9 ways to encourage children to eat vegetables

Children and Vegetables

The five a day campaign has done a great job at informing most of us of recommendations about consumption of fruit and vegetables. What we choose to do as with this information is our own prerogative. As adults, as long as we have the right information, we can make our own health choices.

When it comes to the eating habits of small children it can be slightly less straight forwards. Even with all the right information, actually encouraging a 2-year-old to eat their broccoli may be a different matter. 

 Firstly, here is a reminder of the advice from the NHS;

  • Children should eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables in a day
  • As a rough guide one portion is the amount they can fit in the palm of their hand.
  • Potatoes DONT count as part of 5 a day
  • A glass of unsweetened fruit juice does count (but only as one portion no matter how many glasses are consumed)
  • Pulses and beans DO count as a portion of 5 a day (but only one portion no matter how much is eaten)
  • Tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables DO count.
  • Dried fruit DOES count.

Now if only it was easy to apply this advice to little people. On the whole my two love fruit. Sometimes they are great friends with their vegetables. Occasionally it can be struggle to persuade them to eat their greens, or reds or oranges or whatever colour it is to which they have taken dislike.

If they are having a fussy phase these are some ways that encourage my children to eat vegetables:

1. Blend into a tomato based sauce: This is a staple in our house. I always have tinned tomatoes stashed somewhere in the cupboard. I often steam a variety of different vegetables and then blend in with tinned tomatoes and seasoning. A form of this sauce goes with almost everything; pasta, rice, chicken, fish.

2. Hidden in a turkey burger: I’m a bit of a fan of making turkey burgers. It’s really satisfying (and importantly easy) to make my own. As Pumpkin is still little I like to know exactly what goes into them and don’t add any salt. I usually cook sweet potato/carrot/onion and then mix with the raw mince, shape into burgers and cook in the oven. I’m still working on the perfect recipe to share on the blog. I was slightly over-enthusiastic with the vegetables in the last batch and although perfectly tasty, they were also, ummm…. a little orange.

3. On top of a homemade pizza: I often make versions of pizzas out of mini-tortilla wraps, crumpets or using a pastry base. It doesn’t really matter; if it’s called a pizza, Sunflower will eat it. The picture has a particularly simple selection of peas and sweetcorn on top. In reality I use whatever vegetables are in the fridge or freezer.

4. Masquerading as chips: Sunflower is at the age that chips have become a real treat. I lightly fry a section of vegetables in stick shapes; squash, courgette, carrot, sweet potatoes, and call them chips. She is just as happy with these as proper fries… well almost!

5. Inside lasagne: I published this healthy version of lasagne a couple of weeks ago. It uses a high proportion of vegetables to meat.

6. Call them a snack: I have yet to meet a pre-schooler who doesn’t enjoy a snack. Snack time often involves yoghurt or raisins or a slice of bread.  However, if Sunflower’s day has involved more cake than carrot, and her snack is little sticks of peppers, carrots or cucumber.

7. Put them on a stick: Vegetable kebabs definitely increase the children’s interest in vegetables.

8. Make a soup: Almost anything in the fridge can be turned into a vegetable soup. I don’t know why but Sunflower and Pumpkin love to dip their bread into soup. It makes it even more exciting than just spooning it.

9. Involve them in growing vegetables: I would love to have a vegetable garden. However my back yard last year resulted in a tiny selection of raspberries, tomatoes and unintentionally miniature beetroots.

I hope involving children in growing vegetables increases their enthusiasm for their consumption. Once the lettuce seedlings have grown I’ll be better able to test this theory.

I think the same applies to involving kids simply making choices about fruit and vegetables. Selecting their preference at the Supermarket, choosing and helping to prepare what to eat with dinner, increases interest in (and hopefully consumption of) the end product.

As my last point indicates I don’t necessarily think that hiding vegetables is the perfect way to encourage children to eat them. Ideally we need to encourage them to enjoy fruit and vegetables and not see them as unpleasant foods to be hidden away inside something more appealing.

However, I know it’s not always that easy, particularly in you have a little one with picky tastes. I’m sure a lot of you have your own ways to ensure your little ones get their advised five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. I hope sharing some of my day-to-day examples are helpful too.

Bonus point 10: Put them in a cake: I know, I know, this is probably not the best form in which to eat vegetables, but it is my favourite blog recipe so far and makes a pretty picture! healthy carrot & coconut cake pops with chia seeds.

Do let me know your preferred way for encouraging little ones to eat their five a day.

Further helpful information from the NHS:

Mami 2 Five

17 thoughts on “9 ways to encourage children to eat vegetables

  1. NorthEastFamilyFun (@NEFamilyFun) April 30, 2015 / 8:09 am

    Fab tips Rachel – I love the idea of crumpet pizzas – such an easy lunch idea – will definitely be trying that out. My children love corn on the cob so that is often how I squeeze extra portions in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare May 3, 2015 / 1:55 pm

      Ooh yes corn on the cob is great. Mine love it too. I can still get away with calling almost anything round sprinkled with cheese and veg pizza… Your kids may be wiser to it. Still a delicious lunch though!


  2. Ellie Mulligan May 3, 2015 / 7:07 am

    Fab tips! Jack sometimes eats them, others not, so I will try some of these!x


  3. Katie Haydock May 3, 2015 / 9:18 am

    I find that if we call something a ‘sneaky snack’ she’s even happier to eat it, lol.
    Great post xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. travelingchristie May 3, 2015 / 9:25 am

    Great tips, its hard isn’t it, my two see veggies as the enemy ha ha not so bad with fruit and I have no idea why. Hubby and I love veg, but they do get them in xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare May 3, 2015 / 1:59 pm

      Yes mine would eat fruit for every meal I think but vegetables I suppose are just not as sweet. Still if you and your husband enjoy them I’m sure you’ll be setting great habits.


  5. Mummy in Training May 3, 2015 / 12:22 pm

    I am currently having this battle with my toddler who used to eat vegetables more than anything else! Great tips – I think the snack one may well work for us. Thanks for sharing #SundaysStars.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare May 3, 2015 / 2:01 pm

      One of my previous commenters Katy Haycock suggests calling them a sneaky snack! I think that might be even better than just labelling them as a snack. Their tastes do go through such changes at this age, it can be hard to keep adjusting. Still I’m sure if your little one used to enjoy them it will get easier again in time.


  6. Everything Mummy May 4, 2015 / 8:15 pm

    great tips i always find getting them involved with the cooking helps whether thats stirring something or chopping some mushrooms with a plastic knife they love it, also smoothies my girls love choosing the fruit they want and gulping it down!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare May 4, 2015 / 8:27 pm

      Ooh yes smoothies are great. I should have put them on the list but I’m not usually adventurous enough to put veg in. My little girl does love ‘chopping’ vegetables but rarely actually manages with her plastic knife. I’ll have to try with mushrooms and see if she has more success.


  7. sheenalk May 5, 2015 / 9:09 pm

    Brilliant tips! We’ve done a few of them though like you I’d love to not have to be sneaky about it! My tip is to add a finely grated carrot to a bolognese sauce or chilli con carne. It’s impossible to spot and adds a really nice richness to the sauce without tasting carrotty. Although my mum used to do it to get my brother to eat more veg as a child, I still make both dishes this way (at 37 years old!)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Becky, Cuddle Fairy May 9, 2015 / 7:03 am

    Great post with excellent ideas to sneak the veggies into kids. I didn’t know potatoes don’t count towards the 5 a day! I’m going to try some of your recipes 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    • tenminutesspare May 10, 2015 / 8:29 pm

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy some of the ideas. It is a pity potatoes don’t count isn’t it?!


  9. Becky, Cuddle Fairy May 9, 2015 / 7:04 am

    This is a really great post. I didn’t know potatoes don’t count as part of your five a day! Your recipes are a clever way to sneak veg into kids without them realising 🙂 I’m going to try some of them out xx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. dadbloguk May 16, 2015 / 8:53 am

    I think we just about scrape through with getting five a day into the kids. The one I wish I could crack is getting them to east salad. They just won’t touch it. The other thing is they get fussier with age in my experience. Helen would eat all manner of foods when she was younger but with age (influence of friends etc) she’d gone off a number of items. Still, we’re okay with fruit and there’s a reasonable range of veg they’ll both eat.


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