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How Do I Get My Picky Eater to Eat Vegetables?

Oct 11, 2018

Does your kid avoid anything green? All veggies? One of the most common question I get is "how to I get my picky eater to eat vegetables?!"

Picky eating is a struggle for many families and vegetables are definitely one of the most challenging foods for young kids to enjoy. They naturally tend to prefer sweet foods - or quick, easy energy sources. So it's common for children to enjoy fruit, but shun more bitter vegetables.

The good news is that fruit and veggies contain many of the same nutrients! Your child can find folate, vitamin C and fibre in both fruit and vegetables, so you can relax a bit.

One common tactic I want to chat about is sneaking pureed vegetables into your children's food.  I don't recommend this, as it does not allow your child  to experience that particular food and learn to like (or dislike!) it on their own.

And at some point, they will also probably figure you out - possibly leading to distrust,  a stronger dislike of the offending food and power struggles.

It's also not aligned with the "Division of Responsibility" principles, which are cornerstone to creating a healthy relationship with food for your child. You can read more about that on this post, but here are the basics: the caregiver chooses what is food offered, where, and when. The child chooses  how much, or even if they eat.

If the parent sneaks foods into the child's diet, the child really isn't the one deciding IF he eats the food. You are. I don't think it will work for your picky eater, but check out Sarah's story here.

Here are some more tips to encourage your child to enjoy vegetables:

  1. Get your child involved: Grow a garden (or even a windowsill pot) of vegetables. Visit the farmers market and talk to a farmer about how they grow their carrots. Pick out a new vegetable to try at the grocery store. Wash the lettuce. Getting kids involved in the process will encourage them to taste the food.
  2. Offer the fruit/veggie at a time when your child is hungriest, and most likely to eat them. This could be snack time, or as an "appetizer" during the witching hour before dinner.
  3. Give the fruit or veggie a funny name. A recent study shows that if you give a vegetable a catchy name (like "super-sight carrots"), children are more likely to eat them, and eat more of them.
  4. Be a good role model. Let your child see you eat fruits & veggies. You can also try offering these foods with other children around, as we know kids like to copy each other. I have a lot of clients who say “my husband won’t eat veggies.” Then why would the child think they should eat veggies? Expand your palate. Someone is watching you!
  5. Serve veggies with a dip or sauce. Everyone has to admit - broccoli tastes better with cheese sauce, celery tastes better with peanut butter, and carrots taste better with ranch dip. Sure, you may just get your child licking off the least it's a step that they're putting the vegetable into their mouth!
  6. Try different cooking methods: Kale chips. Sweet potatoes baked, mashed or in “fry” form. Raw or over-cooked.
  7. Try and try again. Children can have a fear of new things, called "Neophobia". They also have changing tastes. It may take up to 15 tries before your child will choose to eat the food, so offer the food whenever you are eating it. Or maybe they will never choose to eat the food - we all have personal likes & dislikes, so you can expect that your child will too.

Any tips of your own? Share below!

And for my free 3-part video series on how to deal with your picky eater, sign up here!

 Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, author & mom of 3. From Baby-led weaning to picky eating and meal planning, she helps you to make feeding your family easier


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