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Help! My kid won't eat any vegetables!

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Help! My kid won’t eat any vegetables!

OK – first things first. Take a deep breath. It’s a stage, and your kid will survive – really. The question is whether you and he will make it through without too much time on the dinner-table battlefield. The best way to manage this problem is to go after it with a three-pronged approach: the Gradual Introduction, the Sneaky Slide, and the Food Fun Experiment.

The Gradual Introduction route sounds just like what it is: You slowly and repeatedly introduce and offer vegetables at mealtime. You don’t need to force them, just insist that your child has at least a taste. Offer a nice mix of vegetables throughout the week. It may seem like it takes forever, but after the fifteenth, twentieth, or thirtieth try, your child may actually like any given vegetable. You can boost your chances by offering vegetables that match up with what your child eats. Does she like soft foods like macaroni and cheese? Try steamed vegetables. Does she like the crunch of chips and crackers? Offer fresh vegetable sticks. Does she like French fries? Give her some sweet potato fries. Keep doing this sort of thing and stay patient – it will happen over time.

At the same time, you can pursue the Sneaky Slide tactic. This tactic has been explored thoroughly in cookbooks such as Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef. The idea is, you sneak spinach into brownies and pureed cauliflower into macaroni and cheese, and so on, so that your kids get a wide array of vegetables they wouldn’t otherwise eat. The downside, of course, is that they won’t know they are eating it, so they won’t learn to change any of their current habits. But while you’re pursuing the Gradual Introduction route, it can’t hurt to get a few actual vegetables into their system through the Sneaky Slide.

The third approach is the Food Fun Experiment. This one has to be low-pressure for it to work. The idea is that you make eating vegetables all about fun. You take your kids shopping and let them pick out the most colorful and best specimens in the market. You let them decorate their mashed potatoes with peas or make a sun with yellow pepper slices. You go to a farm and let them pick carrots or squash or pumpkins. You have them hold their nose and try to tell an apple from an onion or a potato (you can’t, with your nose blocked off). The idea is that you let them experience vegetables with all of their senses – and have fun with it – so that vegetables don’t seem like such a chore all the time.

One extra tip for making all of this work is to make the produce as fresh and appealing as possible. Don’t use mushy canned vegetables, or dessicated frozen ones. If they taste good to you, there’s a better chance that they will taste good to your child as well.

In the end, all of this may sound like a lot of work, but the end result is that you’re far more likely to have a kid who will willingly eat vegetables (as opposed to if you had forced them down each night). Who knows, maybe someday you’ll hear those unforgettable words, “Mom, can I please have some more broccoli?”