Menu
How to get your child to eat vegetables without forcing, bribing or tricking

It seems like age-old wisdom saying "Eat your vegetables," but what do you when your child really doesn't like eating vegetables? If veggies feel like a source of conflict at the dinner table or you're worried about your child's health, you're not alone, mama.

Most importantly, you are not failing as a mama if your child isn't eating their vegetables.

Kids and vegetables can be a tricky combination. As mothers, we inherently believe that our children will be better off and healthier if we can just get them to eat their veggies. However, they can be really difficult for kids to eat and enjoy.

Why vegetables can be hard for kids to eat

Many kids may be reluctant to eat vegetables, no matter how they are probed, pushed or bribed. Eating veggies can feel like a chore for your child, and getting your kid to try "just one bite" of any veggies on their plate can feel like a nightmare for you.

It may be helpful to know that we are born with preferences for sweeter tastes. If you think about it, a baby's first food is breast milk, which has naturally occurring sugars, including lactose.

Vegetables can be more difficult for children to get accustomed to, as they tend to have more bitter, sour and complex flavors. Children are learning to eat different foods and getting familiar with eating vegetables is no different than developing a new skill, like riding a bike. It takes practice in a low-pressure environment, patience and nurturing.

Do kids really need veggies to be healthy?

So what is the big deal with vegetables anyway? Why the overemphasis on getting a child to eat vegetables? This is something that is commonly lectured by healthcare professionals to well-meaning family members, but the truth is your child can get the nutrition they need to grow and thrive without hyper-focusing on vegetables alone.

Vegetables and fruits have similar nutrient profiles so your child is more likely to get the nutrition they need by having access to a variety of different foods.

The bottom line: A child's health is not singularly defined by how many servings of veggies they eat.

There are many other components that influence their health status, including:

  • Access to a variety of foods
  • Adequate healthcare
  • Regular time to play
  • Emotional nurturing, and more

While vegetables can provide important nutrients to a growing child, stressing about whether your child's food intake is adequate or not will only make eating harder for you both.

The good news is that you can you help your child actually enjoy them. (And It doesn't involve any forcing, bribing, tricking or figuring out how to sneak in veggies into your child's food).

7 tips for helping kids enjoy veggies

1. Make them taste delicious

Vegetables don't have to be boring or flavorless. If your child is struggling with eating them, take a different approach to how you serve and prepare them.

Don't be afraid to add seasonings, herbs and spices. Sautee with real butter or cook them with bacon or pancetta.

Make a yummy salad with some added toppings, like dried fruit and nuts. Serve your child something that tastes good to you and that you would also enjoy.

2. Pair with familiar foods

Serving veggies alongside foods that your child is familiar and comfortable with will make them more likely to try them. Having too many foods that are new or unfamiliar can be intimidating for a child.

When planning out meals for your family, keep this in mind: a neutral food component along with something that might be a little harder to eat, like a vegetable, can make it easier for your child.

3. Keep the pressure low

The more a child is pushed to do something, the less likely they will want to do it. This is where you have full permission to stop bribing, coercing or negotiating with your child when it comes to eating.

Remember: Parents provide, child decides. It's your job to determine what food is served. It's your child's job to decide whether or not they want to eat what you have served and how much.

If eating vegetables is a non-issue, your child will feel more relaxed to try different foods that are served. Pressuring a child to eat certain foods can actually cause them to dislike those foods.

4. Don’t give positive or negative reinforcement

Many parents feel obligated to reward or punish a child based on their vegetable intake, but this can be counterproductive. For example, telling a child:

  • "You won't get any dessert tonight if you don't take a least one bite of your broccoli." (Negative reinforcement)
  • "Good job eating all your vegetables! Now you can have dessert." (Positive reinforcement)

These feeding strategies can actually teach a child that they cannot trust their own bodies to guide their food decisions or that certain foods have to be earned. This makes food more chaotic for a child and sets the stage for problematic eating behaviors down the road.

5. Keep trying and reintroducing

We've all heard the saying, "If at first, you don't succeed, try, try, try again." This absolutely applies to kids and vegetables. As parents, it's easy to give up all hopes of our child trying and liking a certain food when we see them reject it time and time again. So we give up and we stop trying. However, it may take a child repeated exposure to that food to promote food acceptance.

Research has shown that a child needs as many as 8-15 exposures to a particular food before they might gain acceptance of that food, but many parents are likely to give up trying at the earliest signs of rejection.

Bottom line: Keep trying to introduce new foods, like vegetables, in a low-pressure environment to help increase acceptance and consumption.

6. Involve your kids in the kitchen

Research has also found that hands-on approaches, such as cooking and gardening, may encourage greater vegetable consumption in children. When a child is allowed to be part of the planning and the preparation and can see how a food is grown and/or prepared, this may positively support their own eating behaviors. Give your child the opportunity to help prepare veggies and let them play a part in the kitchen.

7. Lead by example

Ultimately, children learn by example, and in order to raise a child to eat well, you may have to work on your own eating habits. In a compassionate and gentle way, take an honest look at how you eat and your own relationship with food.

Do you enjoy a variety of foods? Do you trust yourself when it comes to your own health and your body? If you're feeling stuck with your own approach to food and health, it is critical to get the help you need for yourself first.

Don't let vegetables become a battleground. If you need help raising a healthy eater, connect with the support you need. You've got this mama, and you don't have to do this alone.

You might also like:

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

Shop

Because parenthood is challenging, we can sometimes forget how to just be happy in the midst of it all.

Keep reading Show less
Life