As a parent, you know that getting your child to eat vegetables can be a big challenge. When you have a picky eater on your hands, it can be even more difficult to ensure proper nutrition when all they want to eat is pizza and chicken nuggets. So, when all else fails, should you sneak vegetables into your child’s food? This article will explore this further and share a few tips on how to get them to eat their vegetables. 

How do you get your child to eat vegetables?

Getting your child to eat vegetables does not have to be complicated. You do not have to choose between sneaking veggies into your child’s food or serving them alongside the main dish; you can do both! It is important to show vegetables on their own for your child to experience what they taste and look like; however, it is also important to demonstrate to your child how we can incorporate vegetables into our diet through combined dishes just like we do with other types of foods. 

If your child only experiences veggies hidden in their food, they miss out on the opportunity to explore what that vegetable tastes, smells, feels, and looks like. This sensory exposure is an important factor in your child learning to like or dislike the vegetable. 

When you combine a vegetable into a dish, it does not have to be in a sneaky way. However, when you sneak the veggie into the dish (and your child finds out), trust is lost when eating certain foods. Allowing your child to know what foods you have combined into the dish will enable them to choose if they want to eat it or not. 

According to Ellyn Satter’s Feeding Relationship, your job as a parent is to take leadership of the what, when, and where of feedingand it is your child’s job to determine how much and whether to eat what you provideIn other words, it is not your job to make sure that your child eats their veggies—it is theirs. Research shows that it can take up to 15-20 exposures to foods for your child to finally try new foods. So, keep trying, even if you may be discouraged when it comes to getting your kids to eat vegetables. A combination of incorporating veggies into dishes and continuing to offer and serve veggies on the side is a good middle ground when it comes to feeding your child. 

For vegetable exposure, try these tips:

  • Serve a new food with comfort food you know they will eat. This way, if your child chooses not to eat the new food, they will still have something to eat that they enjoy. 
  • Serve a few meals a week “deconstructed.” This gives your child an opportunity to explore the foods independently and can prevent you from becoming a short-order cook if they do not like the meal entirely. 
  • Do not pressure your child to try the new food on their plate. Remember, it is your job as a parent to offer the food, and it is your child’s job to decide if they want to eat and how much. 
  • Ask your child to help prepare unfamiliar foods in the kitchen. This exposure is a step in the right direction of learning to like the new food. 
  • Give them a choice. Offering a choice between broccoli or carrots gives them structured control over their diet. 
  • Repeat. It can take 15-20 exposures to an unfamiliar food before a child can learn to like it. 

Here are few ideas for adding vegetables into dishes:

  • Add vegetables to your breakfast or snack smoothies.
  • Change up your pesto recipes with the addition of kale or spinach.
  • Experiment with spiralized veggie noodles.
  • Add in some finely chopped broccoli to an omelet. 
  • Add in pumpkin or butternut squash into mac n cheese.
  • Grate zucchini and add it into pancakes.
  • Blend carrots, bell peppers, spinach, or any other veggies on hand into your child’s favorite pasta sauce.
  • Make mashed potatoes with half cauliflower and half potatoes.