Most ploys for getting kids to eat vegetables just create lifelong negative attitudes about veggies. And bribery to eat their vegetables is even worse! That tells a child that vegetables must be truly awful, if such measures are necessary. Here are some simple and positive steps you can take to increase the chances your children or grandchildren will like at least some vegetables:
1. Get kids cooking! Children who help cook healthy meals are likelier to eat them. Get kids tearing up lettuce or spinach for a salad. Help them bake a sweet potato in the oven (45 minutes at 450°F) or microwave (several minutes). Or steam chopped carrots, broccoli, or green beans.
2. Serve fresh vegetables whenever possible, with frozen as your backup. Fresh (and some frozen) vegetables taste much better than canned ones, look prettier, and have better texture. Would you want to eat mushy, gray lumps that taste like metal?
3. Take your children grocery shopping and let them pick whichever fresh vegetables interest them. That gives your children some ownership in the vegetables, making them more likely to eat it.
4. Serve vegetables (including green salads) as a first course. Children are hungriest at the beginning of the meal. If you serve all the meal together, your child may fill up on other foods before getting to the vegetables.
5. Cook vegetables lightly. The best methods are blanching, steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying. All these methods preserve both nutrients and taste.
6. Perk up vegetables with seasonings other than salt, butter, or cheese. Experiment a little – a wide range of spices and juices can add some flavor and zest to veggies. For example, try lemon juice, pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg, basil, curry, oregano, or garlic on cooked broccoli. With steamed carrots, try parsley, cinnamon, lemon juice, allspice, nutmeg, mint, caraway seeds, dill seeds, ginger, mace, thyme, marjoram, honey, or pepper.
7. Make a colorful plate. Be creative in presenting vegetables – naturally vibrant colors will grab a child’s eye. For example, add bits of sweet red pepper to green beans or broccoli to spark your child’s interest.
8. Serve lots of raw vegetables. Don’t ask kids if they want a vegetable plate, just put out a platter. Include such things as carrot and celery sticks with a low-fat dip or dressing. Some kids who hate cooked carrots, for example, will gobble them down raw. For children under age 4, cut raw veggies into small pieces to avoid choking hazards.
9. Gardening is fun! Like cooking, it’s fun to plants vegetables in a backyard garden or large pot and then watch them grow. Most kids enjoy gardening, harvesting…and eating.
Originally published on August 19, 2013.