Written and provided by Rebecca Nichols

My kids are typical kids.  Won’t touch a pb & j sandwich with the crust on.  One will only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, another only peanut butter with honey.  I even have one who refuses to eat potatoes. Potatoes!  Unless they’re in the form of a french fry, of course.   They’re not like French children I’m always reading about who eat all sorts of things that my kids wouldn’t touch, like beef tongue and pungent cheeses.  But they do eat their veggies.

We all know that eating vegetables can only benefit us and our children so I won’t bore you with research and statistics.  Here’s some advice on how we’ve been able to win the vegetable war in our house.

Start Early

This is one of the most important steps.  Rice cereal doesn’t have to be your child’s first food.  My kids started with pureed fruits and veggies like bananas, avocados, or carrots and then moved on to little tiny cut up pieces of meat, veggies, rice.  If you didn’t start early, don’t despair.  Keep reading.  There’s still hope.

Set a Good Example

Your own example is probably one of your most effective weapons in winning the veggie war.  Eat your veggies!  But it’s not enough to just eat them on your own.  Sit down at the table, put food on your plate and take time to enjoy a healthy meal.  And do it together.  Both you and your children will benefit.

Go Raw

Raw fruits and veggies are crunchy, juicy and typically have a much sweeter and milder flavor than the cooked versions. Who wants a plate of smelly green mush?  I hate cooked beets.  I’ve tried them lots of ways.  But thinly sliced raw beets (we really like the golden beet variety) are light, crisp and even a little juicy.  My kids love green beans in the summer, straight from the garden or farm stand.  I can hardly get them to the pot before they’re gone!  Try cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, beets, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms.  And when you do cook your veggies, get them out of the pot while they still have a little crispness or firmness in them.

Snack Before Dinner

Attack when they’re the hungriest! Rather than filling hungry bellies with junk or even crackers, put out a plate of raw veggies (the ones we talked about above) while you’re preparing dinner.  No big deal if they spoil their dinner!  Whenever I do this, the veggies are gone before dinner hits the table.

Make Them Taste Good

There are whole cookbooks out there dedicated to showing you how to hide veggies in everything from meatloaf to brownies.  It’s a great idea, but that can get pretty complicated, so I usually just add a little butter and salt to ours.  Maybe some grated cheddar or parmesan cheese. You can serve raw veggies with ranch dip, hummus or guacamole.

Motivate with Incentives

Important weapon right here.  At our table, there’s no dessert if you don’t eat your veggies.  We don’t eat sweets or junk during the day so the older ones will usually do whatever it takes to get their precious dessert at night.  Maybe they decide it’s not worth it. My youngest sometimes does but I don’t despair.  No veggies went in, but no junk did, either.  If she’s hungry later, I’ll offer the veggies again.

Whatever you do, don’t give up!  Keep healthy food more accessible than junk (in fact, don’t even buy it or bring it into your house).  Keep putting fruits, and especially veggies on their plates and help your children learn to eat and even enjoy healthy food.