Let’s face it: Vegetables get a bad rap with kids. Toddlers and young kids may refuse a vegetable because of its “weird” color, “gross” texture or “funny” smell. As they get older, kids tend to leave that side of veggies behind on their plate. You can work toward increasing your child’s vegetable intake one meal (or snack) at a time. Here are 15 kid-friendly vegetables for picky eaters, along with kid-approved ways to prepare them.
Sweet bell peppers
There’s no doubt that kids love sweets. Use their preference for sweetness by introducing them to kid-friendly sweet bell peppers. Red, orange and yellow bell peppers can be served cut into strips as a snack—just pair with hummus or another protein-packed dip. They’re also a great addition to brighten up a stir-fry and are delicious when sauteed with mild seasoning in Mexican-style fajita veggies.
Sweet potatoes & squash
Sweet potatoes and squash get even sweeter when they’re roasted, steamed and sauteed. Steamed butternut squash can easily be pureed and incorporated into a cheese-like sauce or a warming soup served with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Don’t forget baked sweet potato fries—they’re a finger-friendly side that can encourage even the pickiest of eaters to take a bite.
Small and round grape tomatoes are super easy to incorporate at snack time—simply rinse and enjoy! (For little eaters, it may be best to cut them in half, too.) You can also pair them with a black bean dip, which will add fiber and protein. Because grape tomatoes are acidic and slightly sweet, they appeal to a variety of palates.
Starchy and sweet, corn has a bright yellow color that tends to be less daunting than greens, making it an approachable vegetable for picky eaters. Corn on the cob can be grilled, dried kernels can be air-popped to make popcorn and frozen corn can be steamed and added to rice for a simple side.
Start by using spinach as an undercover veggie, incorporating it into sweet treats like smoothies and popsicles. (Its green color won’t be visible when mixed with fruits like blueberries and blackberries.) Once your child becomes more comfortable with the dark green color and mild taste, start adding spinach to sandwiches, side salads and veggie sautees.
Much like corn, peas are a starchy, sweet and kid-friendly vegetable. The addition of steamed peas to fried rice or macaroni and cheese is a great way to get some color on the plate in a way that’s accepted by picky eaters.
If your child enjoys vegetables with a crunchy texture and mild flavor, it’s time to introduce them to jicama. Jicama is essentially a cross between a potato and an apple in texture, with a mild flavor and high water content. Jicama sticks can be dipped in nut butter, guacamole or salsa, bean dips, hummus and more. For a sweeter approach, chop up jicama and add it to a fruit salad with melon cubes, grapes and strawberries.
Crudite, here we come! Carrots might be the gold standard for vegetable dipping with their bright color and bold texture. Pair with a Greek yogurt-based ranch dressing or classic hummus for a healthy kid-friendly snack.
Its neutral color, mild flavor and flexibility as an ingredient make cauliflower an appealing kid-friendly vegetable. Adding pureed cauliflower to an alfredo sauce or even a berry smoothie won’t dramatically change the flavor, and it provides an extra boost of fiber and vitamin C. Nurture Life has meals designed with picky-eaters in mind, which is why we add pureed cauliflower to our mac & cheese sauce. Once your picky eater is comfortable with cauliflower in sauces, try serving it roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and salt or balsamic vinegar.
Zucchini & summer squash
If your kid is picky about eating zucchini and summer squash on their own, try including them in a pasta sauce: Dice zucchini in the food processor and add to a red sauce just before mixing with the pasta. Once your kid has become comfortable with zucchini in their sauce, you can take their pasta to the next level with zoodles!
Sugar snap peas
Sugar snap peas add a great crunch to any snack time. If they’re a bit too fibrous for your child to chew raw, try quickly steaming them to mellow the crunch. A quick saute with garlic makes snap peas a perfect dinnertime side dish. Or, throw them in with the sweet bell peppers to complete a simple stir-fry!
Whole mushrooms can be daunting for picky eaters due to their texture, but even picky eaters can learn to appreciate their umami flavor. Pair chopped mushrooms with other vegetables and add them to a marinara sauce for a hearty, veggie-driven pasta. Mushrooms are a good way to add more vitamin D into your child’s diet, too.
Snack time can turn into craft time when you make ants on a log with your kids. With nut butter, dried fruit and celery sticks, your kids can make their own fun snack. Celery can also be dipped in hummus and Greek yogurt dips alongside carrots and cucumbers.
Steamed broccoli can be a hit with kids, but for picky eaters, you may need to get a bit more creative. Our advice: Chop them up! Take small broccoli florets and finely chop by hand or in the food processor. Then, start incorporating the broccoli into tomato and cheese sauces, on top of pizza or into mini egg bites.
Cucumbers have a very high water content, making their flavor more mild and palatable for kids. Whether cut into spears or coins, eaten plain or dipped in hummus, cucumbers can be served up in a variety of ways. Leave the skin on for extra crunch and fiber in your little one’s snack.
Experiment with which vegetables you serve and how you serve them. If your little eater initially rejects a vegetable, don’t give up: Reintroduce it again the next week, perhaps in a different way. Start with recognizable kid-friendly vegetables like carrots, celery and peas. Then, continue to think outside the box with a few new vegetables like jicama and zucchini. Making these vegetables kid-friendly also takes a bit of imagination, so incorporate them into sauces, soups and smoothies. And remember to eat your veggies yourself—your kids will notice!