72 vegetables for kids and how to get kids to like them

Most parents share the common goal of wanting their children to eat more vegetables for kids to ensure a balanced and healthy diet.

I was interviewed for The Guardian newspaper who asked me for my 5 top tips to help kids eat veggies and my suggestions came as a bit of a surprise!

They expected me to talk about making sauces packed full of blitzed up veggies, hiding veggies in mashed potato or stuffing veggies into bite size egg muffins…. but that’s not my style. Yes they get nutrients but no it doesn’t help them like more vegetables for kids. Let me explain why.

Colourful vegetables arranged in a heart shape

Why do kids tend to dislike vegetables?

Before I dive into how to encourage children to eat vegetables, I think it can be helpful for you to understand why vegetables are disliked so much by young children.

And it’s all down to taste. Babies are born with immature taste buds for bitter and sour flavours. 

The opposite can be said for the sweet ones, they are mature and so children will always have a preference for sweeter foods. 

Bitter and sour flavours, therefore have to be learned. This is the ethos behind the ‘veggies first’ recommendation when you start weaning. We want little ones to accept those bitter and sour tastes before they discover the sweet stuff.

This desire for sweet is why children don’t really like vegetables very much! It’s not actually because they ‘dislike’ them, it’s because sweeter foods are preferred.

Why vegetables for kids are important

I’m not going to go into all of the health benefits of vegetables as you already know that they contain lots of vitamins and minerals! And if you want details you can find them in my toddler nutrition course.

But one of the biggest benefits has to be that when you have a child who eats their veggies, you’ll be cooking just one meal for the whole family to share. After all, vegetables form an integral part of most meals whether you’re eating at home or out in a restaurant.

My top 5 tips on how to get kids to try vegetables

To get children to learn to like veggies we have to teach them. 

I have a phrase “it doesn’t count as nutrition unless it’s actually eaten” and I want you to remember this as I go through the steps as some of them might surprise you:

colourful vegetable kebabs

1. Serve vegetables at every meal and make sure they see you eating them too.

This is a really important first step, especially for parents of picky eaters. Lots of families – mine included have the same meals week-in, week-out on rotation.

We buy the veggies to accompany those meals but we buy the same ones, those that we know won’t end up in the bin.

However, children can’t learn to like vegetables without being regularly exposed to them on the dining room table which is why buying different ones is helpful.

But what’s even more important is that they need to see you eating them too.

This builds trust, because irrespective of their age they will know that if mum and dad are eating them too, then those vegetables are ‘safe’. 

Young children learn by mimicking what their trusted adults do, and so by regularly eating the same foods as them, alongside them at mealtimes, they are more likely to have a go too.

Older children and teens are influenced by their friends and so inviting a vegetable loving friend round for dinner can often be all it takes to get them on to that new food.

dishes of vegetables and fruit served on a table

2. Make them look nice.

Children eat with their eyes, in fact it’s the first sense that is triggered when they are deciding whether to eat a food or not. 

Therefore food must look attractive if you want your little one to be intrigued by them.  Vegetables come in a rainbow of colours and so are easy to make look appealing. 

Pre-school aged children are influenced by how food is presented so get creative by using cookie cutters to cut veggies into funny shapes or arrange them in smiley faces on their plate. 

Older children will visually appreciate foods that are presented in the centre of the table on sharing platters.

But even using coloured or patterned plates or even simply serving veggies in cupcake cases or 6 hole muffin tins can instantly lift their visual appeal. 

sliced peppers in a hot frying pan

3. Make them tasty.

At the same time as looking good, veggies have to taste and smell good. Steamed veggies may be better in the healthiness stakes but they don’t hold much flavour for developing taste buds.

Remember what I said earlier “food isn’t nutrition until it’s eaten” well sometimes using other foods to make veggies taste and smell nice is what it takes to make them tempting.

I’d encourage you to sauté your green beans in garlic butter, toss asparagus in soy sauce, roast your parsnips in honey (over 1’s), you can make a fab marinade for most veggies with ketchup, maple syrup and soy sauce, even adding a little salt to broccoli or Brussels sprouts can make a world of difference and yes, it’s ok.

Ok, yes, it does make these veggies higher in salt and fat, but it will encourage your child to try a bite and even like them!

Consider using dips as a ‘vehicle’ food so if your little one would entertain cauliflower as long as there is a dollop of ketchup to dip it in first, then so be it. 

One of my children would try anything when he was younger, so long as there was cheese on the side.

Once that veggie has become an accepted part of their daily diet then you can work on reducing the salt, sugar, butter etc to improve the healthiness.

Asian family sat at the table serving themselves a meal

4. Let them serve themselves.

Family style serving involves placing all components of the meal individually in serving dishes in the centre of the table. Children as young as toddlers can help themselves or indicate to you what they want, how much and when to stop.

This puts them in control of the food on their plate and ultimately what goes into their body. If your little one doesn’t want to have a certain veggie on their plate, that’s OK. A thumbnail-sized amount of that veggie can go on a ‘learning plate’ and sits at the side of their dinner plate. 

The learning plate is simply for looking at, sniffing, prodding, poking, licking, chewing or spitting out on. It’s there just for learning all about the sensory characteristics of the new food. 

This is important as there are 32 different sensory steps a child must go through before a food becomes accepted to them.

Having a learning plate helps move them up the 32 step ladder as the new food is closer to them, they have to look at it, they can smell it, and touching it even with a fork or spoon is a huge step forward.

toddler girl eating a slice of watermelon

5. Have a meal and snack time routine so that they come to the table with an appetite.

Most children thrive when they have an ‘appetite schedule’ for example three meals with two snacks in between but importantly, leaving a 2.5-3.5 hour gap in between each one.

What this does is help your child to develop an appetite so that they come to the table for meals or snacks wanting to eat.

Children who snack more frequently than that are continuously ‘topped up’ and don’t learn their appetite cues and self-regulation. The same is often seen for toddlers and pre-schoolers who have lots of milk (breast or otherwise) in between meals. 

Routine is important for learning about appetite regulation, for understanding what being hungry feels like and for learning that food takes that hunger feeling away. It also teaches your child who it feels to be full up.

If they don’t ever learn these cues they are less likely to want to try unfamiliar foods and the research tells us that these children tend to overeat on what they like and can become overweight or obese later on in childhood.

How much veg should children eat?

We all know that we should aim for 5 servings a day of fruit and vegetables, and this includes fresh, tinned and frozen varieties.

We know that most children prefer fruit and would easily eat 5 portions of fruit a day but nutritionally its better for them to have 2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables.

For younger children under 5, the portion size can be surprisingly small, just 40g or roughly the size of what would fit in the palm of their hand, but if they decide they would like more, and you have them available, let them eat more!

Master list of 72 vegetables for kids to try

This list might seem overwhelming and I don’t suggest you try everything at once! 

I’d recommend starting with the vegetables that you often eat as a family and then every week or so look for something new to add to your meal plan.  

Depending on how old your child is, you could look the new veggie up on the internet together, look for sensory information such as whether it’s going to be crunchy or soft, sweet or bitter and what it looks like. 

Pop your details below to receive my free printable of 72 vegetables for kids to try.

    Look for details such as how it’s grown and what country it comes from to try to spark your child’s interest in vegetables for kids.

    1. Artichoke
    2. Asparagus
    3. Aubergine
    4. Avocado
    5. Baby corn
    6. Bamboo shoot
    7. Beetroot
    8. Blue potato
    9. Broccoli
    10. Brown onion
    11. Brussels sprout
    12. Butternut squash
    13. Carrot
    14. Cassava
    15. Cauliflower
    16. Cavolo nero
    17. Celeriac
    18. Celery
    19. Chard
    20. Cherry tomatoes
    21. Chinese leaf
    22. Courgette
    23. Cress
    24. Cucumber
    25. Daikon
    26. Fennel
    27. Green beans
    28. Green cabbage
    29. Green bell peppers
    30. Kale
    31. Kohlrabi
    32. Leek
    33. Little gem lettuce
    34. Lotus root
    35. Mangetout
    36. Marrow
    37. Mushroom
    38. New potato
    39. Okra
    40. Padron peppers
    41. Pak choi
    42. Parsnip
    43. Peas
    44. Potato
    45. Pumpkin
    46. Radish
    47. Red cabbage
    48. Red onion
    49. Red bell peppers
    50. Rocket
    51. Romaine lettuce
    52. Romanesco cauliflower
    53. Runner beans
    54. Samphire
    55. Savoy cabbage
    56. Shallot
    57. Shitake mushroom
    58. Spinach
    59. Spring greens
    60. Spring onions
    61. Sugar snap peas
    62. Swede
    63. Sweet potatoes
    64. Sweet corn
    65. Sweetheart cabbage
    66. Tenderstem broccoli
    67. Tomato
    68. Turnip
    69. Water chestnut
    70. Watercress
    71. Yam
    72. Yellow bell peppers

    If they don’t try the new veg the first time you offer – that’s okay!  Add it to your rotation of foods and try again on another day.

    Sarah Almond Bushell MPhil, BSc (Hons) RD MBDA – Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist
    Sarah Almond Bushell MPhil, BSc (Hons) RD MBDA – Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist

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    meet Sarah

    I’m Sarah, a Registered Dietitian, Children’s Nutritionist and mummy from East Sussex. My blog is to guide & inspire you with information about weaning, nutrition, food and toddler feeding. Learn more about me here.

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