How to Get More Veggies Into Your Family

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on July 06, 2015
3 min read

You know you need to eat more vegetables. Just about everyone does. But if you, your partner, or your kids don’t exactly love them, how is that going to happen?

It can be simpler and more delicious than you think. And the first place to start is actually not with your grocery list or a deep dive into online recipes. It’s with one of the biggest things that affects what you choose to eat: desire.

It’s the golden rule of food. Taste matters. A lot. It has to taste good.

“Salt and pepper might not be enough,” says Isabel Maples, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Experiment with different spice blends from the supermarket, add soy sauce to stir-frys, or roast veggies with olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with parmesan. You can also serve steamed veggies with a side of tomato or cheese sauce.

The I-want-to-eat-that feeling can start when you shop. Kids are more willing to try new fruits and veggies if they get to pick them out themselves.

Head to a farmer’s market or to the store to see what’s in season.  Bring it home and “find a recipe and make it together,” says Barbara Mendez, a nutrition and wellness consultant in New York. 

You could even make it a (friendly) competition so everyone gets involved.

One winning strategy is to add fruits and veggies to dishes your family already likes. Slip finely chopped veggies into kid-pleasers like spaghetti sauce, tuna salad, and chicken soup. Shred carrot or zucchini into meatloaf or casseroles.

You can also replace oil or butter in baked goods with a 1:1 ratio of pumpkin puree. You’ll increase nutrients and cut fat, says Torey Armul, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Did your parents make you eat your spinach every time? That’s not the best strategy.

Always offer veggies at mealtime, but give kids the option to say no. “You don’t want them to feel trapped,” Maples says. “If you don’t make meals fun, food becomes a battle.” 

"The goal is for you to reach for fruits and veggies at every meal and really like them,” Maples says.

Stick with it! “Some children need to see a new food on their plate 5, 10, or even 12 times before they’ll try it,” Maples says. (They also need to see you eating it.)

People can pay as much as $10 for a deluxe drink at a smoothie bar. Save your cash. Simply toss a mixture of fruits and veggies into a blender with some milk, yogurt, juice, or ice, and blend until smooth.

 “Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to try new fruits and veggies without overwhelming kids,” Armul says.

Out of sight, out of mind. Store washed and cut baby carrots, celery sticks, and pepper strips eye-level in your fridge.  “You want these to be the first snack options you and your family see,” Mendez says. 

Research shows that kids eat more produce when the family eats together. But relax. No guilt!

“Family meals don’t have to include the whole family,” Maples says.  “Sitting down to breakfast or a snack with your child also counts.”

 Turn off your phone and focus on each other and your food.