Get Kids to Eat Veggies by Offering More Veggies

By , SparkPeople Blogger
My young kids like to be in control.  Whether it’s what they are wearing, which toy they play with or what’s for lunch, they like to make decisions.  Although it can get frustrating at times (“I’m sorry honey, we aren’t going to wear winter boots today because it’s 97 degrees outside.”) I can understand.  So much of their lives are planned out for them that it’s exciting when they get to make a few choices on their own. 
 
I’ve started involving my children more in the meal planning process.  I don’t mind cooking dinner but I hate having to come up with ideas all the time.  So I’ll ask them for suggestions, or give them choices to pick from, either in the planning stage or once I make the food.  It doesn’t bother me to make a few different vegetables and then let them choose which ones they want.  I know the food will get eaten eventually, and I like having leftovers for future meals.  I find that when given the choice, they don’t usually pick just the carrots or just the green beans.  They usually want a little of both, and end up eating more vegetables than they would have if there was just one.  A new study of adults came to the same conclusion:  variety helps increase intake.
 
The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tested whether filling half of the plate with a variety of vegetables influenced the amount participants consumed.  66 adults were given two different kinds of meals:  one contained a single serving of vegetables (along with other foods), and the other had three servings of three different vegetables served side-by-side (along with other foods.)  The results showed that on average, people ate more vegetables when given a variety.  For example, “Women ate anywhere from 164 to 203 grams of a particular vegetable when they had only that vegetable. That jumped to 232 grams when they ate the varied meal.”
 
Interestingly, the study also found that participants didn’t eat less calories when they consumed more vegetables, so their intake was higher overall.  That’s one reason it’s important to be aware of portion sizes.  Fill the plate with more veggies, but scale back portions of the other foods to compensate. 
 
I’ve always liked multiple foods on my plate.  I’d much rather have small portions of a number of things, rather than larger portions of just a few foods (which is probably why I cook the way I do.)  So if this strategy gets me and my kids to eat more vegetables, it’s a bonus!  Maybe it’s an idea that could work for you and your family too.
 
Would this be a good way to get your family to eat more vegetables?  Why or why not?  What other strategies have you used to increase veggie intake in your household?

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Loving this article! My son is away in college and is almost 19. Pretty sure that when he is away at school he is not eating veggies. Report
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I will now recommend this to my kids so that they will enjoy a healthy meal.

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Just like all values you pass on to the next generations, it has to be a part of daily life, not an exception to daily eating. Report
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Mindblowing ways to make our child eat all the veggies :)
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I've found over the years of 7 children and 5 grandchild, numerous nieces, nephews and friends children that whatever I'm eating is what they want to want to try. Morale of the story "Food always looks better on someone on someone else's plate". Report
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We grew up having a salad (frequently just lettuce w/ homemade mayonaise or vinaigrette), another vegetable and potatoes along with our meat. Since were so numerous at home it was cheaper to have us eat more veggies and less meat. Report
I try to have at least 3 colors of vegetables for a meal and I find that I am eating more vegetables and a greater variety than I ever had before. Report
I'm sure this is probably a bad habit and I will maybe get criticized, but my family and I are "one-dish meal" people. We don't do a lot of sides so our portions tend to be a bit larger because we eat only the one thing. Of course, since I've been on Sparkpeople, I've been trying to sneek more veggies into our casseroles and such. I'm far more picky than my kids, so if I can stomach it I know they will too! Report
When our granddaughter was only 9 months old we started giving her tiny pieces of broccoli. By the time she was 2, she was stealing it off of everyone's plates. It is still her favorite and she loves all fruits, including kiwi. When she gets hungry, she grabs a fruit or asks me to steam some broccoli for her! Report
I always told my kids that, for example, we had chicken, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans and salad. You must have a serving of protein and 3 other things--they could pick. I'd be sure to have at least 2 things that they would like--and they'd choose a small serving of something they might NOT like--but they could choose. They learned to at least try new things. Report
Yes, yes, yes. LOVE this post - thanks for sharing. We, too, offer at least 2 veg per meal - often they'll choose the non-leafy-green option, but when we eat Chinese (cooked at home), they'll eat spinach, amaranth, mizuna, tatsoi, bokchoy, mustard greens.... Report
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MERWAK
Having a vegetable crudite for after school snack is a great way to get a few more veggies in. Also, when we go out to eat, I often ask if the waiter if they will cut up a few carrots and bring us a plate of them with ranch for dipping. Keeps me out of the bread basket and gives them a little something to munch on before their entree comes. I can only think of 1 or 2 times when they didn't have fresh carrots in the kitchen. And even if they charge a little for them, it's a great habit to model. Report
I was a nanny for several years while I was in college. The two boys for whom I cared were extremely picky and would often only eat processed junk. Once when they were at my house I showed them my garden and they were amazed to see food growing in my yard. All of a sudden they wanted to try everything that was growing back there. From that point on, I made them a part of the process of picking fruits and veggies for our meals and often had them help prepare the meals too. Their parents were quite impressed that I could get them to eat veggies that they would have never touched in the past. Report
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good idea
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I enjoyed my kids being part of the process of growing or buying veggies, then cooking. This has carried into their adult lives and on to my grandchildren. Report
My son and I have started eating more veggies and less meat - it started when I was picking up veggies at the Farmer's Market that we don't usually eat. Then I would look for ways to prepare - mostly we just steam and add a bit of butter (and he adds lots of pepper.)

When my kids were growing up, a rule was that they ate one bite for each year they were old. It became a bit of a game for them - and they were surprised at how many veggies they really did like. Report