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Getting Children to Eat Vegetables

As a child, I was the picky eater of our family. My parents often joke that I survived only because of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In contrast my children are great eaters, in large part thanks for my wife.

Parents often report that when their child tries to eat vegetables that he gags or even vomits. This is 100 percent psychological and is common. This is a behavioral problem. If you let this behavior dissuade you from serving a healthy diet than your child’s diet and resistance will only worsen.

Currently, there is a popular cookbook on how to sneak vegetables into your child’s diet. While, I am not completely against it, this can’t be the only approach. Eventually, your children will learn there is no tooth fairy and that mommy is putting broccoli in the muffins. The goal is to establish a healthy lifestyle for your children that will last a lifetime. This can only be accomplished if the child is aware of what they are eating.

Serve them

As parents we often get tired of having our child throw food away or cry about it on the their plates. If you want your child to eat healthy foods, you must repetitively present them with healthy foods. You must set a good example and eat your own fruits and veggies. One of the big mistakes parents make is cooking a separate meal for their children. When possible eat together as a family.

Complete the sentence “I would just be happy if he ate ________” . As adults we cannot eat for dinner what we had for lunch. Children are different. Most kids would prefer to eat the same foods over and over. If you want them to eat it - Serve it and keep serving it. If your husband is complaining you are serving ________ to often, then you are right on track.

By setting a good example and simply recurrently presenting them with fruits and veggies most children will adopt a healthy diet.


Prior to Dinner or Lunch

Frequently, my wife will call our children for lunch. She will first cut up an apple (or other fruit or veggie) and then ask them what they would like for lunch. As she prepares their sandwiches they sit in front of the fruit. Inevitably they will eat the apple.


Maggie and I both grew up in homes where we had to “clear our plate” to get dessert. Our rule is you have to eat your vegetables to get dessert. This works great for children 3 years old and up.

Getting started. Make a variety of cookie doughs and save them in the freezer in family sized servings. Before dinner have your child help you place them on the pan and explain that everyone who eats there broccoli will get to have two cookies. Serve your child a tiny piece of broccoli. You can remind your child of the rule only once or twice toward the end of the meal. If your child does not eat his broccoli, then plates are cleared and the child must sit at the table and watch everyone else eat their cookies. For this approach to work the child will have to fail at least once or twice. It is important that you declare the end of the meal and proceed with dessert. The child cannot be allowed to try again after the meal has ended or this will happen recurrently and your meals will drag on forever.


planting a garden

Plant a Garden

Now is a great time to plant a garden. Start them in pots so you can bring them inside during cold weather. Children who grow veggies are more likely to eat them. I recommend planting something that they can eat in the garden or on the dinner table. Grape tomatoes or snap peas are good suggestions. Avoid the use of chemicals so that they can eat them right after they are picked.

Written January 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician






gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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