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ATK Kids

How To Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Try these five tested tips to get more veggies into kids’ meals.

Published Mar. 18, 2019.

Name Tag Jack

Every parent worries. Is my child getting enough sleep? Is she making friends? Is he eating enough vegetables? As the father of two daughters (ages 23 and 19), I have some good news about all that worry. Your kids will be fine. Deep breaths, everyone. Your kids will be fine.

Now, I’m not an expert on sleep or making friends, but I do know something about vegetables. Around the office I’m known as the vegetable guy and I have written several cookbooks on the subject. For 23 years I’ve been looking for ways to get my daughters to eat them. (Just because your child turns 18 doesn’t mean you stop worrying or trying.) Here are my five all-time best tips for getting children to eat more veggies.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1. When In Doubt, Roast Them

Roasting makes almost every vegetable taste better and it couldn’t be easier. Just prep (cut larger veggies into 1-inch pieces but leave smaller veggies whole), toss with olive oil, spread out on a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, and then place in a hot oven (when in doubt, go with 400 degrees). This mostly hands-off method (you will need to stir or toss the veggies once or twice) is so easy and so reliable. When the veggies are nicely browned in spots, they will be tender and ready to serve. (You can also check if they’re done by inserting a paring knife—if it meets little resistance, they’re ready.) All that browning is what makes roasted veggies so delicious. I love to serve them with flaky salt: I trained my kids to like crunchy Maldon sea salt—the flakes are big enough for little fingers to grab and sprinkle. Favorite vegetables for roasting include: broccoli (trust me on this), whole green beans, halved Brussels sprouts, cauliflower florets, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus spears. Soon, you’ll be roasting (and your kids will be eating) so many veggies, you might need an extra baking sheet. I have four Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet pans in my kitchen.

Making Carrot Ribbons

2. Put the Kids to Work

Little hands like little jobs. Setting the table is one option, but I have found that children (and adults) are more likely to eat what they’re served if they helped prepare it. Peeling vegetables is a perfect task for kids and the test kitchen has two top-rated, kid-tested peeler options. The Opinel Le Petit Chef Peeler is best for younger kids with smaller hands, while older children can use the Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler (the same model we like for adults). Peeling round veggies, like potatoes, is too dangerous for many kids, but peeling carrots, cucumbers, or the tough outer skin from asparagus are perfect jobs for little hands.  

Kids Spiralizing

3. Spiralize It

Spiralizers, like the test kitchen’s top-rated Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer, turn zucchini, squash, beets, and potatoes into long noodles. And noodles aren’t vegetables. They’re noodles, right? Spiralizing is a great parent-and-child project. While I was comfortable letting my children handle a vegetable peeler on their own, the spiralizer is a joint activity. Adults should fit the vegetables between the blade and prongs on the spiralizer, but even a young child can turn the crank and transform “yucky” vegetables into yummy noodles.

Carrot Ginger Soup

4. Pureed Soup Is Pure Comfort

Most kids like soup, especially a smooth, creamy soup. There’s a reason why tomato soup (and grilled cheese) are comfort foods. You can turn so many vegetables into pureed soups—carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower are my favorites. And when it comes time to puree that soup, let your older child help by turning to an immersion blender. It’s less messy than transferring the hot soup to a countertop blender. Our winner, the Braun Multiquick 5 Hand Blender, is fairly slim and light (a plus for kids) and has a nice grippy handle. One more thing about pureed soup: It’s a canvas that your little artist can decorate and customize. Serve soup alongside bowls of yogurt thinned with milk, crisp croutons, pepitas, and fresh herbs and let your kids garnish away. If you want to get fancy, put the thinned yogurt (or sour cream) in a squeeze bottle so kids can create swirls, zigzags, and other patterns.

Mashed Potatoes with Other Veg

5. Mash More Than Just Potatoes

Most children like mashed potatoes. But there’s no reason you can’t cook another veggie along with the potatoes and then mash everything together. Try adding carrots (cut the same size as potatoes) and you’ll have bright orange mashed potatoes. Cauliflower, celery root, parsnips, and turnips are all great options as well. Feeling adventurous? Frozen peas (added a few minutes before you drain the potatoes) turn the mash a lovely shade of green (perfect for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or the first day of spring). If your kids like a smooth puree (that would be my daughters), you need a potato ricer, like our winner made by RSVP International. If your kids are fine with more rustic puree, use a potato masher, like our winner made by Zyliss. Just remember that a potato masher won’t fully break down the “surprise” vegetable.  

One last suggestion: Don’t worry too much about picky eaters. While our youngest was always a good eater, it was tough going at times with our eldest. (I’m still trying to forget 2002, otherwise known as the year of white food.) We always gave both our girls options at the table (all relatively healthy) and let them make some decisions about what they ate. Over time, our eldest grew to like more and more foods and she’s become a decidedly adventurous adult eater. She called me last week to tell me about this tripe dish she ate a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. Tripe! Even I don’t like tripe—and I eat pretty much everything. Needless to say, she now eats any vegetable her Dad prepares.

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