15 Mar 2024 Article

In the Netherlands we eat an average of 150 g of vegetables per day. This is not near the recommended 250 g per day. You adults aren’t doing this right. But you guys usually at least try. But children, in particular, rarely eat vegetables on their own initiative. You have to nudge them, or in other words, give them a push in the right direction. In this article I have prepared ten practical tips for parents who want to get their children to eat more vegetables.

But first: How many vegetables do children actually need?

The Nutrition Center of the Netherlands recommends the following amounts:

  • Children aged 1-3 years: 50-100 g vegetables per day;
  • Children aged 4-8 years: 100-150 g vegetables per day;
  • Children aged 9-13 years: 150-200 g vegetables per day;
  • Children aged 14 and over need 250 g of vegetables per day, just like adults.

Personally, I’m not in favor of hiding vegetables. If vegetables are made invisible to children all the time, they will never learn to love them. You can occasionally hide the vegetables in a smoothie or in a cake, but I wouldn’t do that every day.

  1. Start with yourself

Children copy the behavior of people around them and especially the behavior of their parents. Do you never eat vegetables yourself? Then your children won’t either. You have to set a good example. Structurally. So, every day.

  1. Place the vegetables in plain sight

Place a bowl of tomatoes or mini cucumbers on the counter or somewhere where your children can see them clearly. Then they will naturally get an appetite for it. The good time to do this is, for example, when they have just come from the playground and are hungry.

  1. Let children choose their own vegetables

Give your children the opportunity to choose the vegetables themselves when doing groceries. This way you give them the feeling that they decide for themselves what they eat.

Another trick is to prepare not one but two types of vegetables and ask the child which one she wants. This way, again, you give your child the feeling that she decides what she eats.

  1. Involve children in cooking

Letting children help prepare food is always a great idea. This way they learn where the food comes from, they learn to prepare the food (note, you will soon have breakfast in bed)) and they feel important in the household. And children think everything tastes better if they have prepared it themselves.

  1. Make it attractive

Children love it when the food is colorful and/or given a nice shape. So, try making faces out of vegetables, or a rainbow, or a stuffed animal. You can find countless examples of inspiration on the Internet.

  1. Experiment with cooking methods

Most children find raw vegetables the tastiest. Think of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, radishes. But broccoli and parsnips, for example, can also be eaten raw.

You can try preparing the same type of vegetable in different ways and see what your child likes best. The most common ways to prepare vegetables are boiling in water, steaming, roasting and grilling.

  1. Make a soup

Most children like soup. And you can use a lot of vegetables in a soup. Soup is actually a vegetable dish. If your child likes soup, try using vegetables in the soup that she would otherwise not like to eat.

  1. Mix the vegetables with your kids’ favorite foods

All children love cheese. So, for example, try giving pieces of broccoli with melted cheese (just saying).

Children generally enjoy dipping food. So, you can serve slices of vegetables with humus or guacamole.

You can also mix almost any type of vegetable with pasta or put it on pizza (kid’s absolute favorite).

  1. Make up vegetable characters

This tip is mainly for small children. Buy books for your children with stories about vegetables. Watch cartoons with your kids about vegetable characters. Or just make up your own stories about vegetables. Turn vegetables into something fun.

  1. Keep trying

Variety is important. It is better to eat different types of vegetables than just cucumbers or carrots. But taste development is a process. Also in adults, by the way. We don’t always like something when we taste it for the first time in our lives. But if we have tried it several times, in different settings or dishes, we gradually learn to understand and appreciate the taste better. With regard to children, it is said that you should offer a food at least ten times if they do not like it right away. So just be persistent.

Finally: eating is not a punishment, nor is it a reward.

If you use food as a reward/punishment, you teach your child wrong associations. Rewarding or punishing with food is not recommended. So “eat your plate empty” or “you get a treat if you eat a tomato first” are not good examples of how to do it. In this way you send the message that normal food is actually not tasty and that desserts are tasty. This is the theory. In practice, almost everyone uses blackmail or bribery at home to get children to eat more/healthier.

In some families, mealtime is like a war. If this sounds familiar, here is my advice. The best thing you can do is to relax as much as possible and keep the atmosphere light. Don’t worry if your child (in your opinion) hasn’t eaten enough or hasn’t eaten at all. Children do not starve themselves easily.

Giving compliments actually works wonders. Children crave approval (and so do most adults). Compliment children lavishly when they have eaten vegetables. Focus on the positive and not the negative. Actually, this advice not only applies to eating vegetables but to everything in life!