Author – Carrie M. Durward PhD, RD
As a registered dietitian, one of the most common questions I get from parents is how to get their child to eat vegetables. Luckily for me, nutrition research has given us a lot of great information about how to do this.
First and most important: if you want your child to like and eat vegetables, offer them early and often! Feed your child a variety of fruit and vegetable purees as soon as you introduce solid food (5 to 7 months). This is a time period when children are more open to trying new foods, so it is a great time to have them learn the flavors of many different vegetables.
However, if you missed this window, it isn’t too late! We like and eat the foods we are familiar with. The best way to get your children to like vegetables is to keep offering them. In one study, children had to taste a new vegetable up to 15 times before it was accepted.
It is normal for young children to be wary of new foods. If your child rejects a new vegetable or refuses to try it, don’t give up! Just try again another day.
Try to avoid showing a negative reaction like frustration if you child refuses vegetables. Never pressure your children to finish food or force them to clean their plate. Encourage them to try a bite, but don’t force it!
Instead, try one of these 10 positive ways to help your child try new vegetables.
Top 10 Ways to Help your Child Eat More Vegetables
- Be a good example. Keep vegetables in the house, serve them at every meal and let your child see you eating and enjoying them.
- Offer vegetables first, when children are hungry. Try vegetables as an after school snack or have a salad or soup at the beginning of dinner.
- Take your child shopping and let him or her pick out the vegetables, or let your child choose between two different vegetables to have with dinner.
- Get your children involved in the cooking. If children help prepare a vegetable, they will be more likely to try it.
- Grow a vegetable garden or visit a farmers market or local farm. These can be fun ways to help your child explore new foods.
- Make eating vegetables fun by playing with your food. Try ants on a log, rainbow salad or pizza faces.
- Try preparing vegetables in different ways: raw, steamed, roasted, etc. The flavor and texture can be very different, depending on how you cook them. If your child doesn’t like vegetables one way, he or she might like them another way!
- Try a small reward, like a sticker or praise to help convince your child to taste vegetables. Don’t use food as a reward or punishment.
- Use marketing in your favor. Put stickers of your child’s favorite book or TV characters on containers of vegetables to encourage intake.
- Offer vegetables with a low-calorie dip, or use a small amount of sugar when cooking to help your child be more willing to taste and eat vegetables. This will help your children become more familiar with the taste of vegetables, and they will learn to like the flavor more, even without the dip or sugar!
Carrie Durward PhD, RD is an Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Extension Nutrition Specialist at Utah State University. Carrie is a Registered Dietitian and holds her doctorate in Nutritional Sciences from the Pennsylvania State University and her Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition from Arizona State University. Carrie has expertise in obesity and health, weight loss, and nutrition behavior change. Her research interests include promotion of vegetable intake and weight bias prevention. When she isn’t working, Carrie loves to garden, spend time outdoors, and cook and eat delicious food.