How to get kids to eat vegetables

Is your little one a classic vegetable-hater? Then try these easy, crafty ways to slip a few more nutrient-rich you-know-whats into her diet. And remember to consistently offer vegetables every day, even if she doesn't eat them. You'll be surprised one day when she decides to take a bite!

1. Be a good role model

Children have their parents as primary role models and often like to copy what they see. If your child sees you regularly eating vegetables she will be more eager to try them herself.

2. Vary types and textures

Serve those veggies any way you can — tinned, fresh or frozen. Each type has a different taste and texture, so while one child will eat only tinned green beans, another child will prefer freshly steamed ones. Nutritionally, they are all fairly equal, with the exception of tinned vegetables containing a lot of salt. Just rinse them if you're concerned about that. But remember the focus is on eating the vegetables, not worrying about salt. If your son loves the texture of mashed potatoes, see if he'll eat other vegetables that have been mashed or puréed.

3. Add toppers and dips

If having a cheese or butter sauce or houmous makes all the difference between eating vegetables or not, then let your child sauce and dip away! Sometimes just drizzling melted cheese on broccoli or cauliflower will make that vegetable acceptable. Offer a baked potato and encourage your child to put a few tablespoons of vegetables on it before topping it with cheese sauce or sour cream. Kids love to dip their food, so encourage eating raw vegetables, like colourful red pepper strips, with a favourite dip or sauce. Use caution with children under 2, as raw vegetables can be a choking hazard.

4. Pile it on pizza

Try any vegetable that will work on this all-time child favourite food. Add chopped tomatoes to the pizza sauce. Sprinkle on shredded courgette, tinned or fresh mushrooms, chopped onion, or red/green pepper rings. Some kids will even enjoy broccoli 'trees' on their pizza. If your child really loves cheese, make sure you add plenty of it along with these extra vegetables.

5. Whip up an omelette

Sauté some spinach, mushrooms, pepper and onion and add them to the omelette before folding. Don't forget to throw in lots of child-friendly cheese.

6. Mix up some coleslaw

Maybe your toddler would welcome the crunch and colour of coleslaw. Make your own with pre-packaged coleslaw mix (or get out the grater and a head of cabbage) and add low-fat dressing. Boost the colour and nutrients in the coleslaw by adding a few more shredded carrots. Try serving broccoli-slaw, too. If she already likes regular coleslaw, she may really enjoy this 'bright green crunchy coleslaw'. It's a great way to get more nutrient-rich broccoli into her diet.

7. Slather on spaghetti sauce

Spaghetti sauce and all tinned tomato products count as vegetable servings. So have spaghetti often, if tomatoes are one of the only vegetables he'll eat. You could shred some courgette or carrot into the spaghetti sauce, but be careful with this concept – it often backfires. Keep the salt and spice levels low. Whenever you serve bread sticks, set out a bowl of spaghetti sauce. He'll love dipping the bread sticks in this vitamin- and mineral-rich sauce!

8. Doctor the soups

A child who refuses a plain serving of carrots or corn may eat vegetable soup. If that's the case, then add a few extra tinned or frozen vegetables to the soup when heating.

9. Go liquid

Tomato juice and vegetable juice count as vegetable servings. And they're both packed with valuable vitamins and minerals.

10. Serve more fruit

If nothing works in the vegetable category, don't give up! Just serve more fruit. Fruits have many of the same crucial nutrients that vegetables do, like vitamins A and C and fibre. Doubling up on fruits will ensure that your toddler or pre-schooler gets all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

At the end of the day, with a happy, healthy and thriving child who won’t eat vegetables, you probably don’t have much to worry about. He’ll eventually learn to eat them.

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