For kids, summer means pool parties, playtime, trips to the beach, and snacks. 

Lots of snacks. 

For parents, getting kids to incorporate veggies into meals and snacks feels like a chore. But, there are ways to take the pain out of the process. Read on to learn about three proven, easy ways families can become more successful in getting kids to eat their greens.

1. Grow Produce 

If you want your kids to eat more veggies, grow them. When my own kids were toddlers, we started gardening together with the hope of raising adventurous, healthy eaters. Would the kids try tomatoes off the vine? What about yellow ones? What about zucchini? The answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” each time. 

Jeni Barajas, environmental educator at Olivewood Gardens in National City shares, “Growing food cultivates curiosity. My students have become more adventurous eaters. Even trying one bite gives kids the opportunity to expand their palate.”

Whether you plant raised beds or grow herbs in the kitchen window, gardening is easier than you think.

Tips for Growing Food with Kids

  • Give kids ownership. Let them choose what to plant.
  • Try some fast-growing varieties like radishes and lettuce to enjoy quick results.
  • Plants labeled “hardy” and “heat tolerant” work well in hot inland conditions.
  • Kids love to get dirty. Have them help sowing seeds, digging, and watering.
  • Bigger seeds for beans and melons are easy for little ones to handle. 
  • Add compost to enrich soil and mulch to maintain moisture.
  • Drip irrigation helps save on your water bill.
  • Make morning watering part of the kids’ daily routine to add accountability.
  • Taste test what you grow. Variety helps the family find new favorites. 

Good Neighbor Gardens’ founder Mia Vaughnes recommends growing radishes and carrots together for a simple container garden. Just sprinkle a little of each of the seeds over the soil in your container,  then cover with only ¼ inch more soil. Keep soil moist at all times and ensure plenty of sunlight.

Image: iStock/kupicoo.

2. Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen

Magic happened in my mother-in-law’s kitchen a few summers ago when she trusted my kids with a knife and let them chop vegetables for a salad. All of a sudden, my kids became salad eaters. Now they happily chop a variety of veggies and experiment with toppings. My tween daughter even loves making salads for her lunch.

Concerned about safety and knives? The right tool can ease your mind, and many are readily available online. Cutting gloves protect hands from accidents and they come in a variety of sizes. A crinkle cutter is easy for small hands to grasp. And a hand-powered food processor is fun for kids dicing onions or peppers.

Image: iStock/courtneyk.

3. Add a Dash of Fun with Games and Technology 

  • Have kids log every plant-based food they ate for a week in a photo journal. Parents can review the log weekly and provide an incentive for eating nutritious foods each day.
  • Hold your very own version of Chopped to challenge kids to be competitive and creative with lesser-known fruits and vegetables.
  • Kids love to be the expert. They can make a funny instructional video demonstrating a recipe they made using fruits or veggies. 
  • Take photos of the produce you grew and new recipes you tried to share on parents’ social media or make a family cookbook.

Image: iStock/Marc Dufresne.
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About the Contributor
Cherie Gough
Cherie Gough is an award-winning freelance writer based in San Diego. She is passionate about food equity and loves writing about innovative people finding positive solutions.Find her on Instagram @cgoughwrites.