I am often asked “what are the best vegetables for picky eaters” or “how can I get my kid to eat veggies?” I wish I could just print out a list of vegetables for parents and send them on their way, but as with most parenting things, it’s not that simple. Most of my advice is very personalized depending on the preferences of the picky eater themself.
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How can I get my kid to eat veggies?
Or maybe, you shouldn’t focus on that. In stead, focus on how you can expose your child to a variety of foods, including vegetables. Pressuring your child to eat certain foods tends to backfire in the long run.
It’s your job to decide what foods are offered plus where and when to offer them and it’s your child’s job to decide what and how much to eat.
Why is eating veggies important to you?
If you’re worried about certain nutrient deficiencies, it may help to know that many of the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables can be found in many other foods as well.
It’s entirely possible for your child to have a healthy, balanced diet, even if they don’t eat vegetables.
Of course, I’m not saying that we should give up on vegetables completely, but know that you can meet your child’s nutrient needs through other methods while they are learning to like vegetables.
Best Vegetables for Picky Eaters
Many people would probably say potatoes or carrots, however I would argue that there are many picky eaters who don’t like either.
We are often afraid to offer our picky eaters more exotic foods, because we assume they will not like them. However, a child cannot try a food they are never offered. This puts us in a loop of our child never eating new foods because they are never given the chance to try new foods.
Start by figuring out what kinds of foods your child likes. Do they like certain textures, colors, smells, etc. Once you have figured out what they like, figure out what they don’t like. Many picky eaters are very sensitive to bitter tastes, for example. Now that you have a basic idea of their preferences, try and match those preferences with different vegetables.
Once you have figured out some options for your child, you can use a method like food-chaining to work to introduce other vegetable options.
If your child likes crunchy foods:
Opt for raw vegetables. Don’t be afraid to offer them with dips. Not only do many dips contain other nutrients your child needs, like fat, but they can make vegetables taste better.
Try salad bars. Let your child be in charge of what they add to their salad. Give them options of vegetables and non-veggie additions. If your child starts with crouton salads only, that’s ok! It’s a start.
If you want cooked foods, try roasting veggies to give them crunch. Air frying works as well, like with bok choy and cabbage.
If your child likes fried foods:
Fry veggies. You can use an air fryer or bake them if you are serving them to your whole family and are concerned about the fat content. There is absolutely nothing wrong with fried vegetables. It’s one of the ways that I introduced foods like artichoke hearts and avocado to my kids.
If your child likes sweet foods:
Try roasting some root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Cooking these foods tends to bring out some of their natural sweetness. If your child is over 2, you can add some additional brown sugar or other sweetener to make them even sweeter.
If your child likes packaged snacks:
Try freeze-dried or frozen options. These tend to have more consistent flavors and textures that offer some predictability. Canned can be another option, however the texture tends to be mushier which may be an issue for some picky eaters.
What not to do:
I don’t recommend hiding vegetables in your child’s food. This can break down trust between you and your child. It’s ok to add vegetables to different dishes, just make sure your child knows they’re there.
Want more tips for picky eating? Make sure to check out my Family Meals Made Easy Course!
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.