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October 12, 2012 • Kids Health

Getting Kids to Eat Veggies

As a mother of 4, I know that getting kids to eat their veggies can be a challenge. Here are some tips that have proved effective in my household.

Go Stealth.

  • Shred veggies (or buy them already shredded) carrots, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, etc. and add to meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, and baked goods like muffins
  • Add canned pumpkin or canned sweet potato puree (both high in fiber and loaded with vitamin A and other carotenoids) to soups, baked goods and pancakes.  I always add canned pumpkin to my corn bread! Sweet potato puree is yummy blended with plain or vanilla yogurt.
  • Add finely shredded kale or spinach to soups and stews.
  • Make “mock-mashed” potatoes from cooked cauliflower.

Go kid-friendly.

  • Kids find “finger foods” more fun and are especially fond of “dipping.”  Serve baby carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, along with a “healthy dip” like hummus, yogurt-based or other low-fat dressings.

Take advantage of hunger.

  • Prior to dinner, serve an appetizer of colorful veggies (carrots, cucumbers, red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, etc.) with a healthy dip (hummus, mustard, low-fat dressing).  Children are typically hungry prior to dinner and are more apt to consume veggies in this context.  Additionally, color and variety stimulate eating behaviors which further leverage this useful nutritional strategy.

Involve your child in the selection and preparation of vegetable dishes.  Studies show that children are more apt to eat and enjoy food they have experienced with all of their senses.

Exploit their inherent sweet tooth. Offer the sweeter varieties – baby peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, red/yellow bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

Leverage the power of praise. Be relentless in exalting the goodness in fruits and veggies. Talk about them as foods with “magical” power to keep your child healthy and feeling great. Kids are impressionable and respond more effectively to positive and exuberant language.

For more on healthy eating and choosing the right foods for your family, check out my Healthy Grocery List.