Grow a love of veggies in kids when they’re young and you’ll never hear the words "I hate broccoli!" when they get older. "This not only makes kids healthier, it makes meals easier for you, too," points out Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist in New York City and a mom of two. Six not-too-sneaky ways to push the produce:
1. Hit the produce aisle together. Let your child pick a veggie at the store or farmers market and then help him cook it up at home—a great way to get your little one excited about healthy eating. At dinner, ask your child to tell the family what veggie she’s chosen and why. "Even if she eats two bites, it's the process that counts," says Glassman.
2. Combine an old favorite with a new one. "Think of foods your kids already love and throw in a few vegetables," says Glassman. For example, add grape tomatoes to pasta, shredded carrots to soups, and chopped peppers to scrambled eggs. Don’t make a big deal of the "new addition," but if they point it out, tell them, "You already love pasta, the tomatoes will make it even yummier." Encourage them to at least give it a try.
3. Do them a flavor. Plain veggies may not go over well, but adding grated cheese, marinara sauce, low-fat ranch dressing, hummus, vanilla yogurt with cocoa powder and cinnamon, or a tablespoon of olive oil can help. Ask your child to do a "taste test."
4. Keep veggies around for snacks. Place a bowl of baby carrots or cut up peppers on the counter for snack time. Vegetables should be a regular part of the day, not just for meals.
5. Nix the ultimatums. Try not to say "You have to eat your salad before you get dessert!" or kids may view veggies as "bad" and sweet treats as "good.
6. Lead the green way. If you steer clear of veggies, your kids will follow suit. But if they see you reaching for them regularly, they’ll be more likely to eat them. Pass the peas, please!