Stop the fuss: Tricks for kids to eat vegetables

By Roufia Payman, DT, CDN  |  6/14/2018

If you have a young, picky eater in your family, you are probably all too familiar with the meal-time battle, prolonged dinners, the pinched noses and endless whining. But forcing a child to gag down foods that feel foreign to them can be detrimental to healthy eating habits later in life.

Northern Dutchess Hospital nutrition counselor Roufia Payman asks parents to consider these strategies to get children to eat the daily recommended servings of vegetables.

  •  Make a smoothie.  Spinach and avocado usually go undetected in a smoothie with a variety of berries, mango or banana.  Carrots go well with apples and pears.  Add vanilla Almond milk or a low-fat yogurt for calcium.
  • Serve them uncooked. Many children prefer the crunch of raw broccoli, peppers or carrots. Steam them into a mushy texture, and you won't have the same luck.
  • Go for a "dip." Does your child love hummus or vinaigrette dressing? How about mashed avocados? There are plenty of kid-friendly dip recipes that take only minutes to whip up, are healthy and will increase the likeliness of those raw veggies being gobbled up.   
  • Go "hunting for veggie treasure." Let your children be curious and independent, and hunt for their own vegetables at local pick-your-own farms. In the spring and summer, the Hudson Valley offers asparagus, tomatoes, green beans, eggplants, squash and more. Some children are more likely to eat vegetables they help grow in a garden or they pick fresh from a farm.
  • Turn them into baked fries or chips. Zucchini fries with a side of marinara sauce or kale chips sprinkled in sea salt are much healthier alternatives to fried cheese and zero-nutrient potato chips.
  • Go for the disguise. Hide carrots in tomato sauce or cauliflower in mac and cheese. Apple muffins mask the taste of zucchini. Add chocolate chips to zucchini bread for some extra enticement. Or serve spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in place of pasta.

Roufia Payman is supervisor of outpatient  Nutritional Counseling at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck. She also teaches Fun, Food, Fitness, a no-cost five-week program for children ages 8 to 13. Call (845) 871-3600 for more information.