Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts & Beetroot: How to Have Fun with Vegetables

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how to get kids to eat more veggies

As parents, we all know the importance of getting our little ones to eat their veggies. Vegetables are a highly valuable source of nutrition and fiber. But let’s be honest; broccoli or Brussels sprouts just can’t compete with sweets in the taste department. Why is that? Are kids just being difficult? Not quite.

First, kids instinctively prefer calorie-dense foods that provide a lot of energy to support their growing body’s needs. Most vegetables don’t offer a lot of calories and thus energy. Instead, vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber that are essential for health overall and gut health in particular. Fiber also helps kids feel fuller for longer.

Second, most vegetables, especially green and cruciferous, are quite bitter in taste. The bitter taste comes from high calcium content and dietary polyphenols (antioxidants), and the more bitter the more nutrient-dense they are. So, naturally, it’s the bitter broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radicchio and arugula that kids seem to dislike the most. However, repeated exposure to vegetables is what makes them more tolerable. Children from a young age need to experience a range of textures, flavors and nutrients in their diet. Building familiarity is the first step in helping them accept a wider variety of foods in their diet. Thirdly, anything naturally grown from a tree, bush or underground, will taste different every time you eat it. The taste of the same vegetable, on a different occasion, will differ depending on the season, how fresh it is and how it’s been cooked. This variability can often make eating vegetables difficult for children as they may be unsure of what taste they are going to get.

Lastly, sweet foods tend to evoke happy memories. Sweets are often used as treats or as part of festive events like birthdays and playdates. Hence, kids begin to associate sweet taste with joy and fun, and vegetables with nagging, frustrated parents forcing them to eat more of the green stuff. So, some kids may dislike the memories of experiences associated with vegetables rather than the actual vegetables.

Fortunately, there are many fun, creative ways to get your kids engaged with vegetables. If done correctly, it could set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

In this article, we’ll share our top tips on making vegetables more fun. From making amazing veggie creations to adding them to your child’s favorite foods, read on to learn what you can try at home.

Add them to the food they already like. Blend those green vegetables with fruit they already know and enjoy to create colorful and delicious smoothies. When you make something with a vegetable, make sure this vegetable is the only unfamiliar ingredient.

  • Dips! Serve the vegetables with hummus, avocado mash, or natural nut butter.
  • Serve a rainbow – Offer a colorful variety of vegetables at dinner time. As you eat, loudly discuss the different sensory properties of the vegetables e.g., their different textures, flavors, and colors.
  • Reduce the bitterness by caramelizing, braising or pickling the vegetables.  A small addition of fat and salt may help increase vegetables’ palatability.
  • Show enthusiasm – Don’t just eat veggies yourself – relish them! For example, you could go, “Mmm, the broccoli is so crunchy and delicious!” Your little one will take note of your enthusiasm.
  • Embrace veggies as snacks yourself. Your kids will be more eager to join you if you do this.
  • Don’t force it. Regularly exposing your child to a range of vegetables with no focus on trying, tasting or eating will help decrease your child’s fear and will increase their willingness to interact with and eat some of those vegetables.
  • Make it a game to create happy memories. Make veggie characters: Use vegetable pieces like capsicum noses, corn kernel eyes, and carrot stick arms to make silly veggie characters. Playing with food is an important part of child development. By playing with their food, children are learning about the world and developing a more relaxed and positive association with a variety of foods. It engages their senses and stimulates their curiosity. For more tips and ideas on how to play with food, read our article Why is Playing with Food Important?
  • Have your children help prep veggies for meals. This will make them more invested in eating them.
  • Eat together. Make family meals a happy time with conversation and bonds over nutritious foods like vegetables.

Veggies as snacking options

A wonderful way to increase veggie consumption is to offer them daily as snacks. It is important to prioritize vegetable familiarity as a daily strategy to achieve dietary variety.

Here are tips:

  • Stock up on favorites – Keep washed, prepped veggies on hand to grab and go. Carrots, capsicum strips, and cucumber slices are great starter veggies for kids.
  • Pair with dips – homemade hummus, guacamole, and nut butter complement veggies deliciously.
  • On-the-go options – explore the extensive range of Little Bellies veggie snacks – sweet potato pick-me sticks and pumpkin round-a-bouts for 7+ months baby, tomato sticks and veggie tubes for 12+ months toddlers.
  • Grow your own – Let kids be veggie gardeners! Harvesting cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas straight from the vine makes them taste even better.

Snacking on veggies throughout the day benefits kids by:

  • Providing nutrients between meals
  • Preventing hunger meltdowns
  • Expanding palates gradually
  • Establishing healthy habits

When veggies become a routine part of the day, fussy eaters will quickly become veggie lovers. Keeping vegetables novel, fun, and engaging will go a long way towards making them your child’s favorite! Check out our Play with Food Guide from Simone Emery to get some ideas about how you can make veggies more fun.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of veggies are immense. From nourishing a growing little body to establishing healthy lifetime habits, vegetables play an important role in your child’s diet.

While picky eating phases are normal, there are many creative techniques you can try to make broccoli, carrots, beets and even Brussels sprouts more fun! With patience and a little imagination, you have an excellent opportunity to influence your child’s relationship with vegetables positively. Most children will be happy to examine and explore, and each new small taste like a small step is a step closer to eating and enjoying the vegetables.

Bon appétit!

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash