I told you yesterday that our kids have always been mostly good eaters. However, there was one thing they never liked much–raw vegetables. I know that I share some of the blame because I honestly didn’t know to offer them raw vegetables. It wasn’t something that I ate as a child, or that was offered or available to me for the most part, and not really something that I added to my own diet either. My oldest son would eat tomatoes, but that was it.
Last spring when we started our first real food journey (yes, we’ve had some bumps in the road since then, but we’re back on track), my youngest son literally gagged when he was trying to eat a raw carrot. I know my children and he was not faking or being defiant. That’s how “yucky” raw vegetables used to be to my children.
Now, they happily eat a variety of raw vegetables, and frequently request salads.
Because I’ve been able to see such a drastic change in my children, I wanted to share some tips for those of you looking to get your children to eat their veggies without a battle.
I’m sharing now because I think these same tips can be used for any diet change.
Remember you’re doing it for them.
As with making the switch to real food in general, it helps if you remember that you’re doing this for them. You want to nourish their bodies in the best way that you can, and veggies are very good for them!
1. Ease them into it
When I first started trying to get my children to eat their veggies, I dressed them up a bit. I served homemade ranch dressing with carrots and cucumbers, and some all-natural peanut butter on celery.
This was beneficial for us because it helped them get used to the texture of eating raw vegetables, which was something they weren’t used to. Adding something fun, and something that they enjoyed, helped with their reception of it.
Note: Although we sometimes have dressings or dips for our vegetables, they no longer require it and will happily eat them without it.
2. Keep at it
This change in my children did not happen overnight. It came after weeks of offering them raw carrots, cucumbers, celery, salad, etc. Our taste buds can change and acclimate if we keep at it, and I believe this is a worthy pursuit.
So, I kept encouraging my children to eat their veggies. They were always offered. My oldest is always asking for snacks, so I would give him free reign with veggies–he could have baby carrots or celery any time he wanted, without asking. Since he usually has to get permission for snacks, this was a fun treat for him.
3. But don’t force it
I believe this was key for us, though I know some parents will disagree. I never force my kids to eat anything. I offered them. I put a baby carrot or celery stick on their plate. Each time, they were required to eat 1 bite. That’s it. If they didn’t like it or didn’t want to finish it, I never made them.
I didn’t want vegetables to be attached to the negative feelings of being forced to eat something that made them gag, etc. I wanted good, healthy foods to remain a positive thing for my children.
So, while I kept at it, and continually offered them, I didn’t completely force the issue.
- Give them choices: Sometimes choices can be overwhelming. However, if they feel like they can maintain some control over their diet, they may be more willing to try new things. Rather than choosing for them, ask if they’d prefer celery with peanut butter, or carrot sticks. (or whatever you have available).
- Get creative. I’m not personally an advocate of hiding veggies in other foods, but there are ways to have fun with veggies. Cut them into fun shapes with small cookie cutters, or fashion them into interesting shapes like animals, etc. (get some ideas here)
- Join the process. We grow a garden, and my boys love it! I really think that helping to grow the veggies, has helped them be open to eating them. Maybe you can’t grow a garden (or don’t want to), but you can get your kids involved in other ways–preparation, selecting them at the grocery store, etc.