10 Kids Who Love Vegetables (and How They Got That Way)

Daniel, Chloe, and Eli Attar
Courtesy of Keren Brown
We found a group of kids who not only eat their vegetables -- they ask for them. Learn how their parents managed that. (Hint: It wasn't luck!)
Courtesy of Barbara Barras
Courtesy of Barbara Barras

Acting as the Sous Chef

Felicity BarrasSouth Burlington, Vermont

On most nights, you'll find apron-clad 4-year-old Felicity in the kitchen making dinner with her parents. With two years of experience already, she wields her kid-safe knife to cut broccoli, cucumbers, and even carrots. "She nibbles on them while she's cooking," says her mom, Barbara Barras.

What She Eats "If she cooks it, she eats it," Barras says. Felicity's most-requested dishes include roasted cauliflower, steamed kale, sweet-potato fries, and veggie pizza.

Favorite Recipe Felicity takes the lead on making the family spring rolls. "She prepares the rice paper while my husband or I panfry some tofu," says Barras. Then she puts rice noodles in the center, topped with shredded carrots, edamame, and tofu, adds a little soy sauce, and wraps it all together.

Work in Progress "We once tried to give her baked turnip strips that we called fries, but she didn't go for it," says Barras. "If she had made them herself, it might have been a different story."

Courtesy of Stacy Haynes
Courtesy of Stacy Haynes

Growing Into It

Paige and Paxton HaynesTurnersville, New Jersey

Five years ago, Stacy Haynes started a backyard garden, hoping that it would persuade her preschooler, Paxton, to eat vegetables. While his big sister, Paige, gobbled up the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs, Paxton still refused them. By Year 2, he came around.

What They Eat Eggplant and okra are faves for these siblings, now 8 and 7. Their dad sautées thin slices in olive oil, with tomatoes, scallions, and garlic, and serves them over rice or pasta.

Favorite Recipe "We break the cauliflower we grow into popcorn- size pieces and toss them with olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper," says Haynes. While the family prefers the veggie raw, you can roast it at 450°F for about 20 minutes first.

Work in Progress Paxton still doesn't eat the cucumbers and a couple of the other veggies he grows. "But every year he tries more and more, and I'm okay with that," says Haynes. "If it weren't for this garden, we might be back at square one."

Courtesy of Sara Lavan
Courtesy of Sara Lavan

Loving Green Veggies

Jasper Lavan and Dakota BilbreyAlexandria, Virginia

Jasper was always an adventurous eater, but when Dakota came along two-and-a-half years later, their mom, Sara Lavan, had to work hard to get him to eat vegetables. "By age 2, Jasper had been eating handfuls of kale. At that age, Dakota would spit out every veggie I gave him." So she turned to her food processor and chopped up kale so it looked like green flecks and put it in the foods Dakota liked, such as quesadillas, pasta, and hummus. He graduated to whole veggies when he was 4, and now at age 7, he likes them just as much as his older brother does.

What They Eat Almost every vegetable -- but especially green ones, from asparagus to Swiss chard, brussels sprouts to spinach. Lavan makes sure the kids get veggies even when they're not eating at home. "When we go out to a pizza place, we order salads and a vegetable side first so they don't fill up on pizza," she says.

Favorite Recipe Sautéed kale. Lavan cooks kale leaves in a pan with 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut or sesame oil over medium heat for about five minutes. She seasons with sea salt or a splash of tamari.

Work in Progress Ten-year-old Jasper used to love butternut-squash soup. "In preschool, he even drew a picture of it," Lavan says. "But he doesn't like it anymore. Maybe by fall, when squash is in season again, he'll change his mind."

Mealtime becomes a struggle when your little one has a very discerning palate. Learn how to handle a picky eater and some reasonable guidelines for what you should expect your child to eat.

Courtesy of Rachel Rosenthal
Courtesy of Rachel Rosenthal

Making the Same Meal for Everyone

Marin and Ellie StrisikBethesda, Maryland

These 7-year-olds twins were both picky toddlers. "I tried hiding veggies in their food, but it backfired on me," says their mom, Rachel Rosenthal. "When I gave them the actual vegetable, they said they didn't like it." So I just started exposing them to different veggies and persistently asked them to take at least one taste, even if they didn't like them the last time." She also didn't make them a different dinner from what she was having.

What They Eat Kale, spinach, broccoli, string beans, and sweet potatoes are favorites for both of them. "Ellie will eat an entire red pepper at a sitting," says Rosenthal.

Favorite Recipe Lettuce cups. Rosenthal recently ordered them at a restaurant and the girls liked the dish so much that they wanted to re-create it at home. "I'll give them lettuce leaves, sliced cooked chicken breast or salmon cubes, shredded carrots, and diced bell peppers and they assemble it on their own," she says. "That works for me -- it's less work than putting them together myself for everyone."

Work in Progress The girls still don't like cauliflower, even though Rosenthal has prepared it several different ways and even tried to entice them with the purple and yellow varieties. "But I'm not giving up," says Rosenthal. "I might try to get them more involved in making the dish."

Courtesy of Keren Brown
Courtesy of Keren Brown

Playing With Their Food

Daniel, Chloe, and Eli AttarSeattle, Washington

The fun starts at the market, where the kids -- Eli, 6, and 3-year-old twins Daniel and Chloe -- are allowed to pick out vegetables they've never seen or tried. "We look at the squashes, and the kids laugh at all the silly shapes," says their mom, Keren Brown. "When we get home, I give them the job of sorting all the produce by color."

What They Eat Brown turns the family's grocery-shopping stash into sweet-potato and beet chips, carrot flowers, or green "shakes" packed with berries and kale. "Eli started putting my chopped cucumber and tomato salad onto nori sheets and rolling it up to eat like sushi," says Brown. "Now I have three children who each want their own pack of nori sheets."

Favorite Recipe Fruit-and- veggie kabobs are always a winner. Brown makes them with whatever produce is in the fridge -- a couple of different kinds of melon and cucumbers; broccoli and oranges; and "rainbow" ones with red, yellow, and green peppers, cantaloupe, and purple grapes.

Work in Progress When Eli's classmates said, "Ew, that's gross" about some of the veggies in his lunch box, he asked not to bring them to school anymore. "I didn't make a big deal about it," says Brown. "I think forcing him to take them would have made it worse."

Originally published in the August 2015 issue of Parents magazine.

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