How to get your kids to eat more vegetables?
Updated: Sep 7
Most kids hate vegetables, I don’t know what it is, but they seem to be pre-programmed from birth to hate them.
The thing is vegetables are the number one health choice parents should be looking to build into their kid’s diets. Being a nanny and the mother of three children and the grandmother of two children, all of which hate vegetables, trust me, I know it’s a tall task to get kids to eat them their veg.
Some parents may see the task as unachievable and give their children substandard vitamin tablets to try and compensate for the lack of nutrients. However, there is no substitute for the real thing.
Over the years I’ve come up with master plans on how to hide vegetables in my children’s food and most of the time they haven’t noticed.
Recently with the drive towards eating healthy, with less junk food and processed foods more parents are looking for natural ways to keep their children happy and healthy.
The healthy vegan diet otherwise known as the plant-based diet is now starting to take off as researchers from around the globe produce research results to show plants, are the best option for a growing child.
The problem is people just aren’t sure how to obtain the relevant nutrients on a plant-based diet. Protein seems to be the main problem for most people along with taste and variety, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are so many ways to get the right macro and micro-nutrients into a vegan or plant-based diet.
There are so many great resources on the web these days to help you raise a vegan / plant-based child and to become a plant-based family.
Even if you happen to have a picky eater, you can still make mealtimes healthier and enjoyable in less time, with less money and with less of a battle.
Fruit doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem as vegetables but then again, Fruit is sweet, and kids love all things sweet.
1. Fruit: give your kids fruit unconditionally
Kids love fruits and some of the best fruits to give your kids are apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, peaches, nectarines, pineapple, watermelon, mango, and pears. You can make fruit more interesting by making ice lollies from them or by juicing and smoothie making. Kids love milkshakes especially thick creamy ones. All you will need is a decent juicer and lots of fruit and vegetables to juice. I find my kids like kiwi and lime lollies best. They spend more time counting the kiwi seeds than eating the lollies.
By adding Almond, oat or nut milk to your smoothies you can make nice smoothies that the kids will love. All you will need is a good smoothie maker or blender and lots of fruit and vegetables to blend.
2. Make a list of the vegetables they already enjoy and be creative with them
Most parents say their kids just won’t eat anything unless it’s chips or pizza, but this just isn’t true. I often make chips from parsnips, turnips, squash and sweet potatoes and my grandkids have no idea they are made from vegetables.
Hummus is another thing you can hide vegetables in. If you make your own hummus you can add just about anything to it and they will never know. My youngest daughter hates mushrooms, but she has no idea that her favourite hummus is crammed full of mushrooms. Mushrooms are high in protein and are good for your immune system.
Most kids can cope with cucumber and carrot sticks, so add a pot of hummus or peanut butter and they’ll eat the lot. A favourite of mine is sliced apple with peanut or walnut butter which you can make yourself at home. All you need to make hummus or any kind of nut butter is a decent blender.
Homemade pizza: you don’t need to put cheese on top, you don’t even have to use a pizza base. We went to Thailand when my eldest two were younger and we learnt the concept of pizza toast there. Blend as many vegetables as you can with x 2 the number of tomatoes into a thick paste. Toast a piece of bread, spread the paste on top of the bread, get the best tasting vegan cheese you can buy and grate it on top. Place two halves of cherry tomatoes in the place of eyes and a slice of onion and courgette for the mouth. The kids loved it and they ate the tomatoes first picked off the courgette and ate the rest without asking so much as one question. I still give it to them today and they are 28 and 29. Somethings just don’t wear off.
3. Keep food items separate
I hate my food all squished up together on one plate and why shouldn’t our kids have the same issue. By keeping everything separate, on the same plate, of course, the food looks more appealing. I make pretty pictures out of the food I give to my kids, grandkids and the kids that I nanny for, I find faces win hands down.
4. Allow healthy snacks whenever they want
Fruit, nuts, toast or veg sticks with peanut butter, hummus, and veggies or pita chips and dips should be made available daily. Don’t give them processed, animal-based, expensive snacks opt for the healthy alternative and they will soon get used to it. If they need in-between-meal snacks, give them real food.
5. Make healthy desserts together
Avocado chocolate pudding, a favourite of mine, marzipan and nut balls, flapjacks, black bean brownies, banana oat cookies, banana ice cream, and peanut butter cookies are all easy to make desserts that you can make with your children.
6. Plan your weekly meals together
By planning meals together your kids they will feel as though they have more control over what they are eating. If they can plan and create their own tacos, spaghetti, and burgers they will be more likely to eat them.
7. Everyone eats the same things
Don’t cook separate meals for your kids make sure they see you eating the same vegetable meals as you are eating. Kids like to copy their parents and this is a good way of making sure they eat as many vegetables as possible. If you eat them, they will eventually eat them too. If your child does not eat what you have prepared do not give them a second option, instead, try to plan ahead of time and prepare something that you all like. e.g. veggie sausage and parsnip chips with peas.
8. Don’t create anxiety around mealtimes and food
Mealtimes should be an enjoyable event where you come together as a family and talk about your day. If the kids are screaming about their veg and you are screaming at them for not eating it mealtimes will become a chore. This is where planning in advance with your kids will help you to achieve well-fed kids at a happy dinner table.
The food we eat tastes great and is jam-packed full of herbs and spices for flavour. We definitely get more satisfaction out of a whole food vegan / plant-based diet than the standard American or British diet; there is so much flavour in what we cook. I enjoy food so much more than I used to! Don’t make them feel like they are missing out on something interesting, because they’re not! Instead, make it look interesting.