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6 tips to get your kids to eat their veggies

Vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Packed full of nutrients, they offer so much goodness to help keep us in good health. Unfortunately, most Kiwi kids aren’t eating enough, with 95% of New Zealand children aged 2-14 not meeting the recommended number of serves of vegetables each day. 

The number one tip to help change this? Aim for just 1 more serve. Starting small and building up changes over time is a great way to help kids enjoy a healthier diet. And that’s why have recently launched the “Add One More Vegetable” initiative, encouraging all Kiwis to simply add one more vegetable to their day. You can find loads of inspiration and helpful tips on their website.  

Still finding it difficult to get your kids to eat their vege? Try these tried and tested tips.

1. Chop, chop

Get your kids into the kitchen! Studies show that a great way to get kids to eat more veggies – and actually enjoy them – is to get them to help with meal preparation. Children learn so much through their senses, especially through their little fingers that like to touch and play with everything. You can encourage this exploration by offering finger foods and veggies cut into different shapes for them to pick up and enjoy. You could even try using vegetable cutters to offer veggies in all kinds of fun shapes.   

2. Grow your own

If you’ve got the time and space, you can start at the very beginning and get your child involved in growing some veggies. Learning to grow your own veggies has been shown to increase children’s willingness to try vegetables and come back for more. If you don’t have a back yard, try your balcony, windowsill, or get involved in a local community garden. 

3. Flavour up

Children's taste buds are constantly evolving and are initially much more sensitive than those of adults, especially to bitter tastes. Start by offering familiar vegetables your child enjoys, and gradually introduce one new or "challenging" vegetable at each meal to help them become more familiar. Don’t worry if they don’t eat it the first time – research shows you may need to offer a new food 10 to 15 times before kids will accept it. Try pairing it with familiar flavours you know they enjoy like dips or adding them into one of their favourite meals. Avoid overcooked, soggy vegetables; instead, make them appealing and flavoursome by adding lemon or fragrant spices. Experiment with different cooking and serving methods, such as stir-frying or roasting to change up the flavours and textures.   

4. Every meal of the day

Most Kiwi kids – and adults too – only get their veggies in at dinner time. It’s really hard to try and pack all recommended serves into one meal. Try and find ways to incorporate veggies into breakfast, lunch, snack time and even tasty treats. Try some of the tasty ideas like these green smoothies for breakfast, rainbow veggie slice for lunch, black bean and nut meat tacos for dinner and crispy Weet-Bix veggie balls for snack time.    

Not sure what a serve of veggies looks like? Well, it’s about 75 grams and can look like the following:    

  • ½ cup cooked vegetables (think broccoli, spinach, pūha, peas, carrots or pumpkin)  

  • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables  

  • ½ cup canned (drained and rinsed) or frozen vegetables e.g., sweet corn  

  • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (kūmara, taro or cassava)  

  • 1 medium tomato  

5. Enjoy meals as a family

Between getting home from work and shuttling kids between after school activities, having a meal as a family may be the last thing on your mind. However, eating together as a family is certainly worth the effort. It offers a wonderful opportunity for families to connect and for parents to model healthy eating behaviours, with research consistently showing that eating as a family is linked to healthier diets in children, including higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, calcium, iron and various vitamins. Meals served ‘family style’ are a great way to reduce stress around mealtime occasions as everyone can prepare a plate of food they will enjoy. Tacos, nachos and rice bowls work really well, giving options for kids to pair familiar foods they love with foods they are still learning to enjoy. What’s more, kids who serve their own meals are more likely to eat them and are often more receptive to trying new foods.     

6. Eat a rainbow

Play a game with your kids to see who can eat a rainbow at dinner time by encouraging them to include as many coloured veggies as possible on their plate. There are five main colour categories to include - purple + blue, red, orange + yellow, green and white. Each colour carries its own set of unique disease fighting chemicals called ‘phytochemicals.’ All these veggies work together to form the ultimate disease fighting team.  

For more tips on keeping your kids healthy visit our Kids Health section on our website.