How to Encourage Kids to Eat Vegetables

I am a mother and I am a professional cook. It’s a source of pride for me when my kid eats the food I make. And I am very often successful with this, even when I cook vegetables. Yes, that’s right. I don’t brag about my kid too often because my Asian upbringing emphasizing humility prevent it, but I will say that he has a pretty flexible palate for a four-year old. He eats arugula salads like it’s candy. Raw vegetables are a favorite snack. He has gone olive oil and balsamic vinegar-tasting and he really got into it- slurping and offering suggestions on what flavors he tasted. He scarfed down hamachi sashimi without batting an eye. He loves mussels ever since trying them as a baby. He snacks on briny olives and prickly artichokes. As wonderful as it is, the skeptic in me wonders why he isn’t picky like so many other kids. One of the more popular things I get asked when people find out I am a professional cook is ‘how do you get kids to eat healthy food?’ and ‘how do you get kids to eat vegetables?’. I have been looking at my child’s eating habits and have come up with some important findings that I thought I’d share with you.


  1. Get kids to eat vegetables early in life. My kid started eating when he was four months old and we started with homemade  pureed vegetables- greens like kale and chard. If kids are introduced to bitter flavors first, they get used to it. And at that young age, they haven’t developed the picky palate yet. If he didn’t like something, I would introduce it at a later time, maybe mixed with something he DID like. Pears and spinach was a favorite combination.  These days, if something isn’t a favorite, I serve the vegetable with something he DOES enjoy- like on a pizza, in a pasta or with a dip that he loves.
  2. Make it interesting, attractive and fun. When I cut carrot and celery sticks for a snack, I serve it propped up inside a pretty glass. To make cooked greens taste even better, I chop it finely and stir it into cheesy risotto.
  3. Don’t give up. Try, try again. Kids palates change and if you give them many opportunities to eat vegetables, they may come around.  (see #6)
  4. Experiment with the preparations. DON’T always serve vegetables the same way. Try other techniques. Roasting vegetables in a very hot oven is a great way to prepare vegetables. The natural sugars come out of the vegetable and the roasting adds delicious flavor without a lot of fat. Plus, it also looks appetizing.
  5. Model good behavior. Eat vegetables yourself. Children are natural mimics and if they see you enjoying something, they want to be part of the action. My kid started eating artichokes after he saw me eating it.
  6. Don’t make a big deal out of it. When I make up my kid’s plate it always includes vegetables and salads. To my kid, vegetables are just another food. Kids are sensitive to pressure and if they sense you are trying to make them do something, they won’t be very responsive.
  7. Make it interactive. Grow vegetables in your garden. Have your kids help with the food preparation. Take them to a farmer’s market or a farm and have them pick out vegetables they like. My kid LOVES helping out so he helped me plant vegetables in our garden and he takes pride in caring for them and harvesting them and when the time comes, he loves being part of the cooking process.

Please know too, these strategies are helpful for all kinds of foods. I would love to hear some feedback about this, not just from parents of young children, but seasoned parents too. Thanks and happy eating!




Barbara-Lee Doyle

Posted June 14, 2013

One year for part of our fall harvest we planted Pumpkin Pie pumpkins and Pop Corn. Our Autumn Desserts were extra special that year. Making the pumpkin purée wasn’t as difficult as non professional cook might think.
I used to put shredded carrots or zucchini in chocolate cake, brownies and cookies. Butternut squash goes well in mac and cheese, just as mixture of minced vegetables goes well in meatballs, meatloaf or home made sausage. Make some vegetable kabobs with extra firm tofu and oven BBQ them with your families favorite sauce along with some steamed brown rice.

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