If there is one thing that most parents struggle with, it’s getting their kids to eat veggies. Children are notorious for instinctually hating veggies. Getting them to take that bite is near impossible, even if the children have already tried and loved the veggies beforehand.
So what are you, a frustrated parent, to do? How can you convince, command, insist, trick, or bribe your children into eating veggies?
Good news: it’s a lot easier than you think! It will take a bit of creativity in your cooking, but you’ll find that you can encourage them to eat veggies with the five simple tricks we’ve listed below:
Trick 1: Add it to their meals – If you want to get kids to eat veggies, start adding veggies into their meals.
Let’s say your children love spaghetti. You can make them a plate of spaghetti, but add bell peppers and even a carrot or two into the pasta sauce. If your child loves pizza, add a few tomatoes or bell peppers onto the pizza. Add some spinach into their lasagna, or make curry using more carrots than potatoes.
The key to adding veggies into your child’s meal is to cut them small. The smaller the better! It’s easy for a child to put a tiny piece of veggie into their mouth than bite into a large chunk of broccoli, carrot, or onion. It’s 100% worth it to invest a few more minutes into chopping the veggies small.
Trick #2: Substitute ingredients – This is one of the best ways to “trick” your kids into eating their veggies. If they don’t know the veggies are there, they can’t complain!
If you’re making a carrot cake, add pureed pumpkin into the batter. Instead of making banana bread, make zucchini bread. Use zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) for their pasta dish, or make cauliflower to replace rice or mashed potatoes.
90% of the time, your children will have no idea that you’ve substituted or added veggies into their meals. They’ll eat them with no complaints, and slowly get used to the veggie flavors that way. Eventually, when you serve them the veggies, they won’t mind the taste.
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Trick #3: Mix and Match – You’d be amazed by how versatile certain veggies can be. For example, you can add carrot juice into your child’s orange juice, and they’ll hardly taste it. Or, you can add avocado into a batch of lemonade or a chocolate smoothie. A cup of grape juice can mask the flavors of beet juice.
Be warned: your children will definitely notice if the color is off, so you need to be careful which ingredients you mix veggies with. However, if you’re smart about it, you can mix veggie, fruit, and other flavors to encourage your children to consume more veggies in drink form.
Trick #4: Find ways to make it tasty – There are certain cooking methods that make your food tastier. Frying food, for example, is a great way to add flavor, but it’s not the healthiest choice. Baking, however, combines delicious flavor with a healthier cooking method.
If you’re going to throw a roast into the oven, build a bed of carrots, onions, and potatoes beneath it. The veggies will get cooked in the meat juices, and will turn crispy and flavorful in the bottom of the baking tray.
Make your child a zucchini and potato hash brown, or simply stir-fry some veggies (cut very small) with your Oriental chicken. Steamed veggies will rarely be a hit, so stick with the cooking methods that make the veggies delicious.
Trick #5: Try new and creative options – Instead of automatically going with the classic “steamed carrots” or “stir fried cabbage”, why not get creative with your use of veggies? For example, make their favorite dip, and serve it with raw carrot, celery, and cucumber sticks. Or, try working with foods they already like—such as salads—and adding ingredients they’re not accustomed to eating.
If you want to encourage them to eat more veggies, make recipes that involve their favorite ingredients. For example, add tomato sauce and cheese to your veggie dishes (especially anything with zucchini and lasagna). The kids will recognize the foods they love, and it will be easier to encourage them to eat the less-desirable foods.
The truth is that you will ALWAYS struggle to get your kids to eat their veggies. It all comes down to persistence on your part, and a bit of creative thinking. Add more veggies to their meals using the tips above, and you’ll give the kids a better chance of being healthy even if they don’t want to eat their veggies!
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