Use our tried-and-true tips for getting kids not only to eat vegetables, but also enjoy them.
Researchers from Wageningen University found that kids (ages 4 to 12) prefer vegetables that are boiled and steamed over mashed, grilled, stir-fried and deep-fried. Why? Kids prefer the crunchier versions over more granular textures. These green beans are a good example: steamed first, and then topped with olive oil and a splash of lemon (crunchy and tasty).
Kids love dipping; and raw veggies paired with tasty dips make the perfect lunchbox treat, after-school snack, or first course at dinnertime. According to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, young children served vegetables before anything else ate 47% more (of the vegetable that is). Try a healthy dip, such as hummus. Bonus: It's made with garbanzo beans, which happen to be a vegetable!
According to a report by Brian Wansink and David R. Just (conductors of research at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs), junior-high-school students are 20% more likely to eat vegetables when they can choose between two items. So instead of plopping down the veggie and insisting your tween finish it, give them healthy choices. But the decision might not be so hard if one of the options is Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables, another great example of maximizing the sweetness in vegetables.
Kids often think of vegetables as unappealing side dishes. But working them (think pumpkin, butternut squash, and zucchini) into muffins, pancakes, and breads is a whole different taste experience. If they do ask, “What's in it?” don't try to hide the fact that they are eating something healthy. Instead, use it as an opportunity to open their minds to other fun ways they can add vegetables to their meals.
Editor’s Note: Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian, mother of two, and creator of the blog Raise Healthy Eaters.