The Truth About Kids and Vegetables — by Guest Mom Jora

March 25, 2009

It seems that every mother I know is trying to find ways to get her kids to eat more vegetables, whether she has a “picky eater” or not. I certainly make no claims about conquering the vegetable battle in our home, but there is something that my husband and I have noticed really helps. We grow many of our own vegetables and get our kids involved to the extent they can. They are too young to truly help, but they love being out in the garden area when we (really, just my husband) are working and picking vegetables. Our three year old watches as the plants grow, asks what everything is, and (can you believe it?) samples vegetables straight from the garden that he wouldn’t dream of touching if I presented him his dinner plate and said, “Here, try some wild arugula and lacinato kale.”

You don’t need a huge yard to grow your own vegetables. I have a friend who grows lettuces in pots on her back patio with her kids. During the summer, you can definitely grow tomatoes in a pot in a sunny corner of your yard or patio. And if you are lucky enough to have a backyard, putting in an 8 foot by 4 foot garden box will produce a surprising amount of vegetables and herbs.

The other thing I want to mention is that you don’t have to be intimidated if you don’t feel you have experience growing things. My husband and I were urbanites through and through until a little over a year ago. Neither of us had green thumbs at all. (To the contrary.) My husband is pretty much responsible for the garden work at our house, and he’s learned most everything he knows just from this past year. (He even learned how to take care of chickens! The kids love to play with the chickens and our son actually does help with them by collecting the eggs each morning.)

Do you have any tips on getting your kids to eat vegetables or new foods?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristen March 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

I have my almost-3-year-old help cook. That often helps. Soups, turkey burgers full of veggies, sauce full of veggies, and more soups helps with veggie intake. All other food groups seem manageable. Also, everyone has to try ONE bite. Just one. I hope that 25 one-biters might eventually work! :)


2 Katie @ goodLife {eats} March 25, 2009 at 11:50 am

Getting them involved is so great! We have a beyond-picky picky eater in our house. Last summer we got him to try raspberries by taking him to a local u-pick farm. We went a total of 4 times because he liked it so much. This year we’re planting a garden of our own. The same is true when I have him help prepare food in the kitchen – much more likely to sample it then than if I had placed it in front of him at the table.


3 Girlfrog March 25, 2009 at 11:51 am

I don’t know that this would count as a trick but we don’t ever cook just for the children. I fix a variety of good food and if they don’t eat it, they just don’t eat! I’m not sure if this is why but my children will eat most anything and are almost always willing to try new foods!


4 Flo March 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Hi, I've been reading your blog for a few weeks and this is my first comment. Great blog, BTW.
As to how to get kids to eat veggies, I think the most important thing is to make them a familiar item on the table and to show them that they're good by your also eating them.
In my house a favourite is "carbonada", which is an italian dish we have altered at our convenience and availability or vegetables. It is potatoes, carrots, squash, spinach, cut into little cubes and cooked in its steam or with a little more water if you prefer a soup. You add some ground meat (or chicken cut into cubes) and voilà. You can also try serving some cooked carrot sticks next to some rice or mashed potatoes and meat if you eat it, or some grains of corn. Kids like to be able to tell what they are being served, they don't like mixed up food.
Vegetable puddings are also good with french fries. Burgers with veggies, etc.
Looking forward to other comments & ideas to enhance my own children's eating experience!
Greetings from Chile.


5 Becki March 25, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I love your garden boxes. And chickens! My husband also started gardening last year after a move. The kids “help” him by playing in the dirt, but they love it and I love cooking with the harvest.


6 sara March 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm

My tip: buy the Square Foot Gardening book. I’ve been reading it to prep for our first ever veggie garden, and it’s brilliant.


7 Connie Z. March 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm

i agree!


8 amberlee March 25, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for the motivation. I so need it. We moved from a town home to 5 acres, and after seeing how much my daughter loves her Kindergarten garden, I’m determined to figure out this whole gardening thing. She also is a super picky eater.

My picky eater trick: Put out a few things for dinner you would like your kiddo to eat. When dinner starts, serve yourself and then just wait for the kids to ask for something on the table. Sometimes this is a nice break from the nagging I always do, and sometimes my daughter decides on her own to try something new.


9 kerry March 25, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Jora –Thanks for mentioning that feeling of green-thumb intimidation. You’re right! I just need to get over my fear of gardening failure and read a bit more, get out there, and get my hands dirty. It will be fun for my family…and of course healthier, as well.

I am so enjoying your posts. I do believe you are my favorite guest mom to date.


10 ELK March 25, 2009 at 1:28 pm

we love pancakes for dinner and YEARS ago I grated zucchini into the batter and my daughters loved it….very subtle, in fact if you could not see it you would not realize it was in there. ELK


11 Bernadette March 25, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Involvement in the growing or cooking process would be very helpful. I prepared a healthy dinner, including different veggies. Everyone tried a bite, and if they didn’t like it, they chose something else on the table; no special foods for kids. My sons are grown now and love a variety of foods!


12 gretchen March 25, 2009 at 1:47 pm

dipping sauces! i find that if the kids can dip their vegetables (broccoli, green beans, cauliflower) in a tiny dish of soy sauce they ask for more and more and more. same is true of lemon mayonnaise (add juice of 1 lemon to 2 TBSP mayo) serve with asparagus or artichokes, etc. eventually they just love the vegetables and don’t miss the sauces. my kids are 10+ now and vegetables are their favorite foods. have converted neighbor children as well. also, try serving vegetables as a first course when they are starving. really works.


13 blake March 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm

I love, love, love this. Very inspiring Jora! I hope to get my little one out in the dirt as soon as he’s old enough. Thanks for sharing the cute photos.


14 Cafe Johnsonia March 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm

We found what you said to be true, also. Last summer my kids were eating fresh peas out of our container garden along with herbs and other goodies. It made me so happy!

This is a great post. I’ve been enjoying all your posts this week, Jora.


15 kirwin March 25, 2009 at 3:52 pm

{Knock on wood}
I’ve had pretty much good luck with my kids and veggies. They’ll eat avocado, kale, cucumber, bell peppers, asparagus, tomatoes. They don’t like carrots (I think it’s the hard texture) and they don’t like lettuce. Mostly, it’s been good luck, but I also enforce the one-bite rule. They have to at least taste it, and prove to me that they don’t like it!


16 Erika March 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Letting them help cook is a big yes!
Also- I stick food in front of her over and over again. Just because she said no to eggs once doesn’t really mean she hates them. I offered eggs to her prolly about 25 times, then one day she just ate it like it was nothing and never looked back.
I never make it a “sin” to not eat a meal, and i never bribe her either. I just don’t offer sweets until I am satisfied that she ate well. Now she is 3 1/2 and she is already regulating her own sugar intake and she loves raw veggies.


17 Vanessa~I Never Grew Up March 25, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Even letting my girls pick out veggies at the farmers market makes them want to eat them when we get home!


18 Laura@globalmama March 25, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Love this post! My very good friends are organic farmers, and they have started their baby on good veggies young by pureeing sweet, cooked veg like beets, squash, etc., and he loves it! As a preschool teacher, I have found that kids can be very adventurous in their tastes if they are involved in the growing & preparing of the food.

And thanks for pointing out that it's okay if you feel intimidated by gardening! You are so right that even a small pot of tomatoes or herbs can make a difference in how your child perceives food.


19 Em March 26, 2009 at 7:42 am

i think it’s all how you approach it. if you eat and love vegetables and they’re always around, kids are more accustomed to eating them and don’t think they “have to try it”, they just eat it. i have a 14-month old and maybe it’s because he’s young but he eats spinach, eggplant, kale, swiss chard, etc… because i’ve always made his own baby food and have packed it full of veggies. now he loves them.

i also love the garden idea and think it too makes vegetables more hands-on and normal.


20 The Bee Hive March 26, 2009 at 8:50 am

I was raised with a large garden and chickens, oh, how your photos bring some nostalgia to me! We are currently renting (looking for that perfect home with room for a garden and chicken coop!), but you have motivated me to get my butt in gear and just pot plant some veggies. Shame on me for using renting as an excuse! :-)

PS–all great info on veggies, we shred a lot and come up with fun, creative names and games for eating new vegetables. Mixing up the eating utensils (chop sticks, fun forks, etc.) seems to be motivational!


21 Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 10:25 am

Great inspiration and motivation! We have plenty of flowers and herbs in the garden, but I have yet to plant veggies with my 2-year-old. What a great learning tool!


22 kate March 26, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Growing vegetables in a garden, or a container & having our children help in all aspects of gardening definitely helps.
I love seeing them walk by the basil growing & pinch off a leaf to eat.

We also play a game, where we take a single die. At dinner, everyone takes a turn rolling the die & which ever number you get is the amount of veggies you eat. You keep doing that until the first person finishes. It works for us!


23 R-Eight March 27, 2009 at 7:23 am

You are so smart!! Vegetable and meat, I think it is so important for children to see where our food comes from (it’s a good reminder for me as well).


24 julia @ life on churchill March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm

oh this is encouraging! we do a kiss, lick, mouse bite, ect to encourage our picky eater, learned from our son’s occupational therapist. I think growing a garden with him could really help!


25 Jadah March 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Green smoothies! We make it everyday. My daughter, husband and I love our green smoothies. Our daily recipe: fresh baby spinach leaves (and kale), banana, frozen mixed berries, frozen pineapple, and an avocado to add a creamy texture. Plus hemp protein powder. I’ve shared some recipes and have a video here: We have been doing this almost everyday since July 2011, and I have found this to be the best way to get our veggies in. The green smoothies also increase my cravings for fresh fruit and veggies. And also curb the sweet tooth.


26 Katie March 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I have also found that my kids seem to eat more veggies when they see where they come from. We have a small vegetable garden and are big fans of farmers market, both of which I think get my kids to eat more veggies. My friends little boy went through a very funny phase where he would only eat vegetables if he knew where they came from. She once whispered to me before a meal “If he asks you grew the zuchini.”


27 Susan March 8, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Such good ideas from all the readers! Keep offering, get them involved in growing, choosing and cooking. But above all, I NEVER let food become a battle. Growing kids will eat, eventually. Save your energy for the issues that really need a stand!


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