Top 6 vegetables kids hate: how to get them to eat it

By Lynn Wee   — December 04, 2016
  • Children have different palates from adults
    1 / 7 Children have different palates from adults

    Broccoli lightly tossed in garlic and a balsamic glaze may sound wonderful to you but, chances are, your picky eater will turn up her nose at it.

    The fact is, children have different palates from adults. So when it comes to enticing them to eat vegetables, you need to be smart – and, sometimes, sneaky.

    Here, award-winning food writer, Michelle Tchea shares how you can do so. 

    (Click on arrows in photos to find out more.)

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  • 1. Broccoli
    2 / 7 1. Broccoli

    Why it’s healthy 
    Packed with loads of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre, broccoli probably has a bad reputation because it can be easily overcooked, making it mushy.

    Besides anti-cancer properties, just half a cup supplies 2.6g of fibre, which is 14 per cent of the 19 grams that a toddler needs each day. 

    Fibre keeps your child’s digestive system working properly, so she has regular bowel movements and is less likely to become constipated. 

    The same serving of broccoli provides about 50mg of vitamin C, which is more than she needs for the entire day. 

    Vitamin C helps boost the immune system and ward off infection.

    Cook it better 
    Slapping a plain side of steamed broccoli in front of your child isn’t going to win her over, so use delicious toppings and get creative. 

    Some kid favourites include making mac and cheese with broccoli and pasta. A favourite recipe of mine is cooked broccoli that’s lightly mixed with cheese and ham, which I wrap up in phyllo pastry and bake, says Michelle.  

    It makes a great afternoon snack, too. 

    Chopped almonds or walnuts add vitamin E and protein to the broccoli, and most children like the crunchy texture of the nuts. Freshly grated ginger and a splash of soya sauce add an Asian flavour.

    Encourage your child to prepare and cook it; she’s more likely to eat it if she had a hand in the preparation. Show her how to break up the florets and call them “trees” to create a sense of fun.

    If she still resists eating it, add tiny pieces to soups or rice, or even consider serving it with your favourite yogurt dip to encourage a new enjoyable way to eat her “trees”.

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  • 2. Celery
    3 / 7 2. Celery

    Why it’s healthy 
    A good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – especially eaten raw – it strengthens the immune system, and is considered a remedy for digestive problems and respiratory conditions.

    Cook it better 
    Despite its strong flavour, it becomes neutral in taste when cooked in stews and soups, so saute onions, carrots and celery as the base to your soups and stews.

    Offer it raw, but stuff healthy dips and spreads into the cavity – peanut butter, yogurt with boiled eggs or even raisins with low fat mayo are kid-friendly options. 

    If your child still finds it difficult to eat, try juicing it with apples for a fun drink after school.

    Celery is one of those vegetables that spoils rapidly, so always buy it fresh.

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  • 3. Bitter gourd
    4 / 7 3. Bitter gourd

    Why it’s healthy 
    Even adults don’t take to this, but eating it is worth the effort. Rich in vitamin C, it protects cells from free radicals, which can lead to cancer and heart disease.

    Bitter gourd also boosts her intake of vitamin A, which plays a role in cell communication and aids in new cell growth and development. 

    It also supports healthy eyes.

    Cook it better 
    Slice in half and remove the inner seeds and pith with a spoon. Parboil it before running under cold water and using in stir-fries to remove the strong, bitter flavour. 

    A great recipe is to stuff bitter gourd with minced pork or chicken, and stew in soya sauce and a splash of water. Serve with warm rice for a delicious meal that’s not bitter at all.

    Try scooping out more of the flesh if it is very bitter and white. Bitter gourd is also delicious as a refreshing salad for kids. 

    Parboil and lightly toss in some sugar and vinegar to remove the bitter taste.

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  • 4. Kale
    5 / 7 4. Kale

    Why it’s healthy 
    There are a lot of reasons to love this trendy vegetable – it’s high in vitamin A, C and calcium, as well as fibre. While it’s not as rich in calcium as dairy products, it does contribute to your little one’s daily calcium intake for strong bones.

    Cook it better 
    Stir it into pastas or stews to add extra nutrients. Some favourite kid-friendly recipes are kale smoothies and kale pops: Blend kale, coconut water and pineapple together, and freeze for a summery afternoon snack. 

    Coconut water has dehydration-fighting electrolytes, while pineapple is rich in digestive enzymes.

    The best way to cook it is to separate both the stems and the leaves and use them in different recipes. 

    Turn the leaves into delicious kale chips by roasting them in a low-heat oven until crispy – just make sure they are completely dry before roasting or they will turn limp.

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  • 5. Brussels sprouts
    6 / 7 5. Brussels sprouts

    Why it’s healthy 
    Could this be one of the most hated vegetables around? When steamed or boiled, they give off a smelly odour.

    Not only are Brussels sprouts a good source of protein, iron and potassium, they are also rich in vitamin

    C and fibre, as well as antioxidants.

    Cook it better 
    Try not to overcook them and your kids will love them. Lightly toss in olive oil and bake in a hot oven to make “chips”. For more flavour, lightly saute with bacon and throw in a handful of raisins for sweetness.

    Take your kids to vegetable farms or markets and show them stalks of fresh sprouts. Call them baby lettuce or little cabbages to get your young ones interested in this superfood.

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  • 6. Alfalfa sprouts
    7 / 7 6. Alfalfa sprouts

    Why it’s healthy 
    Despite their small size, these contain concentrated amounts of calcium, as well as vitamins K and C. The former helps with blood clotting.

    Alfalfa sprouts are one of the most significant dietary sources of phytoestrogens, which are beneficial compounds in plant foods that can help reduce your child’s risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

    Cook it better 
    Be sure to rinse them with cold water before eating. Try adding them to your kid’s favourite salad or even using them to make funny faces, or as the “hair” for face sandwiches.

    Add them to a pita stuffed with hummus and tomatoes. Top a serving of pasta or bean salad with alfalfa sprouts to enhance the flavour and add key nutrients.

    One of Michelle’s favourite recipes is grilled cheese and ham toast, topped with a small bunch of alfalfa sprouts.

    Vietnamese spring rolls are also great alternative. Lightly soak wrappers in warm water until easily pliable. 

    Add Chinese noodles, prawns or even pork, as well as extra lettuce and alfalfa sprouts. Roll up and serve with your child’s favourite dipping sauce.

    Alfalfa sprouts are easy to grow at home in a container, which encourages your kids to nurture the plant and enjoy the science behind it as well.

    Related: 4 reasons why kids are picky eaters


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