I hate saying that kids will like certain vegetable dishes over others (because every child is different), but in my experience as a paediatric dietitian and mom, there is a certain affinity kids have to certain veggie dishes over others. I (and many others) like to attempt to explain why certain dishes work over others…but know this… every child is different and the “rules” don’t always stick. For example, I like to think that most kids like having spiralized or fun shaped veggies on their plate, and would be excited to try it. And yet, you can spiralize all day long and for some kids, it just won’t cut it. This is because the reasons for not liking a vegetables (or any food for that matter) are a multidimensional – taste, meal time environment, past experience, sensory aversions, oral motor skills, peer behaviour, etc. all play a role. We talk a lot about the different reasons for picky eating and how to cope with them in the toddler stage in my Feeding Toddlers online course.
For now, I can tell you that there is a few key foundational pointers that help set the right environment for kids to learn to like vegetables, which includes:
- Making vegetables a regular appearance at the majority of your meals and snacks. Expose them to vegetables many, many times and don’t give up!
- No pressure, finger wagging, bribing, or coaxing your child to eat them. In fact, take away all expectations that your child will eat them at all.
- SMILE and offer veggies with the same excitement as you would when you offer them a brownie or ice cream.
- Be mindful about always offering veggies with competing foods (e.g. don’t always offer veggies alongside cheese or yogurt if that’s what your child’s favorite food. Instead, try offering it as a non-essential snack on it’s own)
- Let your child serve themselves (and offer them in small, unintimidating amounts)
- Explore veggies outside of the dinner table – in the kitchen, in nature and in play activities/crafts.
So with that in place, let’s dive into the top “most likeable” veggie dishes for kids:
1. Soy-Sesame Broccoli
Reasons kids may like it: The broccoli is not mushy or overly cooked and the salty flavor from the soy and the umami of the sesame almost seep into the broccoli, masking any bitterness, which kids might pick up on.
Try out this recipe here:
2. Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes”
Reasons kids may like it: Many young kids like soft, easy to chew foods that don’t require a lot of manipulation on the tongue and in the mouth. Think fruit and veggie pouches, yogurt, cheese, meltable cereal puffs, etc. This recipe uses cauliflower instead of potato for a soft, creamy textured food that offers up more fiber, and shows kids a new way to like cauliflower!
Here’s a an easily modifiable recipe for cauliflower mashed potatoes:
3. Warm Edamame
Reasons kids may like it: It’s the ultimate “fun” food. Edamame are eaten by popping a pod into your mouth then pulling it back out through your teeth. Kids love the experience of getting the beans out of the pod and have fun finding new and efficient ways of getting them out. Plus, they love licking the salt off the pod, which acts as a primer on the tongue for accepting a less flavorful veggie.
Try out these awesome flavors and variations on warm edamame here:
4. Crudité Platter
Reasons kids may like it: It’s offers them choice in a “buffet style” manner and it comes with dips and fillings to make the veggies more fun. Tip: set out a crudité platter at afterschool or during play time and walk away. Say nothing – and watch as your kids will sneak bites and nibbles on their own.
Try out different combinations of veggies and dips using ideas here:
5. Spiralized Veggies
Reasons kids may like it: It’s a fun shape that is fun to make and fun to eat. It can emulate a pasta noodle, which most kids aren’t apprehensive towards. When kids come to the table with their guard down, they are more likely to eat and enjoy! Experiment with spiralized carrot, zucchini, sweet potato, cucumber or squash.
Try out this spiralizer zucchini alfredo here:
6. Green Bean “Fries”
Reasons kids may like it: Crispy, long and thin – like a French fry! For those kids who love crispy or breaded food, this is a great segway into loving green beans as a new veggie. Try dipping it into their condiment of choice – be it ketchup, mustard, sweet & sour sauce or marinara sauce!
Here’s a basic version to try:
You can try an even healthier version below:
What veggies dishes do your kids love?