By Mary Silva updated by Dr Robert Needlman
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Everyone knows that vegetables are good for you. Many parents earnestly strive to ensure their children eat them every day – sometimes with little success. In light of this all-too-common challenge, parents often ask for tips to get their children to eat more vegetables.

What you need: a good attitude and a little creativity

Perhaps the most important factor to consider is your own attitude and approach toward eating in general.

Avoid forcing your children to eat vegetables – or any other food for that matter. Encourage children to try a spoonful, but don’t get upset if they refuse it. Eventually, they will try it, so keep reintroducing various foods from time to time.

Even young children can learn why nutrition is important. You can simply say: ‘They taste good and make you healthy, big and strong.’

Some other tricks of the trade

  • Add vegetables to store-bought foods or to those you already prepare.
  • Set out a plate of raw vegetables or a salad of cold, cooked vegetables before the meal – the time when your child is hungriest.
  • Keep a bowl of cherry tomatoes or baby carrots in the refrigerator for a quick and handy snack. (Of course, you’ll want to take into account the fact that these foods can be potential choking hazards for toddlers and preschoolers.)
  • Serve raw or lightly steamed vegetables with salad dressing or cheese sauce for dipping.
  • Make mashed sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes – sweet potatoes contain lots of vitamin A.
  • Let children make their own tacos with shredded lettuce, tomato, ground turkey and a little cheese.
  • Try not to overcook vegetables. Light cooking preserves taste, bright appearance, and valuable vitamins.
  • Help make your child familiar with vegetables. Serve them everyday.
  • Prepare meals together (for example, younger children can wash, and older ones can chop vegetables for stir-fry dishes and salads).
  • Let your child help choose fresh vegetables when you’re shopping.
  • Plant a vegetable garden with your child. Or just put a small cherry tomato plant in a pot in a sunny spot in the yard.
Most important, set a good example. Remember that your actions will speak louder than words. Besides, parents need their vegies, too!

How to get more vegies into your family diet

If your child rejects a lot of vegetables, try slipping them into food by:

  • making muffins with your child and adding pumpkin, zucchini or shredded carrots to the muffin mix
  • tucking in a lettuce leaf, a tomato slice or carrot curls into sandwiches
  • adding chopped spinach or a handful of frozen vegetables to soups, ramen noodles, spaghetti sauce or lasagna
  • adding chopped tomato or grated carrots to tuna, chicken or pasta salads
  • cooking frozen mixed vegetables according to the directions and then adding them to store-bought potato salad
  • making pizza with your child and adding chopped broccoli or spinach to frozen pizza or frozen bread dough topped with tomato sauce
  • adding chopped broccoli or extra carrots to canned or dried chicken soup.
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  • Cooke, L. (2007). The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: A review. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 20(4), 294-301.