Nourishing Littles
November 1, 2023

Stop Trying to Get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables

Stop Trying to Get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables

Whether an expecting parent or a seasoned pro, we all worry about our children’s health. And this often starts with their nutrition! Before the baby is even born, most worry that their kid will be picky! We want the best for them; and can’t fathom health without a well balanced diet. So if you’ve ever thought of this, you are not alone! But I’m here to hopefully take some of the pressure off! Your kid WILL eat vegetables one day. But don’t be surprised if it’s a journey. 

Nearly every day I’m asked by parents how to make sure my child doesn’t end up picky. While there are some helpful suggestions that can set you up for success, a lot of it comes down to consistency and trust in the process. Spoiler alert- this part is hard! As I sit here writing this, my son inconsistently eats two different vegetables. And it’s not because I’ve failed as a mom or I’m not a good dietitian (I promise, I am!), but what if I told you it was normal toddler behavior. I’m playing the long game here in trying to set up my child for a lifelong positive relationship with food, and part of that process is keeping the pressure low and letting him try things at his own comfort level. 

So, should you really stop trying to get your kids to eat vegetables? To some extent, yes! 

Research shows that pressure does not help your child eat more! And the constant push to eat something will only lead them to think there’s a reason they shouldn’t be eating it. Imagine you had a food on your plate that was a little scary and new, and you didn’t really like it. Now imagine someone was telling you you had to eat it before you could have something else that tasted yummier. Continue to imagine, you are going to get in trouble if you don’t eat this kind of new stressful food, that you’ve now basically been told doesn’t taste as good as other things, but you have to choke it down anyway. Umm no thank you! That sounds like a big ball of stress and pressure to me! And your kids feel the same. 

Parents have the absolute best intentions! Why do we want our kids to eat vegetables? Because we want them to be nourished; we want them to grow; we want them to be well rounded humans! All completely valid and understandable, and that puts a lot of pressure on you as a parent. But please hear this… It is okay if your child doesn't currently eat a single vegetable. They can and will get there! The best thing you can do is foster it in a positive, non threatening way. 

So, what should you do? … 

  • Offer a variety of foods from a young age. When you first introduce solids, offer a variety of flavors early on. Continue to present foods even if your child doesn’t like them; that’s okay! They will learn different taste profiles. Just because they don’t like something once doesn’t mean they won’t learn to like it. Keep presenting in a casual way. 
  • Serve these foods regularly. If your child doesn’t eat carrots so you never offer carrots again, then how would they ever even try! Kids need to be given the opportunity frequently to try these foods. Keep going; remember you’re playing the long game here!
  • Vary the presentation. Serve the same food in different ways. Cut it differently; cook it differently; add a different seasoning! All ways are new opportunities for a child to learn to like a new food.
  • Start small. New foods can be overwhelming. Start with small portion sizes on the plate and you can always add more.
  • Role modeling. Parents have to set a positive example! If you don’t like something, fake it ;) You cannot expect your child to eat something that you won’t eat yourself. Positive role modeling is most important. 
  • Make it fun! Taste tests, farmers markets, coloring with foods! There are so many ways to make food fun, and expose children to it without the pressure to eat. 

Most importantly; don’t give up! A picky child can be a stress on the whole family. My goal is to support you in lowering that stress, which will actually help your child eat more in the long run! 

For individual counseling and specific recommendations for your child, consider a consult with our Nourishing Littles team 🙂

I'm a registered dietitian, board certified specialist in pediatrics. I specialize in everything from infant feeding needs to children with medically complex conditions, as well as children and teens with eating disorders. I love to help kids grow!