How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables

how to get kids to eat vegetables

Give kids a choice

The secret

The secret to getting kids to eat vegetables is really quite simple. Give them the choice. Before you click away saying, “My kid would choose not to eat them,” hear me out. I didn’t say give them the choice whether or not to eat vegetables. Give them the choice of which vegetables and fruits.

There is real scientific evidence to back this up, but let me begin anecdotally. The photo above is from our Pittsburgh-area elementary school cafeteria. How does our school get kids to eat vegetables and fruits? They offer a choice.

And when my boys buy lunch, which is about once a week, I tell them they need to choose a fruit and a vegetable, but it’s up to them what to choose. I offer them a choice.

My second son, who is a bit picky, usually sticks with applesauce and carrots.

My oldest son almost always chooses grapes and the crunchy vegetable mix of cucumbers, celery and carrots. Choices within choices.

The science

Now for the scientific evidence. This study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that offering kids a variety of vegetables and fruit and letting them choose which ones to eat led to them eating more fruits and vegetables!

The researchers observed that “children chose some pieces in 94% of snacks with variety and in 70% of snacks without variety” and “Providing a variety of vegetables and fruit as a snack led to increased consumption of both food types in a childcare facility. Serving a variety of vegetables or fruit as a snack could help preschool children meet recommended intakes.”

Think about your own eating habits. I am sure you prefer to have more than a little choice in the matter. We all love some control over what we eat. So if you are looking for ways to get kids to eat vegetables and fruits, offer a choice.

Have you given your kids choice in their foods? Has it helped? 




10 Responses to “How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables”

  1. Krystal

    The idea of choice for children is very interesting. My son rarely will eat veggies if I give them to him, but he will grab fruits if I let him! He wants to make his own mind up about things. Nice post!

    • Elizabeth

      It’s hard to trust our kids to make choices, but if we set a good example ourselves, I think they tend to copy us. What’s your favorite healthy food Krystal?

  2. Dory

    Ah, I love it! Choices! This was my #1 trick when teaching preschool (and kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 4th grade): CHOICES! If you give anyone a choice (child or adult), you still get what you want, and they feel like they get a say. Plus, it is helpful for developing that child into a responsible young adult! I always loved veggies and fruit (even brussel sprouts… my favorite!), and I think it was because I was the one that wanted to eat them, and they were not forced on me.
    -Dory from

    • Elizabeth

      We do try to offer at least two different fruits or vegetables each night so that there is some kind of choice. It can be hard, but I think in the end teaching kids to choose good food that they love is the real goal. I never ate brussel sprouts as a kid, now I basically roast the leaves with oil and salt. How do you make them Dory?

  3. Marcie Robinson

    I love how you simplify this and giving them a choice makes a HUGE difference. We started offering 2 vegetables at every dinner and I only make them eat one and they get to choose which one. We are having far less melt-downs and complaints because of it!

  4. Skye

    One other thing I noticed we do, is offer him a choice of entree, and mention the veggie as an afterthought. When we remember to flip it around so the big choice is the veggie, he ends up more favorable towards eating it.

  5. Margo Dill

    I can see how this would work. It’s also well-known to offer choices for most things but make sure everything you are offering is something that you can live with. 🙂 So I like the fact you can say: Choose a vegetable, anyone you want, but you have to choose one. Thanks for this post!