children's health healthy eating vegetables Dec 12, 2019

We all know vegetables are good for us. Even our kids know and will tell us that! However, they are still the source of many complaints from Mums like, “my child doesn’t eat enough vegetables!” Vegetables can be a real source of conflict between parents and children. But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be? Yep, that’s right. I’ve got 6 ideas you can swipe to make vegetables kid-friendly. 

There are lots of reasons why we need more veges in our life. I seem to be always writing or talking about veges, eating more veges, and recipes to help make it easy to boost your vege intake. Here’s a quick summary of some of their wonderful benefits.


The fibre keeps our ‘good’ intestinal bacteria happy as they ferment it to make food, so they can grow and increase their numbers. The anti-oxidants protect our intestines (and the rest of our body) from damage caused by exposure to toxins and ‘bad’ bacteria. There’s a lot of research showing that the state of our intestines (‘gut’) impacts our children’s (and our) mental and general health, making it even more important to keep the bacteria happy. If you’d like to know more about how fibre helps your body, check out this blog I wrote about fibre.


Colourful vegetables are great sources of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals (anti-oxidant phytochemicals) that help our bodies grow, repair, restore, and rejuvenate.


Before I start with the tips, I’d like to talk about the quantity of vegetables to aim for each day. And I’ll remind you that it is unrealistic (and may cause some intestinal discomfort!) to go from a small amount of vegetables to a large amount in one go! Work your children towards the recommended servings of vegetables by gradually increasing the amount eaten each day or even week, depending on your child’s acceptance of vegetables and change.

Each day aim to offer your child a variety of colourful vegetables. You can read my other blog post on how to increase the number of vegetables in your day to get some ideas on how to fit more vegetables into your meals, easily. For example, include vegetables at breakfast time. See the blog post here.

Recommended daily intake will vary depending on their age and activity level. Toddlers vary in their intake each day, so it can be less stressful to look at their vegetable consumption over a week rather than a day.

Note: One serving of vegetables is 75 grams (equal to ½ cup of cooked vegetables; 1/2 medium potato; 1 cup of salad vegetables; or ½ cup of cooked legumes (dried beans, peas, or lentils). Source: Healthy Kids, NSW


This means two things, in my experience. Eating vegetables and enjoying them yourself; and talking about how you are feeling about the change. Talk about how trying new things can be scary or not pleasant, but you still try it anyway because it helps us grow as a person, and vegetables make our bodies strong, so we can run fast. Children don’t respond to claims like “because it is healthy” like adults do, so make it relatable to an activity they enjoy.

It can take children up to 10 tries before they will embrace a change, so don’t let one refusal put you off.

Try, try again! My mother-in-law got her pea-hating daughter to eat peas by starting with one pea on her plate. Every time she served peas, she’d increase the quantity until she was eating a reasonable amount. Gentle persistence really pays off.

Some suggestions to help add vegetables into your day are: sipping vegetable soup for morning tea or lunch, corn on the cob; jacket potato topped with coleslaw, ghee, butter, or sour cream instead of a sandwich for lunch; popcorn (home-popped, no microwave stuff, with butter and a little salt ok); chopped or lightly steamed vegetables plain or with salsa (keep the sugar content low), hummus or yoghurt dips.


For example, one of my children will eat vegetables all day long, but only if they are raw. He likes crunchy textures and finds cooked vegetables slimy. Another of my children will eat any vegetables as long as they are separate on her plate. All my kids love peas, but they mostly love them frozen – cold, crunchy, and super sweet!

Exploit what they love. 


Arrange the food in patterns on the plate or call the vegetables by different names (EG little trees for broccoli). This works really well for younger children. It can be tempting to push for one more mouthful; however, arguing, shaming, punishing, or forcing children to finish all their plates creates a negative experience, and the child will learn to associate food with bad feelings. Negative food experiences have the opposite effect and increase picky eating. Ask for one bite/try but leave it at that so as not to start a fight.

Some children may need to start but just having the food on a separate plate on the table and gradually work towards having the food on their plate and/or touching or holding it before they can consider putting it in their mouth or even chewing and swallowing it.

Going slow is ok, be led by your child to help support a lifelong acceptance of eating vegetables.

Avoiding change or trying new things is hard-wired into humans as a protective mechanism from our cave-dwelling days. It can take time and much love and support to overcome this. Especially for toddlers who are just exploring the concepts of autonomy and control. 


Children are generally more likely to try something if they have had some involvement in growing it, picking it out, or serving it themselves. Can the kids pick a vegetable at the shop for you to try together as a family this week? Perhaps they can help find a recipe or instructions on how to prepare it and then cook it together? Do you grow some herbs or salad vegetables in a pot or garden bed?

Serving meals banquet style so they serve themselves helps kids feel more in control and more open to trying something new.

These can take time when you are already short on time. However, the investment will pay off as your children grow and they can help you shop and cook. Please trust me.


Kids' taste-buds are more sensitive than ours.

Remember not liking broccoli as a kid? It probably tasted more bitter to you than what it does now. To enhance the flavour, or outright cover it up!

Adding sauces or butter makes everything tasty, for everyone. I think butter (or ghee) and vegetables just go together. Making vegetables tasty includes not overcooking them. Mushy vegetables aren’t anyone’s friend. Lightly steam or fry only until the vegetable colour is enhanced and it is still a little firm to the bite.

Easy sauces to make are creamy garlic/mustard sauce; beurre blanc (butter sauce, I use a bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with water instead of white wine), melted butter or olive oil, fresh lemon juice, low-sugar tomato sauce, tzatziki or hummus dip. See this garlic cream sauce recipe for inspiration (if you don’t have a thermal cooker, this is easily made on the stovetop, just chop or crush the garlic and put everything in a saucepan).


While your children are learning to embrace vegetable eating, hiding them is a valid option. In fact, I still regularly hide vegetables in smoothies (not too much fruit, please), pureed or grated into pasta sauce, or soups or casseroles. Because even I sometimes slip on my vegetable intake. We are only human.

I love to make ‘white sauce’ out of cauliflower. <evil laugh> They don’t notice the difference in the lasagne. Here’s a recipe to try for cauliflower white sauce.

Try not to be disheartened! Remember, patience and gentle persistence will pay off with vegetable consumption.

I’d love to know how you’ve gone with my tips and any others you have for increasing vege intake too. So please leave a comment or send me an email. If you would like more support to help improve your own or your family’s health, please make time using the online calendar to discuss how I can do this with a free 15-minute discovery call.



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