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Do you struggle to get your child to eat their vegetables? Share your tips and tricks below.

74 replies

EllieSmumsnet · 20/02/2023 10:07

Created for Veg Power

This discussion is now closed.

Are meal times a struggle in your household? A healthy, veggie-rich diet can help improve our children’s mood, learning and overall health, however it’s not always easy to encourage children to eat more vegetables. We want to hear about your mealtime challenges and top tips to help make mealtime veggie battles a thing of the past.

  • Post your stories and advice in the thread below to be entered into a prize draw.
  • One lucky MNer will win a £200 voucher for a store of their choice from a list.

About Veg Power:
“80% of our children are not eating enough vegetables, with a third eating less than one portion a day. We are a not-for-profit alliance on a mission to inspire kids to love vegetables. You might know us for our award winning Eat Them to Defeat Them campaign with ITV, or our new Simply Veg programme to support parents.”

Here is what Veg Power have to say:
“Half of mums tell us that they struggle to get their kids to eat more vegetables, with many admitting that they have given up trying. Our mission at Veg Power is to get kids excited about vegetables and to help parents and carers serve up those vegetables with confidence. Although we're supported by an amazing panel of nutritionists and chefs we find that the best ideas often come from parents. We'd love to hear your views. Let's talk veg!”

Thanks and good luck with the prize draw!


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OP posts:
SaltnPeppaPig · 20/02/2023 23:01

I just don't make it a thing, I offer a range at each meal and don't comment on what they eat. My job is to make sure vegetables are available and offered, their job is to decide what to eat and how much.

problembottom · 20/02/2023 23:19

My four year old is pretty fussy about food but she will eat a few staple meals. One is cheesy tomato rice, which is actually made with a vegetable sauce (using whatever I have in the fridge, from courgettes to carrots to peppers).

I also find she has fear of the unknown. So she says things like she “only likes potatoes” but she’ll happily eat any veg mashed. Same idea with her favourite green beans - she will in fact eat strips of broccoli or courgette. As long as the food looks familiar she’s fine to at least try it.

Asuwere · 20/02/2023 23:35

I give them veg that they do like and always have other veg available for them to try if they want. I don't force them as it makes it into an issue. They are aware that they should have a healthy diet and why. Tastes change so it's good when they try something again but no big deal if they say they still don't like it.

Xiaoxiong · 20/02/2023 23:42

While I'm making dinner and the kids are super hungry I put out a plate of cut up peppers, cuke, celery, carrots, cherry toms with a dish of hummus and a dish of olive oil & salt. One plate for them both to snack from which seems to spur competition to make sure their sibling doesn't get more. Every so often I include one new veg eg radish, raw broccoli, raw cauli, endive for them to try. This often works best when they are watching something on the iPad at the same time and not 100% paying attention - I find I can present them with something a few times before they'll try it so don't give up.

Also, they will try new things more readily with grandparents, nanny or play date. And once they've tried something new once or twice with someone else they'll eat it again at home with me!

Finally if I do something that should be with chips eg a burger, fish fingers I either cut up cuke and pepper as the "chips", or make chip shaped courgettes and aubergines, breaded and fried.

Aily17 · 21/02/2023 05:21

Luckily my kid likes most vegetables, I always try to make the food look pretty and colorful. But he used to be fussy.

Dizzywizz · 21/02/2023 06:41

Hidden veg! That’s what I did when mine were little

BristolMum96 · 21/02/2023 06:56

Fruit/veg that my child likes is always available and eaten with no fuss. We have an agreement that they will try one new food per week with no fuss.

Rellywobble · 21/02/2023 09:19

Genuinely cannot remember with my children but Granddaughter is great with fruit and veg but hopeless with carbohydrates! Toddlers cannot win 🤷‍♀️

voyager50 · 21/02/2023 16:00

No problems with him eating veg at all and he loves fruit too.

I know a lot of my friends have had to disguise veg in food for their kids but thankfully it has never been an issue for me.

WinterFoxes · 21/02/2023 17:07

Some things we did:

Try them with a vegetable a few times. If they don't like it, introduce it in pureed form in a sauce, then gradually make the puree a bit chunkier. I pureed veg and added it to everything - spinach and fennel in pork burgers; courgettes, peppers, mushrooms, spinach and onions in tomato-based pizza and pasta sauces, pureed mushrooms and leeks in chicken pie or casserole. You can even hide a small amount of beetroot and courgettes in chocolate cake and brownies. Once they enjoy these things you can tell them they have the veg in them so their tastes have 'matured'. Then gradually start them on the veg as a side dish.

Fry finely sliced veg in cornflour batter - like Japanese tempura veg. They'll eat a bit and get used to the flavours. Works very well for sweet potatoes and courgettes.

If they ask suspiciously if a recipe has Hated Veg in it, use US names for the veg. My DC hated courgette but loved zucchini fritters, hated red peppers but loved capsicum sticks etc Wink

neverendinglauaundry · 21/02/2023 18:11

The veg battle is a tactically rich arena and a great opportunity to teach your kids basic combat skills. Here are a few tips to start you off:

A sharpened carrot can be used as a shiv or even an arrow for a ranged attack.

The butternut squash and the celeriac are both good as bludgeoning weapons in a melee, but both would be better if you attach a sturdy handle.

Dried peas work well as improvised bullets in a blow gun for another ranged attack and with advanced carving skills you could make a hollowed out carrot blow gun.

ABingStory · 21/02/2023 19:28

A couple of years ago we did (our own version) of a vegetable alphabet challenge. So basically trying to eat a vegetable starting with each letter of the alphabet (over the course of several weeks!) this led to my then 8 year old researching what veg he could eat for each letter and made him keen to try too.

I encourage the children to understand the difference between 'I don't like it' and 'it's not my favourite'. I don't forced them to eat things they absolutely detest but I insist on a small portion of less favoured veggies etc.

fluffylampbear · 21/02/2023 20:43

Serve before the main course, when kids are hungry. If you serve at the same time as pizza etc of course they won’t go for the veg! But this always works.

also, serve veg they don’t usually eat with a dish they really dislike. Reverse psychology will see them go for the veg they are less familiar with and usually avoid vs the food they hate. It helps get them more used to the veg.

AdoraBell · 22/02/2023 00:23

When my were toddlers I put vegetables and salad on my plate. Gave them something I knew they would eat. They were curious about my dinner and wanted what I had.

Later, about 5/6 yrs old one decided she didn’t like peas. I asked her which vegetable she would have instead. Told her that she could swap vegetables but can’t reject all vegetables. When they didn’t like a new vegetable, cauliflower fe, I dressed it with lemon juice and olive oil. One really liked spicy food when they were young so she had mustard or chilli flakes on her veggies.

Also did veg versions of some meals, so spaghetti bolognaise became spaghetti with onion, celery, carrots and tomatoes in the summer.

Another trick was having an indoor picnic and instead of sandwiches I put ham/cheese on plates with chopped vegetables.

BlackeyedSusan · 22/02/2023 02:01

Don't make it a battle. Feed them what they like. Look up which nutrients are in which things so you feel less stressed that they are not getting something important.

Feed your kids veggysauces and veg from weening to give you the best chance of getting them to like them.

Put it on your plate and let them steal them.

Give them veggies to eat while watching TV.

Tell them they have had it before and liked it.

Put lots of veggies in curry or bolognaise or pasta sauce.

Try them in different ways (raw, boiled, roast all taste different)

DimplesToadfoot · 22/02/2023 02:40

My DS would eat nothing but chicken nuggets and smiley faces, so without any fuss or ado every day I offered him the same as we were having but made his own.

I would invite his vegetable loving friends for tea, while DS was picking at his boring chicken nuggets and smiley faces his friends would be eating the same as everyone else which included veg, The conversation always went along the lines of his friends saying "you're not having carrots, you won't be able to see in the dark" DS wanting to be able see in the dark eats a carrot. "we're having cabbage yummy! my mum never makes cabbage enough, don't you like cabbage" DS stubbornly replies "of course I like cabbage" and eats a big fork full and decides that actually he does like it. I could have said the same thing a million times to no avail but those friends were gold. They unknowingly won my battles for me. :-)

My DS is an adult now and there's pretty much nothing he won't eat, where as I was held down, force fed and have a million hang ups over food, all I refused to pass onto DS.

DoNutSweatTheSmallStuff · 22/02/2023 06:24

Don't make it an issue.
Just serve up the veg with everything else, it's part of the meal.
We all eat the same (so good role modelling from parents).
Veg are snacks too - raw carrots, cucumber, celery, pepper sticks.
They're exposed to a lot of veg so don't see it as anything unusual, it's what we need to eat to stay healthy and they know this.
Getting the kids to help cook / prepare the veg helps too. They're more invested then and more likely to try it.

timmothysmith01 · 22/02/2023 14:39

Eating a lot of veggies along with a wide variety of meals from the other major food groups constitutes a healthy diet. You may help your child eat more vegetables by using the advice we've provided below:

  1. Set a good example with vegetables
  2. Keep trying vegetables
  3. Use praise when your child tries vegetables
  4. Get your child involved in cooking with vegetables
  5. Offer vegetables as snacks
  6. Go for vegetable variety, taste, and fun
  7. Get vegetables into meals in other ways
Saschka · 22/02/2023 19:49

We never made it a big thing, but then we are vegetarian so vegetables are just… food. DS would be pretty hungry if he didn’t eat any. There are a couple he doesn’t like, mushrooms and peppers, and weirdly cucumber, but it is easy enough to avoid them.

Not a huge fan of the eat them to defeat them campaign honestly - food isn’t an enemy, vegetables aren’t baddies. It sets up an unnecessarily adversarial approach to eating peas, which should be an entirely unremarkable event for most children. We eat vegetables because they taste nice, not as part of a battle.

sharond101 · 22/02/2023 21:01

My 10 year old is a nightmare. We have tried every tip in the book and he is well and truly not having it and truthfully belches as it enters his mouth. He accepts pureed soup, raising, cooked peppers and baked beans. I make sauces with hidden vegetables and we go through alot of baked beans!

minipie · 22/02/2023 22:20

When mine were younger I gave them the veg part of the meal first. I think the bit you eat first when you’re hungry always tastes the best. Always tried to give them nice veg, not stuff that was past its best or overcooked. Often put butter on cooked veg. Basically I did whatever possible to make them think veg tasted nice. They now eat a wide range of veg happily (although courgette is still refused unless hidden in sauce - might have to try the zucchini tip above 😆)

However my DD has some sensory issues and while she’s great with veg, she eats hardly any fruit. Some fruit she can’t even be near due to the smell. I think this is genuine dislike, not fussiness. If you have a child who genuinely finds some foods repellent then no tips are going to help. But do keep trying, as tastebuds change as we get older.

meringue33 · 23/02/2023 08:59

I have one veg lover and one hater.

reading the Tim Spector food book atm and he says if you overcook veg it releases sulfur, hence the rotten egg smell of school dinner boiled cabbage. I’ve been trying to stick to six min then take the veg out even if the main isn’t ready (I always struggle with having everything ready at once!)

hannahbjm · 23/02/2023 14:05

I blend a lot in pasts sauces but mostly I dont make it an issue i offer 2 or 3 veggies so as long as they eat one then i dont mind as much

Kokapetl · 23/02/2023 14:08

The title made me think "the battle to get the last cucumber in the supermarket?"!

I have one child who will eat most veg if it is prepared well with lots of additional flavouring- so in a vegetable lasagne, stir fry or similar

Unfortunately, the other child eats most veg but only if in a completely plain, boiled form.

The overlap between what they will eat is carrots and cucumber.

I tend to end up cooking at least three different vegetables per meal.

Lcb123 · 23/02/2023 15:45

Don’t frame it as a ‘battle’ for starters. Serve a range of veg throughout the week in different formats. Let them pick and choose what they want to eat. Don’t offer dessert as a reward for eating veg

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