Having a picky eater is a challenge many parents face, including me. You can only make pasta, pizza, or chicken nuggets every night. The USDA recommends that children under the age of 13 years old eat around 1 to 2.5 cups of vegetables each day, but let’s be honest. Sometimes, it’s impossible to make your child even look at a green bean let alone eat one.
That’s why you may have to get sneaky and find ways to get your child to eat more veggies. Before you start any sneaky methods, I have to tell you a secret.
You have to set the example and show your child the eating behavior you desire for them.
Yes, I’m serious. You can’t expect your child to eat vegetables and good, whole-some food if you don’t. Kids are our mirrors and reflect our actions back to us, including our eating patterns. If you chug soda, eat potato chips all day and never touch a vegetable, your kids won’t either.
So, all of these tips assume that you set the example.
14 Sneaky Ways to Get Your Child to Eat More Veggies
Let Them Cook
Children are typically more interested in meals if they helped prepare them. Take your child to the store or farmer’s market to pick out the things you want to make for dinner that way. Then, when you get home, let your child help you cook. Teach him how to steam vegetables, how to make stir-fry dishes, and more.
Grow Your Food
One of my best tools to get my kids to eat veggies by growing them. We have a large garden, and we grow many veggies. My kids are actively involved with every step from starting seedlings to planting in the garden and harvesting. Toddlers run outside and eat peas off the vine. They help harvest, wash, and prepare the vegetables for dinner. My kids are much more likely to try a veggie that they grew.
Ketchup, ranch, or cheese sauce are condiments that millions of kids love. Depending on the dish, he might like a Chinese dipping sauce as well. If you’re worried about sugar, you can find sugar-free choices, and it’s not a bad deal if you get your child to eat more veggies. Plus, ketchup is made with tomatoes, so you can count that as winning.
Try Vegetable Straws and Puffs
Nowadays, companies are making everything from vegetables including vegetable straw chips and veggie puffs. The veggie puffs look just like tater tots but they’re made with other vegetables besides potatoes, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and spinach. Don’t forget to dip them in ketchup for even more veggie consumptions.
One of my favorite places to hide vegetables is in tomato sauce. Tomato is such a strong flavor, and it’s able to hide the taste of other things without changing the taste. I’ve added onions, garlic, green bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, and even a bit of squash. Don’t use too much squash of you will change the texture.
When I’m making my tomato sauce, I don’t add all of these things. My typical recipe uses onions, garlic, and green bell peppers. I might add in a cup of carrots and some diced up zucchini to increase the veggie count. The best part is my kids have no idea, so long as they don’t watch me cook. Don’t make that same mistake!
Bird’s Eye sells a variety of prepared, frozen kinds of pasta with veggies such as spinach, peas, lentils, and other choices. All you have to do is put them in the microwave and they come out ready to eat. If you have a picky child, you can make these on the side and hope they try one of the other dishes for dinner. If he doesn’t, then you know he at least ate some vegetables.
Veggie Dry Pasta
Kids love pasta, and you can buy dry pastas that are made of vegetable medleys. One of my favorite picks is a dry pasta made from spinach, and the kids have no clue, especially if you make a red sauce. The color of the pasta is covered by the sauce, and the kids have no clue they’re eating a veggie dry pasta.
Try a Veggie Dip
If you want your child to eat raw veggies, always serve them with a dip. My daughter was hesitant to eat raw broccoli with her lunch until I offered a ranch dip with them. Now, she asks for broccoli and ranch dip because it’s delicious. You can look up different veggie dip recipes to see what you like the most.
So technically, most chips are made from potatoes or corn, so they’re “vegetable chips,” right? Not really, but there are new veggie chips on the market made from sweet potatoes, beets, and other picks. Vegetable chips often have sea salt, salt and vinegar, or a barbeque flavored coated over the top. What a perfect snack to go along with a sandwich or a treat for a park trip.
Offer Different Food Colors
We eat with our eyes first. That’s why restaurants spend so much time on plate presentation. When you see a delicious, brightly colored dish in front of you, you’re more likely to try it. Kids prefer their food to be separate, so try to pick different colored foods. You might have chicken breasts with mashed sweet potatoes and green beans with bacon bits – three different colors!
There is something about waffles that may you want to eat them. It might be the fluffiness or the texture, but they’re simply divine. Waffles don’t have to just be a sweet breakfast food. You can make waffles with carrots, spinach, parsnips, and other veggies and use them as a base for a sandwich or top with a chicken breast.
Kids love baked goods – who doesn’t love muffins? It’s the last place they’d think you’d hide a vegetable, and it’s how they’ll be most open to trying vegetables. My 2nd child is the pickiest, but he’s most open to trying different veggies when I put them into a muffin, cake, or brownie. I use it as a way to show them – “Hey, these really aren’t so bad!”
If your kids like rice, swapping out rice for riced veggies is an easy switch. Green Giant sells bags of veggies prepared into rice side dishes. All you have to do is heat them in the microwave and serve. Green Giant sells riced cauliflower, but you can find broccoli, sweet potato, and whole peas with carrots.
Always Encourage the “One Bite” Rule
It takes a person at least 8 to 10 times to decide if they like a food. For that reason, I try root beer at least once a year, but I still hate it. Maybe one day I won’t.
Encourage your child to try at least one bite of each thing on their plate. If they don’t like it after a bite, then they don’t have to eat the rest of it. As Daniel Tiger would say, “you gotta try new foods because they might taste good.”
After several tasting, your child will be more familiar and might have a better chance of liking it. On the flip side, if your child really dislikes something, I try not to make it often or allow them to pass. My oldest has tried peas many times but she highly dislikes them, so I don’t make her try anymore.
Don’t Apply the Pressure to Eat Veggies to Hard
Kids are little humans, and we know that when the pressure is up, a lot of people put their backs up. You’re met with defiance and a fight for your life, or so it feels. Eating should never be a fight; it can create bad associations with meal times that should be focused around family time. Follow these suggestions, and your child will eventually leave his pickiness behind.