5 Savvy Strategies to Win Your Charges Over to Vegetables

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Stuart Richards
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Stuart Richards

By: sarah koontz RD, LD.

Children and vegetables.  Yes, I know, those two words are not usually associated in a positive way.  However, I am here to show you that with a little creativity, you can get your charges interested in and eating vegetables!

1.  Involve them in the cooking process

Children take pride in activities they’re involved with and are much more likely to try to eat foods that they pick out and help prepare.

  • Before leaving home, look through cookbooks or search for recipes online.  Let each of your charges select a recipe or even create a recipe themselves.
  • Next, visit a nearby farmers’ market where the children can meet the actual farmers and growers of the fruits and vegetables.  They can even sample produce from the farmers!
  • For a grocery store trip, encourage your charges to select a new fruit or vegetable to try at home.  Another fun activity would be to create a simple scavenger hunt for the produce section.  Carry index cards with pictures and names of vegetable and guide them to their sought out items.
  • Once back home, enlist your little charges in simple tasks such as mixing, getting out ingredients, spreading condiments, and assembling sandwiches.  Let them be your official “tasters” to see if a dish is ready.

2.  Only offer one new vegetable at a time

Everybody, even adults, accepts new foods better when done gradually, one at a time.  If you present a plate with all unfamiliar foods, it can be very overwhelming.  Be sure to include old favorites when preparing a child’s plate and remember, new food takes time!  It can take up to 8-10 times until a child accepts a new food.

3.Model healthy, balanced diet--they’ll want to copy you

We all know actions speak louder than words, and food is no different.  You act as a role model to your charges.  Show them how you enjoy vegetables throughout the day during meals and snacks and you’ll see them copying you before you know it!

4.  Find fun ways to incorporate vegetables

Kids are more likely to try new foods if they are presented in a fun manner.

  • Make smoothies together and let them decide what to add.  Encourage them to try adding spinach and watch the green color their drink.
  • Mix fruits and vegetables together in salads or kabobs.  Try a carrot raisin salad or fruit and vegetable kabobs.
  • Add cucumber and lemon slices to water.

5.  Dip It!

Children love dipping their food.  Providing a dip for vegetables is an easy way for them to accept and eat more vegetables.  Examples of nutritious dips include hummus, guacamole, bean dip (with pinto beans), and yogurt.

What NOT to do: Don’t guilt them into eating veggies or use dessert as a bribe.  Those strategies will quickly backfire.  If you choose, a small dessert can be part of the meal with no connection to vegetables.

Final Word:  Do not dismay if your charges are still warming up to vegetables.  Fruits provide many of the same phytonutrients and antioxidants of vegetables.  The important point is to continue introducing vegetables in a variety of ways throughout the day.  And have fun!