“My kids won’t stop begging for vegetables!” Said no parent ever.

Once they become toddlers, even babies who were never fussy before suddenly become picky eaters. It’s a cosmic joke played on us parents- they will put literally anything they see in their mouths except for vegetables. And the struggle usually continues through their childhood.

As parents, we’re often concerned that our kids aren’t getting the nutrition they need. But how do we go about ensuring this?

Should we force them to eat their vegetables before they can leave the table?

Should we try to trick them? Negotiate? Bribe them??? Or should we be honest about what we’re feeding them and pray they won’t refuse to eat what “tastes healthy”?

Chances are you’ve tried all these methods to varying degrees of success. Their effectiveness is debatable- but what isn’t is the fact that your kids need their veggies.

Luckily there are plenty of good eating habits you can start instilling now to help turn your kids on to vegetables (without resorting to trickery).

Here goes!

1)   Get hands on.

Get your kids involved in every step of the process from selecting produce to stirring the pot. Let them smell and feel and taste how much a single vegetable can change as it’s cooked.

Give them a chance to try vegetables they don’t like cooked in ways they’re not used to. Your kids might prefer some veggies raw, and others fried, baked or mixed in with sauces. You might find that your child isn’t picky about what they eat after all- just particular about how it’s prepared.

Starting a vegetable garden with your kids also teaches them to appreciate where their food is coming from. Plus, they’ll be more likely to try new things if they’ve grown them themselves!

2)   Offer variety.

Very few people will eat anything that’s set in front of them. You can’t expect it from most adults, and certainly not your kids. That’s why it’s important to offer your children a variety of different fruits and vegetables.

That doesn’t mean you have to set up a buffet every night- just shake things up every once in a while. One easy way to introduce variety is by cooking with seasonal produce.

3)   Integrate vegetables into meals instead of serving them as a side.

Ok, so this is a trick of sorts. But this will prevent your picky eaters from avoiding vegetables they don’t like by incorporating them into what they do want to eat. Omelets, casseroles and sauces are great vehicles for sneaking in veggies.

4)   Practice what you preach.

It’s no good trying to get your children to eat what you personally won’t. Eat as a family and show your kids how enjoyable it can be to eat healthy. Stress the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to food and try some new things yourself!

5)   Keep trying.

Research suggests it can take 10 or more times for children to like a new food. Be persistent and give them a chance to change their minds!

*Keep this in mind- the more sweets and “toddler foods” you give your child, the more they will crave them and the less appealing vegetables will be.

None of the strategies we’ve covered will be effective if you continue to appease your child’s sweet tooth. You don’t have to eliminate sugars completely – but cut down. Let them know that sweets are meant to be a treat – a once in a while reward.