Vegetables are a critical part of a healthy diet, providing needed fiber, vitamins and nutrients.  But getting kids to eat their veggies isn’t always easy.  Here are some ways to encourage your kids to eat (and enjoy) their vegetables.

Tempting Dips

If your kids won’t eat their vegetables plain, offer some some dip. Along with carrot and celery sticks, cucumber coins, black olives, and cherry tomatoes, include a small amount of reduced calorie ranch dressing.  Or tempt them with hummus, which also qualifies as a vegetable, accompanied with sliced sweet red, yellow or orange bell peppers.

Disappearing Act

For those kids that refuse all forms of vegetables, hiding the veggies may be your only option for a while. Convenient options include no-sugar-added spaghetti sauce and reduced-calorie artichoke dip spread on pita bread. You can also shred and finely chop some zucchini and add it to extra lean ground beef or turkey to make juicy, delicious burgers. Try hiding diced vegetables between cheesy layers of lasagna, or make them disappear by pureeing them and adding to soups and stews.

Watch it Grow

One of the easiest ways to encourage kids to be excited about vegetables is to help them grow and harvest some produce.  So if you have a patio or balcony, help your child plant tomatoes, zucchini or bush variety green beans in self-watering pots.  Watering and nurturing plants until the vegetables are ready for harvest creates anticipation, and they will be so proud of their harvest (and more likely to eat it!)

Make it Fun

Let your kids play a bit with their vegetables.  Play is part of being a child, and it makes eating more interesting and fun.  Help them make mini kabobs by alternating small chunks of cheese with fresh vegetables on a short wooden skewer.  Go ahead and let them sprinkle some shredded cheddar on their broccoli and cauliflower. As they get older, you can encourage them to eat it without the cheese.  Cut carrots into coins.  Make cucumber boats and fill with tuna salad.

Educate by Example

Show your kids how much you enjoy eating vegetables.  Share the nutrition benefits, using words they can understand.  Talk about how they will have more energy, and build strong, healthy bodies.

Offer a variety of vegetables, and keep offering, even the ones they decide they do not like.  Recently my son asked me why I have not been giving him any cooked carrots.  I looked at him in surprise, because he had been declining cooked carrots for five years.  He informed me that he now likes them, so I no longer have to fish them out of soups and stews.  If I had been offering them occasionally, he may have started eating them sooner.  So don’t give up.  And smile when they finally decide they like them.

How do you encourage your kids to eat their veggies?  Share your tips!