How many vegetables should you eat each day? The best advice is from the USDA, and they recommend choosing a variety of colorful veggies and aiming for 1 to 3 cups daily depending on your age, gender, and level of physical activity. For 2 to 3 year olds, 1 cup is the recommendation, but that number jumps to 3 cups for men between the ages of 19 to 51. Getting even 1 cup can be tough if you’re a kid (or adult) who shies away from anything green or refuses to take even a bite of broccoli or butternut squash. Given the struggle that lots of folks face when it comes to getting more vegetables on the family table, I gathered these 19 tips, tricks and recipes from some of my favorite dietitian bloggers on the web. Enjoy …
These cooking methods, mealtime tips, recipes, and prep ideas may be just what you need to turn your entire family into vegetable lovers.
Want to learn more about making veggies appealing to kids? Tune in to my Eat Your Vegetables podcast episode with chef Ana Sortun. Click the PLAY button below.
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Mix veggies into favorite meals. “What’s nice about vegetables is that they are so versatile. I often recommend adding in zucchini noodles into the pasta mix, use cauliflower as pizza crust, rice, or as mashed “potatoes,” add shredded carrots and chopped spinach to pizza and sauces, and use veggies as “fries,” says Colene Stoernell, RDN.
Continue to introduce (and re-introduce) vegetables. “When it comes to mealtime, it’s important to maintain your parental responsibility of feeding, and let your kids maintain their responsibility of eating. It can be hard to relinquish some of the control at mealtimes, but in the long run, it will help your kids to better self-regulate their food intake and grow to enjoy a variety of foods. So, how do I make veggies more appealing to my child? If you need inspiration, check out my top three tips,” says Sarah Remmer, RD.
Changing presentation can go a long way. Oven-frying makes for some tasty, crunchy vegetables and can entice picky eaters without all the added fat from deep-frying. A little cheese here and there doesn’t hurt either,” says Elissa Lueckemeyer, RDN, LD.
Appearance is important. “I focus on making them look ‘fun’ which gets them to try more & eventually eat more vegetables,” says Erin Palinski Wade, RDN.
Keep trying! Try veggies warm, cold, frozen, roasted, steamed, sautéed, with dip, in different shapes, etc!” says Lindsey Livingston, RDN.
Make it fun. “Let kids have fun choosing their veggie toppings for pizza & tacos by placing them in brightly colored bowls,” says Karmen Meyer, RDN.
Let eating veggies be more interactive. “Kids love to eat veggies when they can dip them in a flavorful dip or sauce, such as hummus, ranch dip, fruit salsa, guacamole, or nut butter. Here is one of my favorite recipes for a pretty and flavorful hummus,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian.
Incorporate more vegetables into a favorite dish. “Add veggies to dishes your kids already like, like tacos, pizza, or spaghetti. Filling tacos with beans and roasted vegetables can be a fun way for kids to try a new vegetable,” says Jessica Ivey, RDN.
Be sneaky. “I love to add veggies to my kid’s favorite dishes, such as Mac & Cheese and pizza!” says Andrea Mathis, MA, RD, LD.
Make vegetables more appealing. “I sincerely believe to make vegetables more appealing to kids you need to engage them in the whole experience from seed to table and have them put their “food explorer caps” on! Learning about where food comes from connects children with what they eat; empowering kids with knowledge to pick the perfectly ripe XX (you can fill in the blank!) is exciting; and arming children with tools to use their five senses and descriptive words to help them articulate what they like and don’t like about foods is fun and life changing, because let’s face it, not everyone likes all foods all the time. I am currently working on the second book (on veggies, the first was on fruit) in a series of children’s nutrition books on whole foods doing just that!” says Dani, RDN, from Experience Delicious.
Combine favorite flavors with vegetables. For instance, this hummus is made with carrots and ranch to give a familiar flavor with an extra veggie punch,” says Jenna Braddock, RDN.
Enjoy the whole experience of cooking veggies. “I’ve noticed the more kids are involved, the more willing they are to try their creations. I once did a class that was all about cauliflower and we made it in multiple ways – mashed, riced, roasted, steam, blended. It was great to see everyone find at least one way they enjoyed cauliflower. Also, I recommend working with familiar flavors. Many children are familiar with an Italian seasoning blend, so I sprinkle that on their veggies,” says Julie Harrington, RDN.
Cacik from Liz at Liz’s Healthy Table (shown above)
Baked Zucchini Fries from Colene at Kids Eat Well
Sweet Potato Nachos from Tammy at The Nutrition Twins
Farmers Market BLT & Avocado Chopped Salad Pizza from E.A. Stewart at The Spicy RD (shown above)
Vegan Hummus Pita Pizza from Amy at Amy Gorin Nutrition
Cheesy Broccoli Mac and Cheese Bites from Andrea at Beautiful Eats and Things
Savory Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles from Julie at RDelicious Kitchen (shown above)
Parmesan Breaded Veggies from Elissa at Food 4 Success, LLC
Tomato Ladybugs from Erin Palinski, RDN
Taco Pita Pizza from Karmen at The Nutrition Adventure (shown above)
Quick and easy vegetable recipes from Lindsey at The Lean Green Bean
Kid-Friendly Brussels Sprouts from Judith at Foods with Judes
Beet White Bean Hummus from Sharon at The Plant-Powered Dietitian (shown above)
Roasted Summer Vegetable Tacos from Jessica Ivey, RDN
Golden Roasted Cauliflower from Jessica Levinson, RDN
Eggplant Pesto Meatballs from Triad to Wellness (shown above)
Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk from Dani at Experience Delicious
Roasted Carrot and Ranch Hummus from Jenna at Make Healthy Easy
Tabouleh Stuffed Peppers from Judy at Live Best
My pediatrician has told me that it is better not to mix meat with veggies for children under 12 months. Is this true?
This is great. I’m using it for an adult – me. All the best,
Tamara Belland says
These recipes are amazing, creative and thoughtful. Thank you for bringing them to readers.
You are most welcome!
Wendy Ross says
My toddler wont eat nothing but poptarts and wallfles ,,plz help me get her eatting more stuff ,anythi g is a pkus ,Thanks so much
Hi Wendy: use those foods as a way to transition to other foods. For example, spread nut butter, cream cheese, or jam on a waffle. Then set out berries and other fruit and ask your toddler to create a smily face on top of the waffle … and then gobble it up! Instead of pop tarts (very sugary), ask your toddler if she wants to make homemade pop tarts. You can use two pieces of whole wheat bread (or white whole wheat), and then cook it up like you would grilled cheese. For the filling, try a tiny spread of nut butter, jam, and then thinly sliced banana or another favorite fruit. Maybe a few blueberries. This technique is called, FOOD CHAINING. There are a lot of great free resources online that explain it. You may enjoy listening to this podcast episode on Picky Eating: https://www.lizshealthytable.com/2017/05/24/lizs-healthy-table-feeding-picky-eaters-with-sally-sampson/
My granddaughter is same way. She’s 6 now & still refuses to try any kinds of veggies or meat. She only eats peanut butter sandwiches, French fries, waffles, chicken noodle soup & that’s it. We’ve tried everything & she’s got a mind of her own & she will not eat anything new. Rest of the family will eat anything & everything so she’s the only picky eater.
Just keep offering a variety of veggies and meats. No stress or judgement. Just offer it to everyone and if she wants to take some, she will. Presenting food family style and making mealtime a fun celebration may inspire her to take a bite. Enjoy meals and snacks and keep the variety flowing. Also, google “good chaining” and see if you think that will work for her.
Roger Charles H. Culannay says
A Blessed day Miss Liz Weiss, your advice would be very helpful. You see, I have a step nephew who doesn’t want to eat some veggies, although she wants eggplant with eggs nd saute beans with soy. She is a 5 year old girl, which weighs at about more than 20 kilos or more. Although she eats eggplants and saute beans, yet, she is countering it with lots and lots of junk foods, candies and lollipops. We are worried about how she is getting bigger and heavier. What can we do?
If she loves eggplant and beans, that’s great. Always offer fruits and vegetables first. At breakfast, start with fruit. At meals, start with salads and other vegetables. At snacktime, go heavy on fruits and veggies. Veggies and dips are fun. Try an eggplant dip! Try to keep junk foods out of the house. Just make fruits and vegetables the star of what’s in your kitchen. If there are no junk foods available, then she won’t ask to eat them. Let me know if that helps. And listen to my podcast episode on picky eating. I think it will help: https://www.lizshealthytable.com/2017/05/24/lizs-healthy-table-feeding-picky-eaters-with-sally-sampson/
Hello Liz! Any advice on how to transition a toddler to a more plant based/vegan diet? She hates meat! All meat. She loves tofu though and meat substitutes but is having a very hard time with veggies and fruits. She has a dairy allergy as well. She loves vegan cheese and of course chips which we rarely buy. Just want her to be healthy and happy!
is there one veggie and one fruit she loves? If so, start with those. And then build on them slowly by trying various presentations with each. Example: Blueberries presented in a bowl on their own; then added on top of pancakes; then added to a smoothie; then presented in a bowl with perhaps another similar fruit. Once she’s comfy with her favorite fruit and veggie presented in perhaps more than one way, introduce a second fruit, but make sure it’s similar. For example, if she loves blueberries, introduce halved purple grapes or raspberries. If she loves crunchy carrots, try orange bell pepper strips. This is called “food chaining.” You slowly build on the limited list of accepted foods. LMK if you need more advice on this!
Making a recipe fun is the best tack of tricking kids into eating healthy veggies.
Maika Andrea San Pedro says
I came here cuz my son is a very picky eater. He doesn’t eat any veggies. And if I try, it’s very forceful and he gags as if he doesn’t like the texture at all. Whether if it is fried, sauteed or in soup. He also doesn’t like any kinds of dips. Once he sees that his fried chicken have some sauce on it He won’t eat it. But he eats savory and soup based dishes.. But he doesn’t eat the veggies in them. Just the soup/sauce and meat… I tried making carrots fries. He didn’t eat them cuz its..well it doesn’t look like fries. 😅 it’s orange and squishy inside after you bite.. Good thing is that he also doesn’t like candies. And I very rarely give him chips as well.. Mostly biscuits/crackers/cookies only. And if I do give him chips, it’s only the whole wheat baked chips. I also tried blending carrots and string beans to very tiny texture and mix them with his scrambled egg but I don’t know if that is good enough?
If he likes the scrambled eggs with tiny bits of veggies, continue doing it. You could also add to pasta sauce if he likes pasta sauce on pizza or pasta. What about a fruit smoothie with a few leaves of baby spinach blended in? Does he like fruit? If he does, then go heavier on the fruit and don’t worry about the veggies. I would consider consulting with a dietitian who specialized in “food chaining.” Here is a link to some info on “food chaining.” You may find that technique beneficial. Keep me posted and reach back out any time. Check out dietitian, Megan Boitano’s website: https://www.meganboitano.com/blog/what-is-food-chaining-picky-eaters