Looking for vegetables for picky eaters? You’ve come to the right place!
Getting toddlers to eat veggies is an ongoing struggle. Add picky eaters to the mix, and it can feel downright frustrating. It usually goes something like this, “Eat your trees!” to “Just one bite of broccoli, please!?”, to “OK, just give the broccoli a lick!” If you can relate, you’re not alone!
Studies show that an estimated 90% of children aren’t meeting the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in their daily diets.
As we know, two things it’s near impossible to do is get a toddler to eat and sleep. It’s important to not force vegetables on our strong-willed, toddlers. But, it can really take a toll on us after spending time to prepare and cook a balanced meal to only have the veggies thrown on the floor!
If no one in your house likes vegetables (even the “big kids,” AKA my husband!), this post is for you! I want to share with you some tips I’ve learned along the way that can encourage your toddler to eat more vegetables. I’ll also share with you 13 kid-friendly vegetables for picky eaters and how to prepare them so they won’t end up thrown on the floor!
Why You Shouldn’t Panic If Your Picky Eater Refuses Veggies
Growing up, we’ve all been told: “eat your veggies”. Vegetables have had a bad rap with toddlers for quite some time now. Despite knowing this, it doesn’t make us feel any less defeated as a parent when our kiddos refuse veggies.
First of all, I want to let you know that you shouldn’t feel defeated or panic if your toddler hates veggies. It’s completely normal for young children to go through phases of refusing certain foods or food groups. Though veggies are extremely important in your kiddo’s diet, if they don’t eat them, they’re likely to be just fine.
It’s important to look at the big picture. For instance, if your child eats an overall diet rich in whole grains, fruit, beans, and lean protein, they can likely get the nutrients they need without you having to force down brussels sprouts during dinner.
Fruits and vegetables are often grouped together because they contain many similar nutrients, so if your picky eater enjoys fruit, they’re probably still meeting their nutritional needs.
On the flip side, if your picky eaters only eat foods from a certain food group or have a diet high in processed foods (pizza, cookies, chips, etc.), they may fall short of key nutrients they need to promote healthy growth and development. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider adding a multivitamin while you work with your kiddo to sneak veggies and fruits into their diet.
With that said, here’s a few tips to help serve veggies up in a way that appeals to picky eaters.
How to Get Your Picky Eater To Try Vegetables
Ask for Their Help In the Kitchen
Kids and toddlers love helping… and making messes! As expected, this one can get a little messy, but you may find it totally worth it.
Cooking is a great way to help your child learn to follow directions, measure, and count. By helping prepare their own vegetables, they will be more likely to want to try them when dinner is served.
Here’s a few kid-friendly ways to involve your picky eater in the cooking process:
- Put chopped vegetables in the pan before you cook them
- Wash off raw vegetables
- Choose the veggies to prepare
- Sprinkle seasoning on them
Pair it With Their Favorite Dip
True story: My two-year-old loves dipping everything he eats into sauces. And to be honest, just about the only way I got him to start eating raw veggies was to serve them with something he can “dip” it in.
For example, he loves celery dipped in nut butter, carrots with ranch dressing, and sweet potato with ketchup (a little strange, but whatever works!). You can also serve sugar snap peas, broccoli, radishes, or any other vegetables your kid chooses!
Lead By Example
Serve the vegetables you give your child to the entire family and eat them yourself. If your child sees you avoiding vegetables or not eating them, it trains them to do the same. When you make healthy food choices, your child will be more likely to follow suit.
Even the pickiest eater likes to get creative and have fun. One of my favorite things to do is get creative with food.
Here’s a few ways to get creative in the kitchen:
- Have your child color a picture of the vegetable before serving it
- Read a book about the vegetable before trying it
- Add healthy veggies to a homemade pizza
- Make it into a game (we LOVE Picky Eater Bingo at my house!)
- Choose vegetables with a bright color and create a rainbow! Pair with a dip that has a creamy texture
A newer technique called food chaining is also a proven method to help your picky eater try new foods.
13 Vegetables for Picky Eaters
Cucumbers have a mild flavor and pair great with ranch dressing or another creamy dip. I always recommend picky eaters that hate vegetables to start with cucumbers. Although the peel has a lot of fiber, my kids prefer them peeled!
Ants on a log. One of my favorite healthy recipes for kids to make! Simply spread peanut butter on the celery and top with raisins! (or dried cranberries)
Jicama has a mild flavor and has a crunchy texture similar to an apple. They taste great dipped in bean dips and nut butter.
When flavored right, cooked broccoli can be one of the best vegetables for kids to eat. However, when picky eating comes into play, it’s not always that simple. You can always grate or chop up broccoli and serve in a pasta sauce for hidden veggies that are nearly undetectable!
5. Sweet Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are one of the most versatile vegetables for picky eaters. Serve them raw with a dip like hummus or ranch dressing. My kids also love them sauteed in olive oil when we have fajita night!
Spinach is one of my favorite vegetables to sneak in meals. It doesn’t have bitter flavors like other vegetables and can easily be blended in smoothies and pasta sauce.
Cauliflower has a mild taste and can easily be added to foods that even picky eaters can’t detect. Frozen cauliflower or pureed cauliflower can easily be incorporated into smoothies and pasta sauces. I’ve also found success mixing cauliflower rice with regular rice in a stir fry (no one asked, and I didn’t tell!) You can also blend it in with mashed potatoes.
Oh, Zoodles! I love to spiralize everything, but eating zucchini spiralized or “zoodles,” as we call them, is one of my favorite foods. It’s really helped my family with eating veggies. Plus, there are a TON of kid-friendly recipes online targeted at picky eaters that are made with zucchini noodles.
9. Sweet Potato
Sweet Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables to roast with olive oil. I cut them into homemade “fries” and serve them with dinner. Sweet potato fries are a hit around my house! We eat sweet potatoes cut into fries at least twice a week.
Steamed butternut squash can be a great addition blended into mac n cheese or pureed into a soup. We’ve not quite mastered squash yet, but it’s a work in progress!
Due to their strong flavor, this is one you likely won’t find on many lists. But, I have to include it because it was the only vegetable I would eat at a young age. I attribute this to growing my own in my backyard. They’re easy to grow and can really get your child excited to try them (even a tiny bite!) after they’re ready to harvest!
Carrots are one of the best vegetables for picky eaters. They have a naturally sweet flavor and pair great with dressing or Greek yogurt. Baby carrots are always my go-to! You can check out a few of my favorite combinations of carrots and other veggies to be served as a snack on my post daycare snack ideas for toddlers.
13. Grape Tomatoes
Grape tomatoes are great options during snack time. I cut mine in half for my younger child, but my older child eats them whole! They are also fun to grow at home, which can be rewarding for your child. They pair great with mozzarella cubes for homemade skewers.
Things to Avoid With Picky Eaters
Though it can be really difficult to refrain from punishing your picky eater, it’s important to avoid pressuring kids to eat veggies.
According to a study published in the journal Appetite, forcing kids to eat certain foods at meals can cause tension between parents and children and damage relationships. What’s more, the study also found that forcing kids to eat foods they didn’t enjoy didn’t change their eating habits.
To help ease your mind, the study found no significant difference in growth in toddlers whether they were picky eaters or not.
It’s also important to note that if you hide veggies in different foods, don’t lie to your kid about it if they ask (it’s tempting, I know!).
You don’t want your hard work to backfire!
Speak to A Registered Dietitian
If you’re struggling with a picky eater and are looking for more ways to incorporate new vegetables or other foods into your child’s diet, consider speaking with a pediatric nutritionist or dietitian. A dietitian is a great resource to help you and your family develop healthy habits.
A registered dietitian can also guide you in the right direction and help you decide if a multivitamin is a good option for your child based on his/her eating habits.
Raising children is hard. Raising picky eaters is even harder. I know it can be super frustrating and overwhelming when you feel like you’ve done everything in your power to get your little one to eat a balanced diet.
Hopefully, some of the vegetables for picky eaters and tips I’ve shared will help you make mealtime a little less stressful!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do picky eaters eat vegetables?
To help your toddler eat more vegetables, it’s important to make mealtime fun, involve them in the cooking process, cut out shapes and get creative. Most importantly, never force a picky eater to eat vegetables. As tempting as it may sound, it can make matters worse for you and your little one.
How do you add vegetables to a picky eater?
Consider adding some “hidden vegetables” inside of pasta sauce, casseroles, etc. Also, serve veggie sticks with a dipping sauce like ranch or peanut butter to promote acceptance.
What vegetables are good for picky eaters?
The best vegetables for picky eaters are those with a mild flavor and can easily be cut into shapes or dipped into a sauce. My favorite vegetables to serve picky eaters are carrots, cucumbers, peas, and lettuce.