Please Pass the Veggies

Dear Family Volley,

My son is 19 months and hates veggies. I offer him some at every meal but he just throws them at me. How do I get him to eat them?
Thanks, Nancy

Dear Nancy,
Thank you for your question. This is a very common complaint amongst parents.

Some things to consider....
  • At 19 months, part of your son's job description is to not like vegetables.
  • Just because your son doesn't love veggies doesn't mean you are a bad mom. (I can't get my husband to eat olives or pickles, that doesn't make me a bad wife.)
  • Children have to be exposed to a food approximately 10 times before they will accept it. What ever you do, Don't stop offering the vegetables. 
  • Work on the throwing food, as much if not more than eating the veggies.
Naturally, we all want to make our own decisions. Think about being little, kids are told when to go to sleep, when and what to eat, what they will wear, what to say "say car, say hi, say please, say thank you.". They have zero choice. This makes them feel slightly trapped. One of the best things you can do when it comes to veggies is to give children a choice. 

Give your son two different veggie options at meals. One option makes him feel forced, two options gives him a choice. By giving choice, children, just like adults feel like they are in control and in charge, instead of being told what to do. By making our own choices, even if they are small, we feel ownership and responsibity. No longer are you telling him what to eat. Instead he is choosing what he wants to put in his mouth. Please note, this does not mean that as your child gets older you should be making him a "special dinner", different from what the rest of the family is eating. By giving them choice when they are little, it will help them gain trust in you. It will strengthen your communication and help you better learn about your child's preferences and how to deal with them. 

Now, that said. If he is throwing things, address that. Work on this first, it should not be acceptable. Tell him to use his "words" to tell you he doesn't like something. When he tells you he doesn't want the veggie, respect him, and thank him for talking to you, instead of throwing things. Take the food he doesn't want away, and move on. As he feels that you are listening to him and respecting his opinions, he will start to come your way, maybe even try the veggies he once rejected. Remember, when all is said and done, you are still the parent, and you are still in charge. Giving them choice, doesn't mean we are giving them ultimate control.

What you don't want to do is let this ruin your family dinner exprience. You are creating memories and rituals that hopefully stay with your family long after the "veggie war" is over. Make dinner fun and enjoyable for everyone. If your son knows that every time you sit down to eat there is going to be stress over the food, he will naturally not want to be there, atleast not with a pleasant attitude. 1 carrot is not worth it. Don't let this battle get you worked up, frustrated, or loose your temper. I have seen so many situations where a mother's pride overshadows their love for their child, in very menial circumstances. 

We have fought this battle in our home. Our son is willing to try every vegetable there is, our daughter, not even close. Won't even open her mouth. It has taken time, but the more respect I show her, the more she is willing to try new things. The more I listen to her opinion and honor that opinion, the more she is willing to try new things. The more I give her choices so that she feels like she has control, the more she is willing to try new things. She is five. It has taken time. 

Often times as parents we get so caught up in trying to do the "right things for our children", that we miss the fact that they are people just like us, with thoughts and feelings and preferences. 

In my mind (and sometimes outloud), I say things like, "I worked hard to cook this for you, now eat it", or
"I am trying to be a good parent and help you grow healthy and strong, now eat it". Or, when we are with other people I worry what they will think of me as a parent if my kids refuse to try their vegetables. 
Throw those thoughts out the window. 

Respect your children's opinions and they will respect you. DON'T GIVE UP. Allowing choice doesn't mean your kids have won. It means you really love them and treat them as you would want to be treated. 

In Addition... 
Try veggies in all different forms. Raw, cooked, add some butter, salt, pepper, even a little ranch dressing could change things. Most kids will eat anything with "dip dip sauce". There is nothing wrong with spicing things up a bit. After all, most adults don't even eat vegetables without "something" on them. 

Try every vegetable you can get your hands on. Think outside carrots and peas. When our daughter was two she would only eat raw zucchini. Who would have thought. 

Let him help you cook. Get him involved in every step. 

Grow some vegetables, teach him as you go, and he will want to taste what he has grown. 

The favorite in our house. I add small pieces of cooked carrots and peas in my children's cheese quesdillas. Cook up a few carrots until they are nice and soft. Slice them very thin and layer them with canned peas, amongst the chesse. 

Use all the tricks, dice veggies up very small and add them to your hamburger meat, your spaghetti, anything. Find ways to hide veggies in his favorite foods. 

If, for nutritional reasons you are still concerned. Be sure your son is taking a vitamin each day. Along with that, make him a smoothie each day with vegetables mixed in with some fruit, ice, and a little yogurt. he will love it, and never know that he is eating spinach and carrots from dinner the night before. The goal is to find the vegetables they like and work with it. 

Family Volley


  1. Heather--this is such great advice! I have a 10 month old who will eat all kinds of fruit, but no veggies. I usually put a few carrots on his tray, and he tries one then spits it out. Well--the other day he tried it, and then ate about 5 more! VICTORY!!!

  2. I have been pretty lucky in this department. But one thing I've found that people (not just kids) love is when you toss veggies in a little Yoshida (teriyaki) sauce. mmmmm.

  3. Thanks for the good advice! I like the whole Quesadilla idea. My kids love them and if I could hide them that would be great. And I like the gardening idea too, I plan on doing that this year!! Thanks!!

  4. Ladies, thanks for your comments.

    Tara, congratulations on the carrot victory. Love success stories. Good job on the persitance and patience.

    Proud Mommy, teriyaki sauce is a great idea. I am one of those people that could eat anything with teriyaki on it.

    Leiann, let me know how the quesadilla and gardening goes. We have a lot of fun as a family growing our favorite vegetables.

  5. I like to steam carrots and broccoli, and mix it into pasta sauce. It gets hidden, the kids love it, and because of the carrots, I don't have to sweeten it as much! win win! (my VERY picky 7yo loves it, and laughed when I told him he had eaten broccoli and like it!

  6. I wanted to let you know that I tried putting cooked carrots on my kids grilled cheese and my 2 year old ate them up. It was a great thing!

  7. My pediatrician suggested supplementing with those juices that are vegetable/fruit mixes (like those V8 ones) if you are afraid your child isn't getting enough vitamins.

  8. In your honor, I bought baby artichokes, zucchini, cabbage and turnips to try with my kids. Those are all veggies I like but have fallen out of the habit of preparing because they haven't met with such enthusiasm from my kids. With the exception of zucchini, they are favorites of my husband too.


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