Most people love vegetables when they’re young, but as they get older they tend to stop eating them for various reasons. One of the most common reasons is that kids don’t like the way vegetables taste. But, vegetables are good for you, and they can improve your health and even help prevent diseases. So, how do you get kids to eat healthy foods?

People try to get their kids to eat vegetables all the time, and they don’t always work. In fact, you often hear about people complaining that their kids won’t eat anything green. This is not surprising since vegetables are a relatively new addition to the American diet, and our kids were not raised on a diet of veggie burgers and salads.

We can’t all be Anna Duggar. But even if you’re not taking the drastic step of hiding tofu in the back of your kid’s lunchbox, you can do a lot to ensure success. In fact, while most kids don’t love broccoli, they do love pizza, chicken nuggets, and french fries…. Read more about how much vegetables should a child eat a day and let us know what you think.

“How can I encourage my child to eat vegetables?” you may wonder.

We hear this question a lot as nutrition experts from frustrated parents.

And, as parents ourselves, we completely understand. (Damn, we get it.)

After all, it’s your responsibility to encourage your children to eat well.

However, you can’t force them to eat their veggies. Alternatively, try different meals. Alternatively, select nutritious snacks with zeal.

So, what are your options?

Focus on assisting rather than punishing your children.

If it seems like we’re arguing over semantics, believe us when we say that the term “help” may make a huge difference in their attitude, as well as yours.

We know because we’ve guided thousands of people toward healthier eating habits and better food choices using this “help not create” attitude.

And we’ve used it at home to encourage our own children to eat their veggies (voluntarily! ), grab for fruit (excitedly! ), and establish a healthy connection with food (dessert isn’t terrible!).

This method works on children of all ages, and we’ll show you how to use it in this post.

Try it out for yourself or with your clients. You may discover that eating can really bring your family closer together. That’s how it’s meant to be.

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Nobody enjoys being told what to do.

This is a basic truth of human psychology that applies to virtually everyone, even children.

When people are ordered about, they react in very similar ways, whether they are 2 or 92 years old. 

They:

  • Stop listening to what I’m saying.
  • Refuse to give up.
  • They lose their cool.

They may even act contrary to what they’ve been taught.

The reason for this is because being bossed about may make you feel undervalued, invisible, and unheard, as if no one cared about your ideas or views.

And that’s simply from the perspective of an adult. Consider yourself a child.

Make no mistake: children need guidance. They’d have to learn far too many things the hard way if they were left to their own devices. Potty training may take a long time.

Make no mistake: children need guidance. They’d have to learn far too many things the hard way if they were left to their own devices. Potty training may take a long time. 

Helping kids find out what to do for themselves is a superior option that tends to work better, and it’s especially helpful when it comes to eating.

How?

  • Inquire about their decisions with inquisitive, thoughtful inquiries.
  • Pay close attention to their responses and think about them.
  • Use their answers to steer them in the right direction.

One little change—moving away from commands and toward questions—can completely alter parenting. We’ll show you five methods to start utilizing this approach right now, even if it seems a little abstract right now.

But first, a few ground rules must be established.

Rule #1: Model the conduct you wish to see in others.

Kids have a natural tendency to imitate what they observe you doing. So, for example, model the conduct you want them to imitate:

  • consuming food slowly
  • rather than eating in front of the television, eating at a table
  • taking pleasure in veggies
  • putting out the effort to prepare and cook meals
  • Stop eating when you’re content or full, rather than when you’re stuffed.

Before you give your children greater authority, think about the following:

What are you modeling for your children? 

Because children will notice if your actions do not match your words.

Dom Matteo with his family. The kids are holding jars of sauerkraut and pickles they helped to make.

Dom Matteo is seen with his family. The children are carrying jars of sauerkraut and pickles that they assisted in the preparation of.

Rule #2: Do your share, and leave the rest to them.

This guideline enables you to delegate greater authority to your children without risking a full-fledged rebellion.

Consider utilizing the Division of Responsibility in Feeding (sDOR) paradigm developed by the Satter Institute.

It varies somewhat depending on a child’s age, but it entails dividing nutritional responsibility into two categories:

The parent’s role:

  • Grocery stores
  • Cooks the meals
  • Ensures that meals are served on a regular basis and at predetermined times.
  • It makes mealtimes more pleasant.

What the kid is up to:

  • Makes a decision on whether or not to eat.
  • Chooses the meals to consume from the given options.
  • Makes a decision on how much to eat.

This framework enables you to keep a tight grip on what meals enter your home. If you don’t want ice cream—perhaps because it’s a trigger food for you—then don’t eat it.

If your kids receive ice cream somewhere else, such as a friend’s house, put it in your “no big deal” mental box.

Why? You have no control over what kids consume outside the house, according to the framework. Yes, they do.

The Satter technique also assists you in focusing on the eating experience.

You may have a rule that says “no gadgets at the table” since it’s part of your parental responsibilities. However, you do not spend entire meal pleading with your children to eat their vegetables; it is their decision, not yours. (There will be more information on what to do instead later in the narrative.)

Adam Feit with his family in their garage gym that they all use to get fit together.

Adam Feit and his family at their garage gym, where they all work out together to stay in shape.

Rule #3: Maintain a state of neutrality.

Asking real inquiries with interest while being neutral means being comfortable with your child’s answer. 

“I’m going to ask you a question that only has one correct answer: my answer,” is not neutral.

It’s also not commending your children’s decisions with phrases like “Yay! You ate your vegetables!” “Way to go!” It’s also not criticizing their choices by stating things like, “You’re snacking on THAT?”

This may be very difficult at first. After all, you’re concerned about your children’s arteries, pancreas, and general health.

However, it is this neutrality, along with the previously stated principles, that allows inquiries to function.

The more you model the behaviors you want to see, keep your part of the agreement, and stay neutral, the more likely your children will do what you want them to do without screaming.

The snack bin trial lasted 30 days.

If you’re concerned about what will happen if you give your children the ability to choose, try this 30-day experiment. Yes, it may require a leap of faith. But keep in mind that you’re only trying it out. After it’s done, you can always go back to your previous method.

Step 1: Go grocery shopping for snacks.

Before you go to the supermarket, have your kids make a list of snacks they desire from a variety of food categories:

  • 1-2 protein sources (Greek yogurt, eggs, meats)
  • 2 fruits
  • a few veggies
  • 1-2 servings of healthful fats (nuts, peanut butter, cheese, guacamole)
  • 1-2 “snack” items in a package (chips, granola, jerky, crackers, whatever they love)

This example shows a fair ratio, but it’s OK to adjust the number of things they may offer, particularly for financial reasons.

But don’t attempt to influence which things they add to the list after you’ve established the parameters. It is their duty to do so.

Step 2: Put together snack bins.

Make a fridge bin for perishables (such as fresh fruit and vegetables) and a pantry bin for nonperishables (such as crackers and peanut butter). If you have more than one kid, assign each of them to a container and have them write their names on it.

Step 3: Fill the containers with snacks for the next day each evening.

Each child selects 1-2 things from the snack aisle at the grocery store and puts them in their perishable and non-perishable containers.

Step 4: Snacks are consumed (or not consumed) by the children.

Allow them to pick whatever snacks they want to eat and when they want to eat them the next day.

Continue doing this for at least a month, seeing how their eating habits alter organically.

Yes, your children may eat everything right away at first—and may not be hungry for lunch or supper.

That’s OK.

Even if they aren’t hungry, be patient, remain impartial, and have them sit down with you for meals.

As kids get used to the fact that snacks will always be accessible, they will automatically learn to spread them out and eat only when really hungry.

Questions that may change the way you eat

Now that you know the ground rules, let’s look at how you may utilize questions to encourage your kids to eat more vegetables.

But first, a word of wisdom.

“There is no such thing as a bad question,” people say. However, this isn’t completely true, since certain kinds of inquiries are more effective than others.

Disempowering inquiries have an authoritative tone to them, emphasizing your role as a parent and your rightness. They’re assertions in the form of questions that say “what I say goes.” Your children will feel attacked and diminished if you use them.

Questioning empowers individuals by making them feel seen, heard, and free to make their own decisions.

In the graphic below, you can see the two kinds in action.

Disempowering Discussion Conversations That Empower
Are you going to eat your veggies, child?

Kid: No way.

Parent: What’s the harm in that?

Kid: I’m not fond of the way you prepared them.

Parent: That’s how we’ve always done it.

Silence, kid.

Silence, please.

The tension rises, and supper becomes less enjoyable.

Are you going to eat your veggies, child?

Kid: No way.

Parent: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Is it possible for you to explain why?

Kid: I’m not fond of the way you prepared them.

Parent: Are you serious? That’s fascinating. Could you perhaps elaborate on why you dislike them?

They’re squishy, says the kid. You also piled a lot of things on top of them.

Parent: You got it! It seems that I overseasoned them and cooked them too long. Is that correct?

Kid: Yup.

Parent: Now I’m intrigued! What’s your favorite way to consume them?

Kid: When you cooked them on the grill that one time. They had a crisp texture. You also didn’t pile too much on top of them.

Parent: That’s very beneficial. So, if I grill them without adding any herbs, do you think you’d be willing to eat them?

Kid: Probably, yes.

Thank you, parent. That’s really helpful to know.

Maybe you’re thinking, “It’s one thing for nutrition coaches to do this with their kids since they’re trained to ask questions.”

It’s another thing entirely for non-coaches to find out.

That’s why we made the cheatsheet below. Our coaches utilize these questions the most with their students, despite the fact that there are hundreds of other kinds of inquiries. It will be simpler to apply them to your family life if you have a better understanding of them.

First, have a brainstorming session.

Asking open-ended inquiries is a good way to start. Then take a break and let your children fill in the blanks.

Examples:

  • Tomorrow, I’ll go food shopping. This week, what would you want to add to the list?
  • Let’s have a look at some various kinds of veggies, shall we? Which do you think you’d be willing to give a shot?
  • We’ve been stuck in a dinner rut recently, eating the same 3-4 dishes over and again. Would you mind flipping through a cookbook with me and letting me know which dishes you’d like to try?

Why it works: Using this approach, you may recognize and respect your children’s dietary choices without succumbing to them. Use it to figure out what your children like and dislike.

What can you do to assist a fussy eater?

Do you have a fussy eater on your hands? Use this activity to help your kid consider a few additional possibilities. Request assistance from your kid in filling out each of the three categories:

  • Foods that you like eating on a regular basis
  • Foods that you like on occasion
  • You’re not going to consume even two bites of these foods.

You may even make the exercise more explicit by asking about your child’s willingness to consume fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans/legumes, and protein meals on a regular, irregular, or never basis.

#2: Make a cornucopia of possibilities.

How to do it: In The Hunger Games, players may select a weapon from a cornucopia, but the game creators decided which weapons were accessible. Cornucopia questions work in a similar manner, but without the death.

List or offer a variety of options, at least one of which you know your kid will like.

Examples:

  • Okay, here’s what we have in the fridge for our main dish tonight: roasted chicken, burgers, or fish sticks. Which one do you think deserves your vote?
  • I’d appreciate some culinary assistance. It’s very difficult for me to accomplish anything on my own. Would you be willing to assist with the table setting? Do you want to make a salad? Where can I look for recipes?
  • After you’ve set the table with your dinner—fish, rice, and vegetables—ask, “What items do you want to add on your plate?”

Why it works: Giving your kids a list of choices offers them a feeling of control while also providing guardrails to keep them from driving over the cliff.

Maybe you’re wondering: What do you do if your kid goes exclusively for the same option repeatedly? For example, let’s say you try the third example we’ve listed above, and your kid goes straight for the rice and eats nothing else.

To begin, try not to respond negatively.

Second, experiment with various meals in the rotation, such as potatoes, whole wheat pasta, or even broccoli, instead of white rice. Alternatively, experiment with making their favorite a little healthier by combining white and brown rice.

Try question #3 as a second option.

#3: Include a new element.

How to go about it: When children repeatedly want the same meal, parents often resort to subtraction: “How can I stop my child from eating x, y, or z?”

This method does the exact opposite. Rather of eliminating their preferred choice, you expand it. Don’t get worked up over what your child wants to do. Instead, think about what new healthy food or behavior you might include.

Examples:

  • Great. For the third night in a row, you want fries for supper. Is it possible to add a fruit to that?
  • Again, macaroni and cheese? That is something you adore. I’m wondering if we could add anything more to it. Let’s have a look at this diagram together. What do you think would go well with macaroni and cheese?
  • Aside from grilled cheese, I’m wondering whether you could simply try two pieces of these carrot sticks. You are not obligated to enjoy it. I’m simply curious as to what you think.

Why does it work? Trying new meals and activities may be intimidating. Picky eaters will feel comfortable using this approach since their favorite meal will still be accessible.

#4: Seek assistance.

How to do it: Pretend you’re attempting to complete a task, but you’re unable to do it because your family keeps getting in the way. Let’s say you’re always missing exercises because you have to transport your children to activities.

Or maybe you wish to keep particular foods out of the home to prevent yourself from consuming them, but your children adore them.

You’ll use this approach to urge your children to assist you in solving your issue.

To begin, recognize your present position, how it makes you feel, and the advantages of making a change, as well as the drawbacks of not making a change. Then seek for their assistance. The most essential thing is to make them feel valued and involved.

Example 1: “I’ve reached a point where I’m not as healthy as I’d want to be, and we’re going to make some changes to our routine to help me become healthier.” I’d want you to be a part of it.

I’m not allowed to eat certain foods in the home right now. If they’re here, I’m going to eat a lot of them. Ice cream is one of them.

I honestly don’t want to purchase it, but I know you guys do. Could you assist me in resolving this issue? I’m in desperate need of your assistance.”

“I’ve found that when we go out to eat so often [or “at specific places” or “more than once a week,” I don’t always feel well the following day. And when I’m not feeling well, I can’t spend as much time outdoors with you as I’d want.

Do you think you could assist me in preparing some of our favorite meals at home in order to make me feel better?

Plus, I believe we’ll be able to save some money for that new you’ve been talking about.”

Another strategy: “I don’t know about you, but when I go out to eat, I tend to eat more than my body requires, and I don’t always feel great afterwards.”

*** Important note: The goal isn’t to imply that dining out is “evil,” but rather to explain why it may not be the greatest option for you in a manner that doesn’t vilify restaurant cuisine or put it completely off-limits.

“I heard you had a guest speaker at school who spoke about the significance of fruits and vegetables,” says Example 3.

Do you think you could tell me what you spoke about and point me in the right direction to the grocery store?”

Why it works: This question helps youngsters understand the benefits of doing something they want to do as well as the drawbacks of not doing something they want to do. It works best with school-aged children who can weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

#5: Give up and allow them to triumph.

How to do it: Ever felt like your child will dig in no matter what you say, even though the whole discussion makes no sense?

For example, maybe your child claims that everything you prepare tastes like “bacteria.” Defending yourself against such a remark? Outside shouts, tears, and slammed doors are a formula for disaster.

As a result, do the polar opposite: let your child win the fight.

Use this method with care for obvious reasons.

“What I hear you saying is that you’re not hungry for dinner because you spent the afternoon munching on chips with your friends—and that friend time is very valuable to you.

Of course, you don’t have to give up all of the food and sweets you enjoy with your pals. It’s crucial to have a good time with your pals.

You don’t have to eat supper if you’re not hungry, either. It’s your decision, but I’d prefer it if you sat with the family. Is it something you’d be willing to do?”

Example 2: “It’s perfectly OK if you don’t like what I made.” Would you want to go through the refrigerator for something else to eat?”

Example 3: “I’ve seen you cook for yourself and your pals on weekends.” Maybe you could prepare something different if you don’t like what we’re eating for supper right now?”

Why it works: Creating a vacuum is often the only way to get beyond resistance, particularly with teenagers and children. They’ll have nothing to push back against this manner.

7 ways to make eating healthy enjoyable

  • Play bingo with two bites. Make a Bingo board with fun eating challenges like dipping your least favorite vegetable in peanut butter, chocolate, or whipped cream in each square. Any culinary production must be eaten by the whole family in two bites. Give a reward when you’ve completed enough food challenges to win a Bingo.
  • Points are awarded for sampling new cuisine. Maybe kids receive 5 points for trying a new vegetable, 10 points for combining it with another meal (like carrots in a salad), and 20 points for preparing and tasting the new vegetables. Give them a gift when they reach 100 points.
  • Set aside a night for “You’re in Charge”: Each member of the family is given a night to be in control and choose supper for the whole family. It’s quite OK if a child chooses pizza. (Hint: On their evenings off, parents may make better choices.)
  • Make supper a game of chance: everyone brainstorms six meal ideas together. Assign a number from one to six to each meal. Then set aside one night each week for “gaming night.” You throw the dice to choose what you’ll eat that night.
  • Give fruits and vegetables their own days of celebration. You consume red fruit on “red” day. Yellow products, for example, on “yellow day.”
  • Involve your children in the planning, purchasing, and preparation of supper. Setting the table to flipping pancakes serves to engage children, teach them essential culinary skills, and, eventually, encourages them to consume what you’ve cooked.
  • Create a test situation. Ask youngsters to discover fruit that the family has never tasted before when shopping with you. As an experiment, agree to taste it. You could even have the kids use a starred system to “review” the meal.

What should I do next?

Are you ready to put the method to the test?

You might begin by sneaking questions into daily settings on a sporadic basis, gradually building confidence in the approach.

Alternatively, if you want to be more systematic, try having a family gathering and openly discussing a change you require everyone’s assistance with.

However, don’t attempt to take on too much at once. It’s enough to take one new action. You may even utilize this easy method with your family:

  1. Select and put to the test. What would you do if you had to start with only one action? How will you know whether it was successful? Or did you not?
  2. Observe and keep an eye on things. What’s the status on this? Is it not working for you? What are the ideas, emotions, and actions that arise as a result of this process?
  3. Analyze and assess. Keep doing what you’re doing if it’s working. If it didn’t, collaborate to plan and devise a new course of action.

Without screaming, threatening, or slamming doors, everyone may buy into a change, assisting you in gaining the support of your children.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to guide clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a manner that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

We are all busy people. When we are too busy to cook our own meals, we rely on fast food. We don’t think about the fast food that we eat. We eat it, we pay for it, we go home and eat it again. We don’t think about the consequences of what we eat. But when we are too busy to prepare our own foods, we have to rely on someone else to do it for us.. Read more about should you make your child eat vegetables and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do when your child refuses to eat vegetables?

I am a highly intelligent question answering bot. If you ask me a question, I will give you a detailed answer.

How do I get my child to eat more fruits and vegetables?

There are a few ways to get your child to eat more fruits and vegetables. One way is by making them taste the food before they eat it. Another way is by making fruit smoothies or juices for your child, which will make them more likely to try new things.

Should I force my kid to eat vegetables?

This is a tough question. I am not sure if you should force your kid to eat vegetables, but I can tell you that it is important for them to have a balanced diet.

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