How to Get Picky Kids to Eat Vegetables and Fruits

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Getting picky kids to eat fruits and vegetables can be a real challenge. As mom to a very (VERY!) picky eater, I know. Even adventurous young eaters may shy away from spinach, broccoli and other good-for-you choices. As parents, we want our children to grow up healthy and strong, with a good relationship to food. Read on to learn how to encourage your child to try veggies and fruits.

Kids Eat Vegetables

How to get picky kids to eat vegetables and fruits

This story is brought to you in partnership with Ruby Rocket's and Trekaroo.

These eight tips on how to get your picky child to eat fruits and vegetables are based on my experience with my own vegetable- and fruit-phobic child (and his produce-loving big sister), as well as lessons learned from parenting classes and food counseling sessions.

Use natural consequences and avoid pressure.

Eating is one of the few things children can control in their lives. Too much pressure from parents and other well-meaning adults often backfires, creating more resistance to healthy foods.

Whenever our cautious 8-year-old takes a bite of a new food, my husband and I are sure NOT to look at him or make a big deal about it. When he took his first-ever bite of broccoli last week, I calmly said, “I had a feeling you'd like broccoli. I'm proud of you for trying something new.” Then we moved on with our meal. We did not clap, insist he take another bite, or mention it for the rest of dinner.

Our household rule is that we must eat a protein plus a fruit or vegetable with dinner to earn dessert. Once our bodies have the healthy foods we need, we can indulge in a sweet. Linking eating vegetables to another treat (like playing with technology) does not make a logical tie-in and therefore feels more like punishment rather than a natural consequence. Kids eat vegetables. Kids get dessert!

Kids Eat Vegetables

Provide plenty of healthy options rather forcing children to eat vegetables and fruits (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Kids eat vegetables and fruits when it's fun.

Getting out of the usual routine can encourage kids to try new things. During our trip to Maui, my previously juice-phobic son fell in love with POG (Hawaii's official drink: pineapple, orange guava juice). Being in a new and enchanting place helped him to put his guard down to try this fruity elixir.

My son recently stepped outside his food comfort zone at a local teppanyaki restaurant. He normally would balk at eating fried rice filled with vegetables and bits of egg. But watching the chef toss vegetables in the air and set the stove aflame seemed to cast a spell on him. He ate almost every grain of rice in his bowl.

Kids Eat Vegetables

Fun experiences like teppanyaki make trying new foods fun and less intimidating for picky kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Embrace desserts as a gateway to healthy eating.

Ice cream and smoothies can be the gateway to the exciting world of fruits and vegetables. Even if children won't eat fresh fruits, they'll often gobble them up when added to ice creams, shakes or smoothies.

Frozen bars please even super picky eaters. Kids eat vegetables, and they don't even know it with Ruby Rocket's frozen pops made with real fruits and veggies and no added sugar. They're like smoothies on a stick! They come in eight tempting flavors. My fussy son's favorite flavor is Gravity Grape (made from concord grapes, blueberries, and açaí, plus purple and sweet potato). My fruit-loving daughter's first choice is Rock-It Red (made with strawberries, lemons, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets). For chocolate enthusiasts, try Far Out Fudge (made from açai, sweet potatoes, beets and cocoa).

Kids Eat Vegetables

Ruby Rocket's Veggie and Fruit Pops are tasty AND healthy (Photo credit: Ruby Rocket's)

Ruby Rocket's also makes a non-dairy yogurt alternative, perfect for dessert, lunch boxes, and breakfast or as a travel snack. Check out my picky eater enjoying a Ruby Rocket's frozen pop in the video below. (Filmed and directed by his big sister!)

Get kids involved with food selection and preparation.

Purchase a children's cookbook and encourage your kid to choose dishes for the whole family. Bring your picky child along to the grocery store to select vegetables and fruits to place in the cart. Then get help in the kitchen during meal preparation. Even young children can stir a soup, use a butter knife to slice fruits, or press the buttons on the blender to make a smoothie.

Sometimes it's easier for kids to explore new options away from their parents. If this may be the case with your child, consider a kids-only cooking class.

Kids Eat Vegetables

Encourage children to help you select fruits and vegetables at the grocery store (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Kids eat vegetables and fruits when they understand how they grow.

Help children make a connection to what they eat by showing them how food grows. After visiting a corn maze during a preschool field trip, my son enthusiastically volunteered to eat his first cob of corn. Visit an orchard to pick apples or go strawberry picking to build healthy food excitement. Some botanical gardens feature sections that showcase herbs, vegetable patches and fruit trees. Better yet, plant a vegetable garden or a few pots filled with edible plants at home.

Kids Eat Vegetables

Seeing how food grows helps children make a positive connection to what they eat (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Kids eat vegetables when you tell them the truth.

Be careful not to lie about food to your child. My husband and I used to be sneaky in our efforts to get our son to eat healthfully. We told him strawberries were candies and we sneaked pureed squash into homemade macaroni and cheese. This taught our son to distrust us and it increased his fear of new foods. Now, when asked what's in a dish, we tell the truth, even if it means he will likely not try it.

Kids Eat Vegetables

Encourage healthy eating through playtime (Photos from Amazon.com)

Play time helps kids make healthy eating choices.

Even if your picky child won’t eat vegetables, he or she can develop a good attitude about them through playtime. Buy plastic or wooden vegetables and fruits to set up a make believe grocery store or restaurant.

My sister made vegetables and fruits seem more appealing when she gifted my then preschooler a bunch of plush toys shaped like broccoli, a strawberry, a peach and more. Sound fun? Check out these produce-shaped finger puppets.

Encourage a love of produce with books. Eating the Alphabet and Peppy the Pig and the Vegetable Garden are favorites amongst the preschooler set.

Kids Eat Vegetables

Ruby Rocket's makes veggie and fruit frozen pops plus yogurt alternative snacks (Photo credit: Ruby Rocket's)

Why choose Ruby Rocket's.

Ruby’s Naturals, Inc., parent company to Ruby Rockets, makes delicious, healthy, non-dairy fruit and veggie snacks for the whole family. They've been creating organic, non-GMO, real food with no added sugar since 2013. Whether it’s a refreshing non-dairy fruit and veggie ice pop enjoyed best on a hot summer day, or a kid-friendly, non-dairy yogurt alternativeTM convenient for on-the-go occasions, Ruby’s Naturals, Inc. is committed to serving nutritious, yummy snacks that the whole family can enjoy.

Kids Eat Vegetables

Ruby Rocket's non-dairy yogurt tubes are made from fruits and veggies (Photo credit: Ruby Rocket's)

Do you struggle to get your kid to try new foods? Do you have any additional tips on how to get your picky child to eat fruits and vegetables? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from Travel Mamas: This story is sponsored by Ruby Rockets in partnership with Trekaroo. Travel Mamas received monetary compensation related to this post. I am not a healthcare provider. Check with your child's physician with any concerns regarding healthy eating. Top photo by travnikovstudio; purchased from iStockphoto.com.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. vanessa s cheek says

    any tips for a seriously picky kid who dont like anything. ive tried everything to get him to eat fruits and veggies but no success

    • Colleen Lanin says

      If you’ve tried everything with no success, thenyou may want to consult a therapist who specializes in eating disorders in children. We did that with my son and found it helpful. At one point, he was literally afraid to even touch a fruit or vegetable — like he would start crying and panicking! The therapist got him more comfortable with produce. I’ve shared many of the tips I learned from the therapist in this article but she really helped calm his phobia. Today (at age 12), my son is still picky but he will eat broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, apples, oranges, tomato sauce, onions, and pumpkin (in cooked things).

  2. Love these tips so much! Every time I get broccoli or spinach into my kids I do a jig of joy!

  3. My kid was a bear to get to eat healthy. We tried all kinds of advice. Some worked some didn’t This battle seemed like it would never end! Your tips helped out but it was a constant battleground for my kid. I tried this new 8 The Plate for my kid and OMG this thing worked so well. Dinner is way less stressful and she even eats things she doesn’t like. I’m about a month into using it now and she is now eating healthy on her own as well. I don’t have to try and trick or convince her. It worked so much better then we expected.

  4. Rebecca Muhammed says

    I love this tips. My child is also a picky eater, it is very hard for me to make him eat any food mainly fruits and vegetables. In the beginning it was very difficult for me to make him eat, then I started finding many tricks and tips,I also provided milk supplements for him so that he would get the needed nutrients and vitamins.

  5. I would also adds it helps to try different forms of food. My now 5 year old used to never eat fruit, so we tried pouches and freeze dried fruit. It has all the same vitamins, but is just a different texture. Now our 5 year old is much more adventurous than he used to be. It also just takes a lot of persistence. Supposedly it takes 20 times of trying something before you like it. That’s a lot. I keep that in mind when they try it and don’t like it the first time.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Great tip, Katy! I tried the freeze dried fruit with my son, but unfortunately he didn’t like it. We seem to be making much more progress with veggies than fruits. Each kid is so different!

  6. My kids and hubby are not a big fan of veggies so I have to be creative all the time. Thankfully I have been able to inculcate vegetable eating in them through new dishes, coaxing and disciplne.

  7. Stacey Roberson says

    Fruit we have no problem with. But getting our 4 year old to eat his vegetables is quite the challenge. He will occassionally eat some broccoli, but that’s where it ends. I love that book “Eating the Alphabet”. We could make mealtime fun and it even prove useful.

  8. natasha lamoreux says

    My kids really love going to the farmers market and picking out fresh produce. This makes it fun for them and more apt to eat them.

  9. Great article and tips ! thank you . I found the easiest way is with smoothies 🙂

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