I make Mac and cheese I put ham and a small can of carrots and peas in mine...makes a complete meal that way and since it's all covered in cheese they are more likely to eat it. I also use brocolli rice casserole and mix in tiny bits of brocolli into mac and cheese sometimes (these are tricks we use with my brothers ever-so-picky children).

I agree that if children are hungry enough they will eat what is in front of them. I allow my girls to choose one meal that I make (one chose chili, one chose hot dogs) that they don't like. When I cook that one meal, they get to have something else, but they have to make it (they will usually have ramen noodles or cereal). I also make them put everything we are having on their plates. I don't allow them to load up their plate with alot of the things they like, in other words, if we are having grilled chicken, mac & cheese and a vegetable, they get a piece of chicken a little mac & cheese and a little vegetables. They will always want more mac & cheese, however, they are not allowed anymore of anything else until their plate is entirely clean. At first I didn't make them eat a lot of the vegetables but I limited how much of the stuff they liked they could put on their plate the first go around so that hopefully they would want more of what they liked and would eat their vegetables to get it. If this works, they will acquire a taste for vegetables and you won't have a problem anymore. My girls are now 21, 17 and 15 and they will eat just about anything...and they love their vegetables!

Good Luck!

Will they drink juice?
Fruit juice has all the same nutrients as fresh fruit - just make sure you read the label and get 100% juice - a lot of juices have high fructose corn syrup added to them. Simply Orange and Simply Apple are the favorite juices around our house.

V-8 makes a line of juices called V-8 Splash - they're a combination of fruit and vegetable juices, and my daughter's ex, who doesn't like very many vegetables, loves it.

If they like mash potatoes, this will be a hit. Instead of mashed potatoes, we make mashed cauliflower, make it just as you would mashed potaotoes, I steam the cauliflower and then mash it or put it in the blender.

The Sneaky Chef by Missy Lapine. I highly recommend this one over Jessica Senfield's Deceptively Delicious. It has different purees you can make and freeze that you slip into recipes like spaghetti, meatballs, chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, and mac n cheese. It also has muffin and dessert recipes. I use it for my 4 and 19 month old and they never know the difference. I keep trying to give them veggies though. One day it will click.

with the older ones, i would talk to them about nutrition, not at a meal time, and then tell them that not eating is not an option. make a three bite rule, and refuse to make them their own seperate meal. tell them that when they are adults, if they eat like that, not only will they be unhealthy, but they will be embarrassed when they start to date and work (my husband sure was!)

with our younger kids, we tell them that their mouth is growing up, like the rest of them is, and that they need to try a bite of everything, to see if "their mouth has grown up enough for broccoli--or whatever-- yet" my kids both love the idea that their mouth is growing up, and find that they like more than they thought. also, i would stop serving any of the 'favorite' type foods, like hot dogs, ck nuggets etc, so that their only option is to eat the healthy things.

we make faces with our salads, too. spinach bunny ears, tomato eyes, carrot wiskers, cucumber cheeks, and a ranch dressing smile. they kids love to eat their bunnies!

This is a tough one because I can't get my 6 year old daughter to eat anything I fix (hardly). She doesn't like many vegetables either. I bought the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook on how to sneak veggies and fruits into food you make by grinding them up with a food processor. I haven't even had a chance to look at it yet. I found it at a TJMaxx for only about $6. I have heard that it's great! You could try it. Good luck.

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