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  • Denise Scott

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Vegetable Intake

A child’s vegetable intake often declines with age. Achieving the recommended daily vegetable intake of 2-4 servings is difficult. There are things a parent can do that is the focus of this article.

Why are vegetables important?

Vegetables provide multiple health benefits including fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and plant-based antioxidants not provided by other foods. They help in preventing constipation and feed the gut microbiome.

Eating vegetables adds fiber and plant-based nutrients not provided by other foods.

These are the recommended amounts of daily vegetable intake per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and My Plate. Divide the total among meals and snacks.

Age (years) Vegetables

2-3 1 cup

4-8 1 ½ cups

9-13 girls 2-4 cups

9-13 boys 2 ½-4 cups

14-18 girls 2 ½-4 cups

14-18 boys 3-4 cups

What can a parent do?

Here are 20 tips!

1. Be a good role model by preparing and eating vegetables at each meal.

2. Provide vegetables in as many colors, shapes, and textures as possible. Make a game of who can eat the most colors in a meal.

Depiction of colorful fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of vegetables in multiple colors adds nutrients to meals.

3. Discuss the importance of different vegetables and what they do for the body.

4. Try, try again - remember that it can take offering a new food up to 15 times before a child will eat it.

5. Keep cut-up vegetable sticks available in the fridge to serve as snacks.

6. Load up salads, soups, sauces, pizza, scrambled eggs, smoothies, casseroles, and even hamburgers with finely chopped, grated, or pureed veggies. Use veggies in foods your child already likes.

7. Add vegetable noodles such as zucchini noodles to regular noodles or look for vegetable-based pasta.

8. Make vegetarian meals a couple of times a week.

9. Involve your child in meal preparation. Studies show that when a child helps to prepare the meal, they are more likely to try what they helped to make. Allow your child to play with a few veggies as you prepare them to see, feel, smell, and taste them. Have your child help to choose which veggies to buy at the store.

10. Use veggies for dips and spreads, such as carrots with hummus and celery with nut butter.

11. Maintain an enjoyable mealtime atmosphere by offering veggies every meal but not pressuring your child to eat them.

12. Try different ways of preparing the same vegetable, such as roasting, air frying, baking, etc. For example, prepare potatoes in various ways - mashed, baked, or roasted.

13. If so inclined, plant a garden and involve your child with planting, growing, and harvesting a few vegetables. They will be excited to try them if they have been involved from seed to final product.

14. Make muffins, cookies, brownies, and bread with veggies.

15. Read books to your child about vegetables. There are many delightful ones available such as “I Can Eat a Rainbow,” “Oliver’s Vegetables,” “Eating the Alphabet,” and many more.

16. When your infant is ready for solids, start with vegetables and introduce a variety before giving any fruits.

17. Consider rewarding your child with stickers (not sweets) for trying new foods.

18. Fill half your child’s plate with vegetables and fruit at each meal. That is the recommendation according to

19. Consider serving veggies at the beginning of the meal when everyone is their hungriest. You can serve veggie sticks and dip, a salad or soup.

Keeping fresh veggie sticks on hand to serve at the start of a meal and as snacks can really increase your child's vegetable intake.

20. Don’t give up! Repetition and patience are the key since your child’s taste preferences will continue to evolve.

Start with small portions of several vegetables and allow your child to choose, realizing there will be some waste. They can always have more of those vegetables they like!

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