Ask the Nutritionist: Veggie Lovin’
by Leika Suzumura, PCC Nutrition Educator
Q: My kids eat around their vegetables. How can I get them to eat more veggies?
A: This question always seems to come with a sigh of desperation from parents. There are several approaches I have seen work:
1) Make it fun — don’t be the veggie police!
2) Model veggie lovin’ habits.
3) Keep trying.
4) Sneak ’em in.
Eating should be pleasurable. There is nothing worse than being forced to eat veggies, so keep it light and fun! Explore the flavors and textures of veggies and how they change between raw, steamed, sautéed or roasted. It’s important to always make mealtime a nourishing experience, both for our bodies and our minds.
When kids connect eating veggies with a fight with Mom or Dad, it makes veggie-eating that much more unappealing. Instead, include them in the process: have them tear up greens or grate carrots. Try growing some of your own vegetables, even if this just means potted herbs. The pride kids gain from growing their own veggies is enough to make them want to eat what they grow!
Modeling good veggie habits is perhaps the most impactful tactic parents often forget. Your facial expressions, tone of voice and overall attitude toward vegetables carry weight. When you eat your veggies, your child knows it’s the right thing to do.
Trying different ways of preparing the same food also may work for your child. They may not like a certain vegetable raw but love it steamed, or prefer roasted over sautéed. Familiarity can lead to comfort, and taste buds can change, so don’t give up!
The sneaky approach is quite effective when you’ve reached the last straw. Kale in spaghetti sauce, spinach in smoothies, beets in chocolate cake — you really can get creative. Dicing veggies into small pieces can help blend them into the meal without a fuss.
Whether your kids know they are eating vegetables or not, the most important thing is that they are getting nourished and growing strong.
About the Nutritionist
Leika received her undergraduate degree in nutrition at Bastyr University. She has dedicated her career to community nutrition with an emphasis on childhood nutrition and parent education as a way to support the livelihood of the next generation. Her approach focuses on bringing kids and parents into the kitchen so that learning nutrition is fun and delicious!