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As a health coach for families and mothers, I hear one common problem that appears in most families and at most dinner tables.  Aversion to vegetables.

“No Mommy!!!  I won’t eat my ________!!!”  Fill-in-the-blank with your choice of vegetable.

It’s always the vegetables, rarely the mashed potatoes, the macaroni and cheese, or the cookie.  If it is colorful and vibrant in flavor naturally, an alarm goes of in their little brains with a warning, “WARNING:  This item is a vegetable!!!  Avoid at all costs!!!”  And so they do.  They kick up a fuss.  They start crying.  They refuse.  The broccoli ends up in the floor.  The carrots swished in unnatural ways.  Spinach . . . well that’s in your hair.  It’s a new look.

Is all this pain necessary?  Is there some better way to do vegetables?  Why do children identify vegetables as “bad?”

I have some answers for you.  Vegetables do not have to be alien invaders and strange food groups that your children are forced to consume.  In fact, if you consider the guiding principles below, you may find that veggies are welcome into the house as a friend.

Getting Children to Eat Vegetables

Why your children hate their vegetables

This is really the point isn’t it?  Your children have learned to hate their vegetables.  At the early age of 1-3, something has taught them that vegetables are less preferable.  Why?  I will provide four reasons that children learn to hate their vegetables.

Reason #1: Baby food

When we first introduce vegetables to our children, we often give them baby food that we have bought in a grocery store.  Some parents buy organic, some buy regular, but the problem is the same.  Have you ever tasted baby food?  It’s repulsive.  Ground up plain green beans that have been heated to high temperatures in order to kill any possible bacteria (also loosing all nutritional value) that are then packaged into small plastic containers (filled with chemicals) . . . taste gross.

If you are just starting to introduce your baby to new foods and vegetables, consider learning more about traditional babies first foods.  In Sally Fallon-Morrel’s  –> The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care, she shares how vegetables were not originally given to babies as first foods.  In traditional cultures, babies would begin to eat broth or a lightly cooked egg yolk.   Then parents began to prepare vibrant vegetables cooked in broth and seasoned lightly with grass-fed butter and sea salt.  Your babies will not turn up their noses to THESE vegetables.  Unlike processed baby goo from the store, this is food that you would eat.

Why would we expect our children’s palate to differ so much?

If your child has already eaten their baby food and has gotten this poor impression of vegetables, you have some work to do.  You have to begin to change their idea about vegetables.  You need to make really tasty preparations of various vegetables to reintroduce them to a quite nutritious and beautiful array of food.  My favorite cookbook for vegetable preparation is –> Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.  I am not a vegetarian, but she has done a great job of collecting wonderful tasting recipes that help you to prepare vegetables in exciting ways.  In her recipes, I substitute butter, ghee, and broth in for various oils and water.  Makes the recipes even more nutritious and flavorful!

Reason #2: They have other choices

Imagine being a child with a plate full of food.  On one corner, you have little chunks of cut up meat, on another corner you have mashed potatoes, on the third corner you have green peas, and, finally, you have a hunk of bread in the final corner.  Which would you eat first, as a child?  Probably the bread, right?  Who doesn’t love cramming carbs in their face?  It turns to sugar in our body and makes us want more.  What next?  The mashed potatoes.  Carbs again for the win.  Then your taste for umami (savory/meat) flavoring will win out.  You’ll start eating little bits of the meat.  By this point, your belly is getting full.  The green peas, though starchy, are less than desirable at this point.  Why eat them?

When we provide our children with a plate full of choices, they will not naturally choose vegetables first if they have any problems with sugars (aka feeding the yeast in their body) or if they have learned to love unhealthy foods.  We have to begin to make these choices for them until they learn the benefits of a healthy diet.  Food can be served in courses or you can add flavors to the vegetables to give their bodies a signal that the vegetables will provide some of these basic nutritional needs.

Fundamentally though, you as the parent are in charge of your child’s diet.  Your child’s preferences are NOT your law.  Just because your child demands carb-laden food does not mean you prepare them carb heavy food morning, noon, and night.  Your child needs nutritionally dense foods more than anything else.

Did you know that a child will not starve themselves when provided with good, nutritionally dense foods?  They might refuse to eat for a few meals, but eventually, they will eat.  This battle is worth the rewards.  Stand firm, feed them nourishing foods, and remove the poor food choices entirely.

Tips for children and vegetables

Reason #3: You do not know how to prepare them

Let’s face it.  Very few people know how to cook vegetables anymore.  With many past dietitians encouraging a low fat diet as a healthy choice, so many families stopped preparing their vegetables with healthy fats.  As a child, I was fed carrots boiled in water, steamed broccoli, and boiled green beans all without fats.  These were some LONELY veggies!!!  The low-fat diet has ruined the way many families prepare their vegetables.  Poorly prepared vegetables are easily considered gross, especially by children.

In order to encourage your children to eat their vegetables, you need to know how to make delicious vegetables.  Here are a few tips to cooking delicious vegetables:

  1. Cook vegetables with meat or broth.  This gives them an umami flavor that the taste buds identify and accept.
  2. Add a little raw honey and butter to the carrots to signal the body that there is sugar (though healthy) and the body will also recognize the healthy fats that will help the body to absorb the vitamins and minerals in the carrots.
  3. Learn to sauté your vegetables.  Sautéing the vegetables lightly in extra virgin olive oil, butter, ghee, or even lard (from pastured pork) is a great way to enhance the flavor of most any vegetable.  Asparagus is delicious sautéed.  Organic squash (avoid GMO squash), onions, cauliflower, spinach, peas, green beans, and organic bell pepper can all be sautéed.
  4. Learn to roast your vegetables.  Nothing adds more sweetness to your root vegetables than roasting them in a 400 degree oven for an hour or two.  Cut up parsnips, beets, carrots, rutabegas, and even turnips, cover them in a tablespoon or two of healthy fat, add salt and pepper, place them in a glass baking dish, and roast them.  Stir them every so often until you notice a syrup forming at the bottom of the pan and around the vegetables.  The red beets will color the other vegetables a beautiful red shade.  When you taste them and they have a sweet taste and soft texture take them out and serve them.  The beets and carrots are the sweetest, so you may want to start there!
  5. If you like to steam your veggies, add flavorings to them after cooking.  Broccoli tastes wonderful coated with butter and a dash of sea salt.

Let me know in the comments below if you have another method of preparing your vegetables that helps children to appreciate their flavor!

Reason #4: You hate your vegetablesfight over vegetables

Don’t think you were going to escape the obvious.  At times, children learn to hate vegetables, because their parents hate their vegetables.  You may have tried to hide it and thought you hadn’t made your children aware that you grew up with a distaste for vegetables.  It didn’t work.  Why?  Because of the language we use around our children.

Unfortunately, many parents prep their children for a bad experience.  “I know you won’t like this, but you have to eat it.”  Even worse, there’s the “I know it’s gross, but it’s good for you.”  Children also read your expressions (aka body language).  They can see when you don’t enjoy it.

When we don’t enjoy our veggies, we also don’t make them as often.  We don’t make what we don’t want to eat.  However, vegetables are nutritious and when prepared correctly they are phenomenal.  How can we move past this hatred for vegetables?

The same way I’ve suggested encouraging your children to enjoy their vegetables.

You have to start learning how to make tasty vegetables and let go of your past aversions to less tasty vegetable preparations.  You need to realize that the way you’ve had these vegetables prepared in the past is only one way that these vegetables can be prepared.  As the cook, you get to change that method!  You can make vegetables exciting.

Tips for Getting Children to Eat Their Vegetables

The four reasons why children do not eat their vegetables is a great start to understand why it happens and how to change it.  However, there are more great tips to encourage children to try new things.  I’ll provide 6 tips below to get you started!

  1. Grow your own vegetables together.  As children see the vegetables grow, they will naturally want to try the them.
  2. Go to a farmer’s market or a farm.  Allow the children to meet farmers who grow their food.  Teach them about how the farmer’s sell their wares to support their family.
  3. Have your children prepare the food with you.  Snap the end of the beans together.  Pull apart cauliflower.  Pull peas from their pod.  For older children, teach them how to sauté.
  4. Ask them to eat one bite of the new foods as an introduction.  Have them tell you one thing they like about the new food and one thing they don’t prefer.  This can help you find other preparation methods, but it also develops your child’s palate.  My kids enjoy tasting spices and herbs as well as eating raw veggies just for the experience.
  5. Tell your children what the new food is like.  If I’m feeding my foster child a new food, I will tell him kale is like spinach (which he likes).  If I feed him butter beans, I tell him it is like peas.  Find something they like to compare the new food to in order to help them feel comfortable with the new food.
  6. Since language is important, refer to food dislikes as foods you do not prefer.  “I do not prefer olives”  or “Olives are not my favorite food.”  That doesn’t mean I can’t eat them, but I don’t prefer them.  In addition, you can specifically mention that a child does not prefer a dish prepared that way.  Assure them that there are many other ways to try that vegetables and they may like it prepared in a different manner.


You as the parent can change everything for your children.  Vegetables have wonderful building blocks for our body and keep our system alkaline.  Integrating new preparations of vegetables can be a beautiful experience to share with your children as you teach them about cooking, recipes, and how each food can be made different ways.  I hope the ideas in this post will help you get started introducing vegetables in a whole new way to your family!

Ciao for now!

Brooke Shambley

THE Boholistic Mom

Affiliate Disclosure

I am an Amazon Affiliate and the links included in this post (including some of the pictures) will take you to Amazon.  As an affiliate, I get paid when my readers shop from those links.  Feel free to shop from the links if you’d like to support my blog, but feel free to shop elsewhere especially locally!

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