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Column: Want your kids to eat their veggies? Here's some tips
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Whenever people mention kid-friendly food, I cringe inside.

I just don’t buy this propaganda that kids can’t eat vegetables. 

I know parents across America struggle to get their kids to eat well. I remember sitting at the dining table with my parents cajoling one of us to try our green beans. It’s not fun.

However, a little resistance is no reason to give in to a life of chicken nuggets and french fries. If you’re thinking there’s just no hope for your kids or grandkids — there’s hope. 

However, I will point out that some kids have sensory issues and specific reasons why they may struggle with certain foods, and I don’t have personal experience with that so I’m not going to speak to those issues.

But for your average picky kid, I have some tips that may help you out.

Believe it

Kids can eat veggies. Mine do. There’s nothing particularly special about them. 

In fact, I’ve parented 12 different kids in our foster home and gotten all of them to eat some veggies. It’s possible. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible.

Set the expectation

At our house, the rule is you have to try everything before you get up from the table. 

My youngest will sometimes look at dinner and call it disgusting, but by the end of dinner he has tried everything. Often he’ll discover that he likes at least one of the items. It just takes him some getting used to sometimes.

We don’t make promises about dessert. We try not to nag him about it. We’re just consistent about enforcing the rule.

If they put up a fight about a certain food, we repeat the rule. They don’t have to like the food, they just have to try it. It may be hard at first, but keep at it.

Make it fun

If you know your kid is likely to put up a fight about a new food, try serving it up as an appetizer to try out. At this point, your kids should be hungry, and if it’s presented as something fun to try, they just might.

We used this tactic several years ago with a couple of kids living in our foster home. I served up some swiss chard sauteed in garlic, and they tasted it. They decided the green, leafy vegetable wasn’t so bad.

More recently I served up some mushroom poppers to our boys and their friends. They didn’t all like it, but they were interested. Most of them gave it a shot, and at least one of them had seconds.

Another way to make dinner more fun is to involve kids in the cooking when you have time. Talk about the ingredients and let them taste as they go. 

I’ve definitely had kids help in the kitchen and still not want to eat what they helped prepare, but it is introducing them to the foods regardless.

They can help “plate” the food as well, making it look appetizing. That matters to adults, and it makes a difference with kids, too.

Try, try again

Introducing and reintroducing foods is vital. Just because they don’t eat zucchini the first time, doesn’t mean you stop serving zucchini. This is especially important when they’re little, but it works when they’re older, too.

It may take several tries before they get used to the idea and the taste. You can also try cooking it a different way. 

One of my boys “doesn’t like salmon,” but I know that with some kind of glaze or sauce on it, sometimes he really likes it. 

One of my kids “doesn’t like fish,” but there are a lot of different fish and different ways to prepare them. Slowly I introduce those options and see what happens.


With all of that in mind, try to enjoy dinner together. Try to make it more about variety and adventure and family time than a fight over eating veggies. 

And when you eat out with the kids and they turn their nose up at that kids menu of only chicken nuggets and fries — yes, at least one of mine begs to eat off the adult menu — you can thank me. Just don’t send me the bill.

Shannon Casas is director of audience for Metro Market Media, parent company of The Times. She is a North Hall resident.