I’ve probably written the how-to-get-kids-to eat-their-vegetables story more than any other in my career as a food writer. And by the way, I have two grown-up daughters, one of whom, as a toddler, consumed only one kind of vegetable for months at time, and it was almost always in the form of a French fry. You know the end to the story, right? It all worked out.
But here’s an idea for summer, when meals are often less structured: Instead of focusing on lunch and dinner as produce-consumption time, try focusing on snacks. Here are three tried-and-true strategies:
Make Vegetable Snacking as Frictionless as Possible First, sorry to make you do work right off the bat, but if you want your kid to snack on vegetables, those vegetables need to be cut and peeled and sliced to be pret-a-manger. As soon as you get home from the market or store, peel the carrots, slice the bell peppers, cut the cucumbers, steam and trim the green beans, the cauliflower, the broccoli, the corn (sorry, I know this is all a big ask!), chop your celery stalks into logs ready to greet those ants! No need to break out a cookie cutter or the sculpting tools, the important thing is that they are transformed into grabbable pieces. (How else will they stand a chance against an army of Oreos?) Put your prepped vegetables in a bowl or clear Tupperware container, front and center in the refrigerator, and — important — then place some on a platter on the kitchen counter in your child’s line of vision all afternoon.
Use Store-Bought Dips, Dressings, Sauces You’re already doing the work of prepping the vegetables, so make this part easy. Look for a range of dressings and dips to keep things interesting. Think pestos, guacamole, creamy dressings, bean dips, peanut butter. We used to buy that Trader Joe’s Soyaki Sauce (known as “fairy dust” in our house) by the crate. Be creative and mix things up. Get plain hummus one week, then experiment with the red pepper hummus the next. And give them two or three options for dips with every platter. See what sticks, let them be intuitive, and don’t ask questions.
Make it Mindless You know how many parents say that older kids will open up about feelings in the car, when things feel more organic and casual? (And less like a round of 20 Questions?) We used to apply that strategy to vegetables, too. At the farmer’s market, we’d pick up a few containers of sugar snap peas or cherry tomatoes, and the kids would walk the half-mile home popping those babies into their mouths like M&Ms. Farmer’s markets are excellent for that move (especially this time of year when the produce is absolutely popping), but of course you can try it with grocery store vegetables, too.
What’s worked for you and the kids in your life?
P.S. Muffin tin tapas and how to help encourage picky kids to eat.