+ Well Nourished ⎮ 5 Tips for Raising Veggie Loving Kids

5 Tips for Raising Veggie Loving Kids

In my many years of clinical practice, the one food group that parents told me that their kids struggled to enjoy is vegetables. It is really important for families to work on improving this as this as there are essential, protective nutrients in vegetables that our bodies need to thrive. Most of these important phytonutrients (plant nutrients) are simply not found in any other food group (not even fruit).

My kids love vegetables and I don’t believe I’m ‘just lucky’ that this is the case. Like I have persisted with teaching my kids to toilet train, read, write and use manners, I’ve used many strategies to teach them to genuinely enjoy eating a wide range of vegetables.

So today I share my 5 top tips for raising veggie loving kids…

1. Educate them

Talk to your kids about vegetables. In my experience, kids are much more likely to eat something if they have an understanding of exactly what it is. My kids have always loved playing games (generally in the car) around vegetables. Things like ‘is it a fruit or a vegetable?’ or ‘where is it grown?’ (on a tree, vine, underground, bush). I’ve also learnt a few things in the process, thank goodness for Google.

2. Let them shop

When you are shopping for veggies, get them to help. They could put five of the best looking carrots into a bag for you or choose the biggest broccoli. A friend of mine lets her kids pick one ‘new’ vegetable a week from the farmers market and her challenge is to prepare or cook it (and then her kids eat what they’ve chosen).

3. Let them help prepare them

There are many vegetables my kids wouldn’t consider worthy of eating until they helped prepare them. Leafy greens (rocket, spinach etc;) were the biggest veggie hurdle we’ve overcome. My son as a toddler used to push anything green and leafy off his plate stating ‘don’t like flowers’. Then one day he asked to ‘spin the flowers’ – he was fascinated by things that moved. To this day he loves ‘his job’ making salad (washing/spinning the leaves) and his first preference in food, believe it or not, is salad.

4. Love eating veggies yourself

Kids are much more likely to follow your example, not your advice. So you can talk until you are blue in the face about how delicious vegetables are, unless you are eating them yourself, you will never get your kids on board. Next time they reject a vegetable, don’t get upset, instead offer it to other members of the family or gobble it up yourself stating ‘you don’t know what your missing out on’. Eventually the positive role modelling will rub off.

5. Never give up

I can guarantee that persistence will pay off. I think I put salad leaves on my sons plate 1000’s of times before he ate a single leaf. If I didn’t persist, he would still be ‘leafy green’ fussy. If my kids don’t like a vegetable one way, I generally find another way to present it. They currently don’t like zucchini cooked, so I serve it raw. They hate pumpkin baked, but will happily eat it in a soup or lasagne. Patience, persistence and praise is my motto.

I hope this post has given you some ideas that you can implement with your own kids. It’s never to late to turn around veggie fussy kids.

Now over to you. Do you have any strategies or tips you can add? I’d love you to post a comment below!

My best selling ebook “The Well Nourished Lunchbox” is a 150 page guide to feeding your kids well. It includes loads of tips and recipes for including vegetables in their diets in the most delicious ways. Click here to watch a video for a taste of what’s inside.

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5 Tips for Raising Veggie Loving Kids

  • Corrie Irons

    I have 2 x veggie eaters also and it was done through hard work and persistence. I take my kids to the markets, we talk about nutritious food, they help prepare meals, I let them help me with meal prepping and I try and introduce new meals and new ways of cooking vegetables as often as my schedule allows. One of the main rules I have always had when my kids don’t like something or are unsure if they will: ‘Try one mouthful. This is not optional. If you don’t like it, that’s ok. But you must at LEAST try it.’ Sometimes they will find they love the food, and other times it means I go back to the drawing board and come up with another way of presenting it next time. Now that my kids are 13 & 15, they are also old enough to have the conversation and understand that not everything I present at meal times is going to be their favourite. It is not all about them! And that’s ok. On another night, it will be. Some parents think they have to cook their kids preferences all the time. This is not real life and it puts the child at the centre of the universe and in control of the menu. We are a family and we take turns in everything, including what we eat!

    • Love, love, love this Corrie. You’re approach is exactly mine to the ‘T’.Funny we’ve just finished dinner and it included sweet potato which my 8 yr has recently decided he’s not keen on (he used to love it, go figure). So as he pushed it aside, they rest of us dove in. He didn’t complain, no one got upset, there were other veggie options for him to fill up on. Thanks for taking the time to contribute, so valuable x

      • Corrie Irons

        That’s it! Don’t make it a battleground. Just have clear expectations when it comes to new or current ‘not favourites’ and as you pointed out, the seasons will change at some point so you just keep on keeping on and try again another time and it’s OK to not like something! It is a great principle to teach kids at any age and role model to them that we all to have to do things (or eat things) that are not our favourite. No one likes cleaning toilets, but we do. Don’t avoid everything your kids don’t like with food because it is easy in the short term. This is a sure fire way to have fussy eaters who grow into fussy adults. I am determined to have children who are ready to live with their chosen partner in life willing to shop for, cook and eat nutritious food and if that means I have to do some hard yards now, it is worth it!

        • Kate

          Hi, I’ve just purchased your book, I have two kids, 7 & 9. I do all the things you’ve suggested in your blog about raising veggie loving kids. Neither of mine are adventurous eaters but at least my 9 year old will have a go at most things. My 7 year old is very intolerant of flavours won’t touch most veggies but I’m persisting. She is keen to help prepare food though so I’m getting her involved in the kitchen. Read all your posts and found much encouragement I look forward to trying some new recipes will persist in presenting them with veggies & getting them to at least try. It gets exhausting with tears & tantrums but I’m hanging in there & being a good role model !!

          • Good on you Kate for persisting. It’s also great that your daughter is getting involved as this helps them to ‘own’ the things they cook (and hopefully eat them). Enjoy my ebook and all the best G x

  • Jean Beardsall

    Very good advice – thanks

  • Deborah

    We eat a lot of veggies in my house and I’m always banging on about how good/yummy they are (I’m also an ex pastry chef whose making amends to my liver). My 14 year old used to eat Everything…now I she rejects almost everything I make. I realised that the power struggle was not the best for us, so I stopped making her brekkie and lunches and leave it up to her to choose to eat/ not eat, make choices, but geez it’s really hard seeing your kids eat massive crap meals after school and not have room for home cooked meals. I don’t make separate meals, so if she doesn’t ‘like it’, it’s up to her to make herself something else. I hope she comes around to listening to what her body needs (or gets a job at Maccas and gets sick of the junk food)

  • Cath

    I also have four veggie loving kids (“can I please have pumpkin soup for my birthday dinner?” from one child, and “please don’t eat all the salad tonight dad, I want some to take in my thermos to school tomorrow” from another). My secret was to make it delicious to start with. And just like you Georgia, persist. Mushrooms were cooked with garlic and lots of butter to start with, the butter has reduced substantially now, but it was enough to get them over the line to start with. All new soups are served ramekin size at the start of a meal. I had one child in tears at the thought of having to eat some cauliflower soup before his favourite lasagne dinner… once he tasted it, he asked for another two helpings. Yes it had lots of cream and parmesan in it, but he’s now open to it next time I make it. Salads have delicious dressings and used to have a lot more cheese or caramelised balsamic vinegar, now we can easily omit those sorts of things and the green leaves still get inhaled. Two of mine still refuse to eat tomatoes, but one will now have leave the sundried tomatoes in salads instead of picking them out (still working on artichokes). I started off with one veggie item in their lunchboxes, cut up in sticks and with hommus or olive dip to make it tasty. I can now put a variety of raw veges (more veges in there than than fruit some days) in without dip and they’ll get eaten (either at school, or the younger two will finish it at home before afternoon tea). Like everything with raising children, it just takes time and repetition. Sorry for the essay!

  • That must be really tough Deborah. I’m not looking forward to that phase at all. From what I have seen though, teens who are raised with a strong food culture do go full circle and come back around to the good stuff eventually. It sounds like you are doing a great job regardless Gx

  • Brilliant tips Cath and great point about always making it tasty. It’s no wonder many kids hate vegetables when they are plain served steamed – I wouldn’t want to eat them without butter and loads of seasoning at the very least. Love your essay, thanks for contributing G x

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