I haven’t yet experienced the challenges of getting kids to eat vegetables.
My kid is a dog.
But all of my cousins seem to be expecting or already have children. And my downstairs neighbors have two of their own (see above).
So I did some research, and I found some clever ways to get kids to eat vegetables.
Hint: There are things you should try before just throwing everything into your Vitamix.
But first, everyone knows a picky eater, right?
My Dad and His Child-Like Feelings Towards Vegetables
Imagine the pickiest eater in the world.
- Just meat.
- Just potatoes.
- Just ice cream.
That’s my dad!
It’s no surprise that vegetables are not his thing.
He eats like a kid.
But for years, I’ve been trying to get him to eat vegetables.
- They’re heart-healthy.
- They’re filled with vitamins.
- They’re good for short-term energy.
All that didn’t matter.
He, like a kid, isn’t interested in eating vegetables.
But now I know the psychology of WHY my efforts didn’t work. And, HOW to do it successfully without being teachy or preachy.
So, here’s how I’m going to get my picky-eating dad to eat vegetables. And, of course, how you can get kids to do it, too.
How to Get the Pickiest Eaters, Like Kids, to Eat Vegetables
Let’s face it, most kids don’t like vegetables.
But we know they need ’em.
So here’s three clever ways to get kids to eat vegetables.
1. Omit “The Why”
Motivating people requires a clear explanation of “why.” It’s purpose behind the desired action.
But here’s the thing:
Kids are not people. They’re little monsters who don’t give a crap.
It doesn’t matter whether the benefit is near or distant.
“It tastes good” is the only reason kids will eat vegetables.
Researchers from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University studied this. Kids aged three to five are less likely to like vegetables served with clearly defined benefits.
In other words, kids won’t like broccoli if you tell them about the vitamins and minerals inside.
But here’s what’s crazy.
Non-direct benefits from eating the food don’t motivate either. So, telling kids that eating vegetables helps them read better is just as ineffective.
That means benefits don’t motivate kids (or other picky eaters) to eat vegetables.
So, if “because it tastes good” is the only effective incentive to getting kids to eat vegetables, how do you make them taste better?
2. Flavor Pairing
It’s EASY to get kids to eat vegetables when they’re served with another flavor.
For example, if introduced to them plain, kids are unlikely to like brussels sprouts.
Pair those brussels sprouts with cheese, however, and they’re MUCH more likely to like them.
You don’t need an academic study to know that.
But can flavor pairing teach kids to like PLAIN vegetables?
Research says, “Yes.”
A study by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says we can actually teach our children to like plain vegetables.
But first, you gotta pair the vegetables with another flavor. Like cheese.
And you gotta do this pairing several times. That’s the conditioning period.
Then, you can slowly remove the pairing and serve the vegetables plain.
Sure, they may miss the pairing they’re used to.
But they’re MUCH more likely to accept the vegetables served plain after having been conditioned with a pairing.
The best part?
They may have learned to like those vegetables without you ever “teaching” them.
But when worst come to worst…
3. Hide It
So you’ve tried to “just telling them it’s good.” And you’ve tried classic conditioning.
Try hiding vegetables in your kids’ food.
If you use the right ones, they’ll never taste ’em.
Here’s what works:
- Sauces: Zucchini or spinach in your red sauce purees taste great.
- Baked goods: Carrots are super sweet add-in.
- Smoothies: Kale goes well in any fruit smoothie.
What’s worked for you?