Getting picky eaters to make healthy choices when it comes to fruits and vegetables can sometimes be a challenge. While you might not be able to convince your five-year-old that he loves broccoli for dinner, you can make it easier to get a healthy, balanced meal on the table with these simple tips and recipes for vegetable side dishes even picky eaters love. You could solve the challenge of mealtime madness, and you might even discover a favorite new veggie dish while you're at it.
How to Inspire (or Trick!) Kids to Like Veggies
- Keep it fresh. To keep vegetables at their freshest, learn the best way to store them. For example, not all food belongs in the fridge! Some veggies, like potatoes, onions, and squash, are best kept in a cool, dry cupboard. Vegetables like peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts stay freshest in the crisper drawer. Asparagus, green onions, and herbs should be stored upright with their stems in a glass of water in the fridge, while bok choy and zucchini should be wrapped in damp paper towels and kept in the fridge.
- Make it fun. The more kids can be involved in their meals, the more likely they are to try new things. Let them help choose the menu, shop for produce, and help prep veggies. Not only will kids be more interested in the end result (and more willing to take a bite), getting involved in meal planning and prep will also build their confidence in the kitchen.
- Make it quick. Busy school nights call for quick prep times. When you get home from the store, take a little time to wash, chop, dice, or slice your vegetables. Store prepped veggies in clear containers within easy reach for quick snacking and time-saving dinners throughout the week.
- Make it tasty. Kids have more sensitive taste buds than adults. Vegetables like broccoli, green beans, and spinach are naturally bitter and can be off-putting to little ones (it's unfair that vegetables with bitter flavors are usually full of good nutrients). Disguise the bitter taste by cooking these vegetables with a bit of fat like butter, cream, or cheese, or by serving raw veggies with a yogurt- or mayonnaise-based dip.
10 Simple Vegetable Side Dishes to Win Over Picky Eaters
These recipes are sure to please even the pickiest eaters and are simple enough to whip up on a busy school night:
Tender carrots are tossed with dried cherries are simmered in butter and honey and tossed with tender carrots. If you don't have cherries on hand, dried and sweetened cranberries make a tasty substitute. KatyRawson raves, "This was great. I loved it and my picky girl ate them up!"
Carrots with Dried Cherries | Photo by Jan Jenkins
This is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes (which even picky eaters tend to love). For uniformly sized cakes, use an ice cream scoop to measure the batter. "Simple, easy and delicious!", says marina. "My kids loved them. They had a light and creamy texture and delightful oniony taste. My husband had three!"
Old-Fashioned Potato Cakes | Photo by Baking Nana
Healthier than a potato chip—but packed with flavor—kale is roasted in the oven and topped with nutritional yeast. Kale chips are a crunchy and addictive side dish that's hard to resist, whether you're a kid or an adult. Amy says, "Very addictive! I have some more in the oven as I type. My boys love them and requested I go get more kale." Watch the video for prep tips.
Snap peas are naturally sweet and pair perfectly with green beans. This recipe cooks enough for a crowd, and the leftovers are great to put in lunch boxes the next day.
Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas and Green Beans | Photo by Soup Loving Nicole
Sweet potatos are sliced into chips, coated with spices, and quickly grilled. You can control the overall spiciness to suit your family's taste, of course. Joanne Fraser says, "Made this for dinner tonight and my family gobbled them all up!" Watch the video to see how to make them.
Kids won't even know there's a vegetable tucked inside these golden-brown, crispy sticks of fried asparagus. Serve alongside homemade ranch dressing for dipping. They worked for kathy nowak, who said, "This recipe is awesome! I followed the instructions to the letter and it came out amazing! Whole family gobbled them up!"
If you've ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you've probably had this light and refreshing, sweet and tangy cucumber salad. It takes only minutes to make, and you could serve it right away, but an hour or so in the fridge lets the flavors truly meld. ANGELA97303 raves, "This is a staple in our fridge when the cucumbers start growing in like mad. Kids love to snack on it."
Baked French Fries I / Photo by Kim's Cooking Now
Grilled and topped with garlic and Parmesan, these zucchini halves might fool kids into eating vegetales without even knowing it. CNM Catering says, "This was excellent! Even my kids didn't complain about eating zucchini. I will be making these again."
And, a heads up: If it's too rainy or too cold to use the grill, you can also make these using your broiler. Just keep an eye on them to make sure the cheese doesn't burn.
Grilled Garlic Parmesan Zucchini | Photo by CC<3's2bake
Corn is naturally sweet, which makes it a favorite with kids (not to mention the thrill of getting to eat it straight off the cob!). Butter, dried herbs, and grated Parmesan cheese add a bit of fun and color to this easy-to-prepare side dish. Heather even won over her mom with this recipe, saying, "Made this recipe several times over the years. My mom isn't a fan of corn but said if I made this way all the time she would eat it. Love the recipe."
Sweet Grilled Corn | Photo by Elizabeth
When in doubt, cover it in cheese! Mashed and loaded cauliflower tastes similar to a loaded baked potato, but with all the nutritional value of a mighty cruciferous vegetable. Here's how well this went over in tengle's house: "Made this for dinner tonight, minus the onion powder—we didn't have any—and used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I have 3 kids (7-11) who gobbled it up and asked for seconds—they normally won't eat cauliflower. Will make again and again—thank you!"