Please Pass the Veggies

We love our children and want them to be healthy. We work to cook and serve meals that are well rounded and good for them. Then we sit down as a family to eat dinner and our children refuse to eat their vegetables. Won’t even open their mouths to try them. Argh, I have felt that frustration, more than once.

Instead of throwing in the towel, rethinking the situation can give us some hope with those vegetable battles.


  • Part of your child’s job description is to not like vegetables.
  • Just because your child doesn’t love veggies doesn’t mean you are a bad mom. I can’t get my husband to eat olives or pickles, that doesn’t make me a bad wife.
  • Children have to be exposed to a food approximately 10 times before they will accept it. What ever you do, don’t stop offering the vegetables.

Naturally we all want to make our own decisions. Put yourself in your little one’s shoes. Children are told when to go to sleep, when and what to eat, what they will wear, what to say, “say dog, say please, say thank you.” They get to make very few choices in their lives. This makes them fell slightly trapped. The same way we feel when we are told what to do.

One of the best things you can do when it comes to veggies is to give children a choice.

Give your children two different veggie options at meals. One option makes them feel forced, two options gives them a choice. By giving choice children, just like adults, they feel like they are in control and in charge, instead of being told what to do. By making our own choices, even if they are small, we feel ownership and responsibility. No longer are you telling them what to eat. Instead they are choosing what to put in their mouths. By giving them choice when they are little, it will help them gain trust in you. It will strengthen your communication and help you better learn about your child’s preferences and how to deal with them.

Note: this does not mean that as your child gets older you should turn into a short order cook, making them a “special dinner,” different from what the rest of the family is eating.

If your child is obstinate, throws their veggies, or fights with you at the table about eating them, explain that their actions are not acceptable. Then, ask your child to use “words” to tell you if they don’t like something. When they tell you they don’t want the vegetables, respect them, and thank them for talking to you instead of throwing a fit. Take the food they don’t want away, and move on. As they feel that you are listening to them and respecting their opinions, they will start to come your way, maybe even try the veggies they once rejected. Remember, when all is said and done, you are still the parent, and you are still in charge. Giving them choice, doesn’t mean we are giving them ultimate control.

What you don’t want to do is let this ruin your family dinner experience. We are trying to create memories and rituals that hopefully stay with our families long after the “veggie war” is over. Make dinner fun and enjoyable for everyone. If your children know that every time you sit down to eat there is going to be stress over the food, they will naturally not want to be there, at least not with a pleasant attitude. 1 carrot is not worth it. Don’t let this battle get you worked up, frustrated, or loose your temper. We can’t let our mother’s pride overshadow our love for our children.

We have fought this battle in our home. Our son is willing to try every vegetable there is, our daughter, not even close. Wouldn’t even open her mouth. It has taken time, but the more respect I show her, the more she is willing to try new things. The more I listen to her opinion and honor that opinion, the more she is willing to try new things. The more I give her choices so that she feels like she has control, the more she is willing to try new things. She is five. It has taken time and a lot of patience.

As parents it is easy to get so caught up in trying to do “the right thing for our children” that we miss the fact that they are people just like us, with thoughts and feelings and preferences.

In my mind (and sometimes out loud), I say things like, “I worked hard to cook this for you, now eat it”, or “I am trying to be a good parent and help you grow healthy and strong, now eat it.” Or, when we are with other people I worry that they will think of me as a bad parent if my kids refuse to try their vegetables.

I have had to throw those thoughts out the window.

Respect your children’s opinions and they will respect you. DON’T GIVE UP. Allowing choices doesn’t mean your kids have won. It means you really love them and treat them as you would want to be treated.

More Suggestions…

Try veggies in all different forms. Raw, cooked, add some butter, salt, pepper, even a little ranch dressing could change things. Most kids will eat anything with “dip dip sauce.” There is nothing wrong with spicing things up a bit. After all, most adults don’t even eat vegetables without “something” on them.

Use all the tricks, dice veggies up very small and add them to your hamburger meat, your spaghetti, on pizza, anything. Find ways to hide veggies in your kids favorite food.

Try every vegetable you can get your hands on. Think outside carrots and peas. When our daughter was two she would only eat raw zucchini. Who would have thought.

Let your kids help you cook. Get them involved in every step.

Grow some vegetables, teach your kids as you go and they they will want to taste what they have grown.

A favorite in our house. I add small pieces of cooked carrots and peas to my children’s cheese quesadillas. Cook up a few carrots until they are nice and soft. Slice them very thin and layer them with the canned peas, amongst the cheese.

You can also slice cooked carrots up and put them in grilled cheese. You can’t even see them. Yum.

Take broccoli and carrots and mix them into pasta sauce. The sauce will hide the veggies and add a sweet aspect. Use multi colored pasta and the veggies will really be hidden. Kids love it.

Don’t underestimate Teriyaki Sauce. It makes anything taste good.

If , for nutritional reasons you are still concerned. Be sure your children are taking a vitamin each day. Along with that, make them a smoothie each day with vegetables mixed in. Add some fruit, ice, a little yogurt and your choice of vegetables. They will love it and never know that they are eating spinach and carrots from dinner the night before. The goal is to find the vegetables they like and work with it. Fruit and vegetable juices like V8 can also help provide the missing nutrients.

Getting your kids to eat healthy can be very frustrating. Be creative, don’t quit and stay calm, and eventually, you will see improvements.


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