Vegetables for children
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a love of vegetables. Once established, this love of vegetables will be with them for their lifetime.
Children are more likely to enjoy vegetables when the whole family are eating them, so serve them up to everyone, with every family meal. You are setting them on the path of a long, healthy, and happy lifestyle.
Establish healthy eating habits early – for life
Bright ideas with vegetables
- Involve children - Children often love to help with shopping, prepping and cooking vegetables, then they are also more likely to eat them.
- Different tastes and textures - Children may not like every vegetable, so give your child many different vegetables to try. Taste preferences change over time so keep trying.
- Go with the flow - Don’t worry if your children refuse vegetables – continue to offer them and show that you enjoy eating them.
- Have fun at mealtimes - Happy, relaxed children can be more likely to try new foods. If a vegetable is left untouched, offer the vegetable again another time, perhaps in different way or shape.
- Same food for all the family - Even meals with unusual ingredients or stronger flavours can be offered in small amounts.
- Keep trying - Some children will need to try a new food 7–10 times before they will like it.
- Serve vegetables in different ways – new shapes or raw as a snack with hummus, yoghurt dip, or cottage cheese.
- Tortillas and tacos are a fun way for children to eat vegetables – serve a selection of sliced cucumber or celery, grated carrots, tomato wedges, etc and let the children make their own.
- Try roasting capsicums, courgettes, beetroot, and eggplant. Start with small amounts.
- Change the texture. A chunky soup may get the thumbs down but blended to a smooth consistency it may be a winner. Once you find a soup that children like, change the ingredients a little at a time.
- Home-baked potato wedges are usually popular with children. Also try kūmara, parsnip, carrot, or pumpkin wedges.
- Add variety. Most children love mashed potato. Provide variety by adding small amounts of kūmara, carrot, parsnip, swede, pumpkin or broccoli to the potatoes.
- Add vegetables wherever you can – finely chopped or grated carrots, beans, and onions to curries, bolognese, lasagne or nacho sauces – often children won’t realise there are vegetables in them.
How many vegetables should children have?
A ‘serving’ of vegetables is about 75g, which is about:
- ½ cup of cooked vegetables e.g., pūhā, watercress, silverbeet, kamokamo (squash), carrot, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, taro leaf, cauliflower, spinach, wong bok, choy sum, gai lan, beans, Brussels sprouts, courgettes, eggplant, leeks, okra, pumpkin, ulluco
- 1 cup of green leafy or raw salad vegetables e.g. asparagus, capsicum, celery, cucumber, kale, lettuce, radish, spring onions, sprouted beans, witloof
- Half a medium potato, kūmara, taro, or cassava
- 1 medium tomato
Children should aim to have 4 or more servings of vegetables every day (and 2 servings of fruit).
Older children (from around 9 years and up) and adults should aim for at least 5 servings of vegetables a day, so keep increasing the amount of vegetables in your child’s diet as they grow. Offer as snacks, and with meals.
Encourage a wide variety of different coloured vegetables as this will provide many different essential nutrients for good health.
To get the most from the nutrients in fresh vegetables, if possible, every day choose vegetables from each of the five colour groups; red, white/brown, green, blue/purple, yellow/orange.