How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Many parents and caregivers of young children share a common concern: your child does not eat enough fruits and vegetables or is extremely picky in their choices.

Even if you’re a parent blessed with an adventurous eater, you may find that the child goes through a phase where it feels like a daily battle of wills over getting your child to eat their vegetables.

Below, we provide some of the best tips to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for picky kids.

Make Smoothies and Pops

Smoothies are one of the best ways to get even the pickiest kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. They are also fully customizable by adding different combinations of fruits, yogurt, clean protein powder, nut butter, and yes, even vegetables. 

I often add riced cauliflower, baby, spinach, and beets to smoothies that my kids guzzle down as if it is a chocolate milkshake. 

Berries, bananas, avocados, watermelon, and tropical fruits such as pineapple also work really well in healthy smoothies. 

If your child is super picky, try making a chocolate peanut butter banana shake. You can add frozen cauliflower and it has virtually no impact on the taste. 

Another tip is to freeze the blended purée into popsicle molds and make healthy pops.

Another family favorite is making frozen chocolate-dipped bananas, and frozen chocolate-dipped strawberry pieces. 

Just melt some dark chocolate and then cut a banana in half. Swirl it in the melted mixture and then stick a popsicle stick in. 

Pop it in the freezer for a couple of hours and you have a healthy treat. For smaller kids, you can chop the banana in small rounds like medallions and then cover them with chocolate.

Start a Vegetable Garden

One of the best tips for getting your kids to eat more vegetables is to plant a vegetable garden and allow them to help. 

Budding gardeners will get to see how the vegetables grow from seed to table. My nieces and nephews have a big vegetable garden, and when there are snap peas, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, zucchini, lettuce, and even radishes that are ready to pick, it’s a feeding frenzy. They start chomping down on the vegetables standing in the grass with bare feet.

If you don’t have real estate to grow an outdoor garden, there are indoor hydroponic gardens that are great for growing tomatoes and other produce. You can also look into joining a local farm that offers CSA shares. Bring your kids as part of a fun weekly outing to pick the produce for the week. 

Having hands-on experience and feeling involved in how the food gets to the table can greatly impact how enticing vegetables are.

Get Your Kids Involved In Cooking

You may be surprised how excited your kids are to eat veggies when they are involved in the cooking process. 

Consider encouraging your little one to help you prepare meals. There are kid-friendly knives, and even little aprons along with several popular cooking shows that feature kids. 

By inspiring your young chef to take part in meal prep, he or she will likely be much more excited to eat a vegetable-packed meal.

Disguise and Surprise

Blending veggies into sauces is another good strategy. We put kale and Swiss chard in homemade pesto, sweet potato or bell peppers in marinara sauce, and puréed cauliflower or avocado in cheese sauces. 

Ask Questions

One strategy that has been helpful in our home is to ask questions. Try to figure out what your kids like or dislike about a certain fruit or vegetable. 

For example, we had a kid who hated any cooked vegetable or mushy fruits but was fine with anything crunchy. We then got him excited to eat salads and choose firm fruits, such as pears and apples instead of soft fruits, like melon and grapes. 

Use Familiar Flavors

Another great tip to encourage your child to eat more vegetables and fruits is to pair them with flavors they enjoy. 

There’s nothing wrong with sprinkling Parmesan cheese on broccoli, melting mozzarella on button mushrooms, dipping carrots in peanut butter, or using organic ranch dressing with sliced veggies.

Make It Eye-Appealing 

Most kids eat with their eyes, so making a vegetable snack or veggie-packed meal look fun and enticing is a great way to get your child excited to eat it.

Ants on a log (peanut butter and raisins or craisins on celery) is a favorite.

We like making zucchini fritters or cutting cucumber medallions and then stacking them with a slice of tomato and a few carrot shreds because they look cute.

Another family favorite is English muffin pizzas. The kids get to decorate their own with healthy chopped-up vegetables. 

We do a similar thing with taco night and they really seem to enjoy trying different vegetables if they get to sprinkle them in themselves.

Go Dried or Air Fryed

Kids often prefer crunchy textures. You can buy freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, which have a light, chip-like mouth feel. 

Freeze-dried strawberries, raspberries, and apple chips are a big favorite. There are also containers of mixed veggies, like freeze, dried peas, corn, bits of tomato, and carrot. Toddlers and school-age kids often love these finger foods and they tend to be more popular than mushy vegetables.

Similarly, you can use an air fryer to make crispy, broccoli florets and cauliflower “chicken” wings.

Incentivize Healthy Eating

In my house, we try to encourage healthy eating by making fun challenges and games. 

For example, we have a color wheel with all of the colors of the rainbow. Every week, the kids try to eat at least one fruit and one vegetable for each color and we have stickers that correspond to the colors so they can keep track of their progress. 

What I particularly like about this system is that it helps support eating a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than always sticking with just carrots as the vegetable or apples as the fruit, for example. 

Other families reward trying new vegetables. One thing we did was make a “fruit and vegetable passport.” We got little notebooks for the kids and then took them on a grocery store “tour.” 

They wrote the name of every fruit and vegetable we saw, each on its own page in the book. When we took them on weekly grocery shopping trips, they were excited to get a new type of produce. We’d talk about where it grows and what type of cuisine or dishes it is often found in. 

Then, after they tried it, they’d draw a picture, describe what they liked and didn’t like about it, what food it reminded them of, and how they’d rate it from 1-5.

Bake ‘em In

It doesn’t take much convincing to get most kids to eat muffins. And a muffin can be a great foil for adding veggies without changing the taste. Bananas, applesauce, pumpkin purée, zucchini, and sweet potato can also be used in muffins as a partial substitute for oil. This makes the muffin even healthier while getting your kiddos to eat more veggies. 

This basic recipe for the muffins is also easy to customize so that you can flavor the base and add mix-ins or toppings that suit your child’s palate. The muffins contain carrots, zucchini, and bananas. We often add craisins or blueberries as well.

They freeze well in case you want to double the batch. Simply pop one or two out and warm them in the oven or toaster. 

Make Homemade Fruit Leather

We make homemade fruit leather or fruit roll-ups, which is a fantastic way to get your kids eating more fruits and vegetables without relying on sugar-sweetened commercial fruit snacks and fruit roll-ups.

You might be surprised how easy it is to add veggies to these as well without your kids even detecting them.

A good tip here is to match colors. 

For example, we make a strawberry raspberry fruit roll-up and add beets and even tomatoes. One of the most popular ones we make is a cinnamon carrot, pumpkin (or sweet potato), ginger, and apple fruit roll-up. It’s packed with beta-carotene. 

I even add baby spinach to a pineapple banana fruit rollup. It does make the end result a greenish color, but the tropical fruits completely mask the spinach taste, and my kids love it.

Use Supplements 

Lastly, there are fruit and veggie supplements for kids, including gummy vitamins and powders. These supplements pack numerous servings of fruits and vegetables in a kid-friendly, tasty disguise. 

Adding a superfood greens blend like Naked Greens powder to smoothies can also be a great way to give your kiddos a potent dose of all of the important antioxidants in the healthiest veggies.