Vegetables for Picky Eaters: Encouraging Kids to Try Veggies

In this blog we cover vegetables for picky eaters as I am constantly asked how to help on this topic. Being a parent is like going on a wild adventure, especially when it comes to encouraging kids to try vegetables. Imagine mealtimes as a battlefield, and the veggies are like tough opponents that kids don’t always want to tackle. I know the feeling – for a good two years, I tried all sorts of ideas to help my little girl like carrots.  

The good news? It worked!

I also discovered that making courgette and cheese bread was the key to helping her enjoy roasted courgettes. So, if you’re a parent feeling a bit stuck with veggies, don’t worry – there’s hope! We’re all in this together.

Vegetables for Picky Eaters: Food Preferences in Children

Kids don’t just randomly decide what foods they like – there’s a whole story behind it! It’s like a mix of different things that go beyond just the taste. Where does this story start?

Well, it’s influenced by things like your genes, the foods you try when you’re little, and how your taste buds change as you grow up. When we understand this story, it helps parents and caregivers deal with picky eating in a smart and understanding way.

So, it’s like having the power to make mealtimes better by knowing the secrets behind why kids like certain foods.

Understanding the Role of Taste and Sensory Perception in Kids’ Diets

Exploring the importance of taste and sensory perception in children’s diets reveals their significant influence on a child’s food choices.

Kids often have heightened sensitivity to specific textures, flavours, and even visual aspects, and these factors can greatly affect their openness to including vegetables in their meals.

Examining the nuances of taste and sensory experiences offers valuable insights, helping us customize strategies that not only make veggies palatable but genuinely enjoyable for the youngest members of the family.

What vegetables are good for Picky Eaters?

Let’s make the best tasting vegetables for our little ones. But what are the best vegetables for picky eaters to try? 

Tailoring Vegetables for Picky Eaters

Now, let’s be real – not all veggies get the same standing ovation from our little critics. So, we’re on a mission to be veggie DJs, creating a playlist (or rather, a plate-list) that suits our kiddo’s taste buds.

Let’s start with some sweeter vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, peas or sweetcorn.

Crunchy Veggies

Who here is Team Crunch? Well, turns out our picky eaters might be secret texture enthusiasts.

Crunchy veggies are the rockstars of the veggie world. Picture this: snappy carrots, crispy cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, celery – they bring that satisfying crunch that turns munching into an adventure.

Top Crunchy Vegetables for Fussy Eaters 

  • Carrots: The grandmasters of crunch. Whether you chop them into sticks or turn them into fun shapes, carrots are a classic crunchy delight.
  • Cucumber: Cool as a cucumber and twice as crunchy! Those thin slices or bite-sized chunks are perfect for a refreshing crunch.
  • Bell Peppers: Bursting with colour and a satisfying snap, bell peppers are not just a visual feast; they bring the crunch factor to the party.
  • Celery: The unsung hero of the crunchy squad. With its crisp texture, celery is like nature’s own edible instrument.
  • Sweetcorn: Corn on the cob can give such a great crunch and is sweet too
  • Vegetables crisps: if veggies are a step to far at the moment
Top crunchy vegetables for picky eaters
Top crunchy vegetables for picky eaters

Strategies to Introduce Crunchy Vegetables Successfully

Now that we’ve got our crunchy squad assembled, let’s roll out the strategies to make these veggies the headliners in your picky eater’s menu.

  • Snack Attack: Turn crunchy veggies into a snack-time spectacle. Pack a variety in a colourful tray with a tasty dip on the side. Suddenly, it’s not just a snack; it’s a crunchy adventure!
  • Veggie Art: Get creative with presentation. Turn crunchy veggies into fun shapes or arrange them on the plate to create a veggie masterpiece. Suddenly, eating becomes an art project!

How to make vegetables taste good for picky eaters 

Exploring the Best Veggie Dips for Kids

Dips are like the sidekick every veggie needs. They transform the ordinary into the extraordinary! Here are some dip ideas that will turn veggies into the ultimate snack sensation:

  • Hummus Haven: Creamy, dreamy hummus is a classic hit. With flavours like roasted red pepper or garlic, it’s a dip-tastic journey for little taste buds.
  • Yoghurt Ranch Delight: A healthier take on the ranch, yogurt-based dips are a cool companion for crunchy veggies. Throw in some herbs, and you’ve got a dip that’s both tasty and nutritious.
  • Peanut Butter Paradise For the brave hearts out there, peanut butter or almond butter dips can add a sweet and nutty twist to the veggie game.
  • Mayonnaise: Or just plain mayonnaise is one is my little girls favourite with carrots.

Roasted Vegetables for Picky Eaters 

Now, let’s turn up the heat – in the oven, that is!

Kid-Friendly Roasting Techniques

Roasting is like magic for veggies. It brings out their sweetness and adds that irresistible golden touch. Get your mini chefs involved with these kid-friendly roasting techniques:

  • Veggie Toss: Let your little ones have a blast tossing veggies e.g sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, courgettes in a bit of olive oil and their favourite seasonings. It’s like giving the veggies a cozy flavour hug.
  • Colourful Trays: Arrange veggies in a rainbow on the baking tray. It’s not just about taste; it’s a feast for the eyes too. Kids love a plate that looks as good as it tastes.

Best Veggies to Roast for Kids

Now, not all veggies are born to be roasted, but some take to it like superheroes to capes. These are the MVPs (Most Valuable Veggies) for roasting:

  • Sweet Potato or butternut squash Wedges: Sweet, savory, and downright delicious. My little girl prefers sweet potatoes to potatoes so give them a try.
  • Crispy Broccoli Bites: Roasting turns broccoli into crunchy bites that might just win over even the toughest critics.
  • Colourful Bell Peppers: Roasting brings out their natural sweetness, making them a delightful addition to any meal.
  • Courgettes and carrrots: my little girls favourite – she will only eat roasted courgette
Best vegetables to roast for picky eaters
Best vegetables to roast for picky eaters

Sautéed Vegetables: A Delightful Sensory Experience

Let’s crank up the sizzle, folks! Sautéing veggies is like giving them a front-row ticket to flavour town.

Sensational Sautéing:

  • Butter and Garlic Bliss: Start by sautéing your veggies in a bit of butter and minced garlic.
  • Herb Infusion: Add a dash of fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary for a fragrant twist. It’s like a culinary symphony for the senses. Smoked parika can work really well and this is my little girls favourite.
  • Veggie Medley Magic: Mix and match your veggies. The more colours, the merrier! Sautéing turns them into a vibrant, flavourful dance.

Steaming: Preserving Nutrients and Texture

Now, let’s keep it steamy, shall we? Steaming veggies is the gentle spa treatment they deserve.

Steamy Elegance:

  • Quick and Easy: Steaming is like the express lane to veggies – it keeps them crisp, colourful, and loaded with nutrients.
  • Stackable Delights: Invest in stackable steamer baskets for a veggie tower of power. It’s like a green skyscraper of nutrition.
  • Lemon Zest Zing: Finish off with a squeeze of lemon for a zesty kick. It not only elevates the flavour but adds a burst of freshness.

Adding Sauce: Elevating Flavour in a Kid-Friendly Way

Alright, saucy time! Because what’s a superhero without a cape? Let’s dress those veggies up.

Kid-Friendly Sauciness:

  • Tomato Tango: A simple tomato sauce can turn any veggie into a pasta pal.
  • Cheese Please: Melted cheese is the ultimate veggie sidekick. Whether it’s a sprinkle of Parmesan or a gooey cheddar blanket, it’s a guaranteed hit.
  • Teriyaki Twist: Introduce a touch of sweetness with a kid-friendly teriyaki sauce. It’s a flavour journey your little ones won’t forget.
Sauce ideas for Vegetables for Picky Eaters
Sauce ideas for Vegetables for Picky Eaters

Creative Ideas to Make Vegetables Entertaining

Fun Shapes and Colours

  • Rainbow Revolution: Arrange veggies in a rainbow on the plate. It’s a feast for the eyes and a chance for your little ones to taste the colours.
  • Shape Shifter: Use cookie cutters to transform veggies into fun shapes. Carrot stars, cucumber hearts – the possibilities are as endless as a child’s imagination.
  • Dip It Right: Create a dipping station with colourful sauces. Let your little ones dunk their veggie creations into tasty sauces, turning every bite into a mini adventure.

Vegetable Art Projects

  • Veggie Portraits: Turn veggies into art supplies. Use bell peppers as stampers, broccoli as paintbrushes – let your little Picasso explore their creative side with edible art.
  • Food Collage: Get a big poster board and let your kids create a vegetable collage. It’s not just a craft; it’s a celebration of veggies.
  • Edible Sculptures: Stack and build with veggies. It’s like playing with food, but in the most creative way possible.

Vegetable-Based Snacks

  • Veggie Popsicles: Blend veggies into smoothies and freeze them into popsicle molds. It’s a  delightful way to enjoy veggies as a refreshing treat.
  • Trail Mix Makeover: Create a veggie-centric trail mix with colourful veggie chips, roasted chickpeas, and some nuts. It’s crunchy, munchy goodness.
  • Build-Your-Own Snack Packs: Make snack time interactive. Provide small containers with a variety of veggies, dips, and a few surprises. Your little ones become the architects of their veggie snacks.

The Impact of Parental Role Modelling on Children’s Eating Habits

Alright, parents, get ready to be the superheroes your little ones look up to when it comes to veggies! Your eating habits are like a masterclass for those impressionable taste buds.

  • Show, Don’t Just Tell: Kids are like sponges, absorbing everything around them. When they see you digging into a colourful salad or savouring those crunchy carrots, it sends a powerful message. Your actions speak louder than words.
  • Make It a Family Affair: Turn mealtime into a family event. When everyone’s enjoying a variety of veggies, it creates a positive atmosphere that encourages your little ones to join the veggie party.
  • Adventure on Your Plate: Express enthusiasm for trying new veggies. Your excitement is contagious, and it transforms trying new foods from a chore into an exciting adventure. Be the veggie explorer your kids look up to.

Encouraging Family Meals and Positive Eating Environments

Now, let’s talk about creating an environment where veggies are not just on the menu but stealing the show.

  • Family Table Time: Make it a point to gather around the table as a family. Family meals are more than just a time to eat; they’re an opportunity to connect, share stories, and, of course, enjoy a delicious spread of veggies.
  • Positive Vibes Only: Keep it positive and stress-free. Mealtime shouldn’t feel like a battleground. Create an environment where trying new foods, especially veggies, is met with encouragement rather than pressure.
  • Get Kids Involved: Let your little ones take part in meal planning or even simple tasks like setting the table. When they have a hand in the process, they’re more likely to be excited about what’s on the plate.

Remember, parents, you’re not just serving up meals; you’re shaping lifelong habits. By being veggie champions yourselves, you’re setting the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating for your little ones.

Hidden Vegetables: Are They a Good Idea?

Exploring the Pros and Cons

Now, let’s dive into the debate that’s been stirring up kitchens everywhere – hidden veggies. Is it a culinary win or just a stealthy way to get those greens on the plate?

Pros of Hidden Veggies:

  • Sneaky Nutrition Boost: It’s like a secret superhero mission – adding extra nutrients. Sneak in some spinach in that smoothie, and you’ve got a nutrient-packed delight.
  • Recipe Flexibility: Hidden veggies can add versatility to recipes. From zucchini muffins to cauliflower pizza crust, it’s a culinary adventure that expands your menu options.

Cons to Consider:

  • Lack of Exposure: Concealing veggies might mean missing out on an opportunity for your little ones to explore and appreciate different flavours and textures.
  • Trust Factor: Some argue that hiding veggies might erode trust in the long run. It’s like a vegetable conspiracy – and when the truth comes out, it might be met with scepticism.
  • Developing Palate: Exposing kids to the real deal encourages the development of their palate. Hidden veggies, while nutritious, might not contribute to the gradual acceptance of veggies in their whole form.

Balancing Hidden Vegetables with Transparency

So, is there a middle ground between playing veggie ninja and having a transparent veggie strategy? Absolutely!

  • Be a Veggie Tour Guide: Instead of entirely hiding veggies, be a veggie tour guide. Let your little ones know what’s in their meal. It’s like a fun food exploration where they discover the heroes (veggies) in their dishes.
  • Gradual Transparency: Consider transitioning from hidden veggies to transparent veggie inclusions. Have vegetables in a sauce and on the side of the plate.

Remember, the goal is not just to get veggies into their diet but to cultivate a genuine love for them.

Recap of Key Strategies for Introducing Vegetables to Picky Eaters

Whew, what a journey into the world of veggies for our little picky eaters! Let’s do a quick rewind and gather our arsenal of veggie tactics:

  • Creative Crunchiness: Highlight veggies with a satisfying crunch – carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers.
  • Flavourful Twists: Dive into dips, from hummus havens to yogurt ranch delights, making veggies the stars of the dipping show.
  • Roasting Wonders: Turn up the heat with roasting magic, transforming sweet potatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers into golden delights.
  • Sensational Sautéing: Sauté veggies to create a sensory symphony with butter, garlic, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.
  • Steamy Elegance: Keep it steamy, preserving nutrients and colours with stackable veggie towers and a splash of lemon zest.
  • Saucy Delights: Dress up veggies with tomato tangos, cheesy blankets, or sweet teriyaki twists for a flavour explosion.
  • Veggie Fun: Get creative with shapes and colours, turn veggies into art projects, and transform them into snack-worthy delights.
  • Role Modelling Magic: Lead by example, showing enthusiasm for veggies and making family mealtime an enjoyable and positive experience.
  • Hidden or Transparent: Explore the pros and cons of hidden veggies, finding a balance that aligns with your family’s values.

Remember, turning picky eaters into veggie enthusiasts is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient, celebrate small victories, and remain consistent in your approach. It’s okay if it takes time for those taste buds to evolve into veggie fans.

Our goal is not just getting veggies on the plate but nurturing a lifelong love for nutrient-rich foods. By making veggies exciting, involving kids in the process, and creating positive mealtime environments, we’re laying the foundation for a healthy relationship with food that will last a lifetime.

As a mum and a dietitian, I know how stressful it can be have a picky eater or fussy eater. If you are worried about your child’s nutrition, book a free call or check out my Creating Confident Eater Programme to see if I can help your child with their fussy eating.

Or download my free guide to help Boost your child’s iron intake with irresistible snacks for picky eaters

Written by Emma Shafqat, Paediatric Dietitian RD. The information is correct at the time of publishing the blog.

Emma Dietitian in the kitchen with a mug and computer

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