8 Simple Tricks to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables

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Most children seem to have a congenital aversion to vegetables — possibly because some vegetables are bitter tasting, such as Brussels sprout, broccoli, and asparagus.

Researchers explain that flavor is the primary dimension by which young children determine food acceptance.

According to researchers, “Children are not merely miniature adults because sensory systems mature postnatally and their responses to certain tastes differ markedly from adults. Among these differences are heightened preferences for sweet-tasting and greater rejection of bitter-tasting foods.”

A study published in 2005 by researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia suggests that a gene may be responsible for children’s aversion to bitter flavors.

The study included 143 children and their mothers; over 79 percent of the children had one or two copies of the bitter-sensitive gene present.

“The presence of the bitter-sensitive gene made a bigger impact on the children’s food preferences than their mothers. The mothers’ tastes in foods seemed to be influenced more by race and ethnic type foods than their genetic makeup.”

That’s why 80 percent of children don’t like vegetables.

Author and journalist Linda Larsen who has worked for Pillsbury points out that most children need to actually see a new food four to five times before they’ll even try it, so it’s important to keep introducing fruits and veggies.

According to a study by professor Mildred Horodynski of Michigan State University’s College of Nursing, a mother’s eating habits has a huge impact on whether her child consumes enough fruits and vegetables.

The research results indicated toddlers were less likely to consume fruits and vegetables four or more times a week if their mothers did not consume that amount or if their mothers viewed their children as picky eaters.

Horodynski claims previous research revealed early repeated exposure to different types of foods is required — up to 15 exposures may be needed before it can be determined if a child likes or dislikes a food.

Healthy Eating From a Kid’s Point Of View

Megan Sproba, a 13 year-old and a seventh-grade student at Brabham Middle School in Willis, Texas, says the way parents serve and prepare vegetables plays a major role in developing a positive attitude toward vegetable eating.

Megan in her own words:

“I know from past experience that eating veggies is not fun. They taste as if it has no flavor, as if they need something to help force it down. I like my broccoli cooked, not under and not over, but just enough so that it is easy to chew. I like my Brussel sprouts baked in the oven to where they are crisp and brown, but not burnt. I especially like my asparagus cut up and soft with a cheesy sauce.

“One thing I do not like is when someone tries to hide a veggie in some other food. My mom used to make me eat tacos with zucchini in them and it was really gross.”

Linda Larsen’s Fruit and Vegetable Tips For Kids

1. Try to focus on the sweeter ‘good for you’ foods, like strawberries, mandarin oranges, cherries, tomatoes, sweet peas, and corn.

2. You can add some finely chopped fruits to gelatin salads, add some pureed sweet peas to guacamole, and serve tiny vegetables, like baby carrots and baby corn, with appetizer dips.

3. I like using pureed fruits in desserts – even though they’re desserts, you are getting some nutrition into your kids.

4. Finely chop carrots and mix them into spaghetti sauce.

5. Make some fruit breads – banana bread, pear bread, and apple bread are all good.

6. You can also finely mince vegetables and add them to hamburger patties or turkey burgers.

7. Puree corn and stir that into corn muffin batter, or make apple cake or pumpkin cheesecake.

8. Also start making casseroles. You can start out with just pasta, cheese, and sauce, but then gradually add more finely chopped vegetables to the sauce. You can get some minced veggies into tuna or chicken salad as well.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper


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