How I Got My 4-Year Old to Beg for Broccoli

One of the number one topics in my mom circles is our kids’ nutrition. Most kids tend to buck the idea of eating vegetables… shocking, I know. While I have handfuls of parenting questions and hiccups with my own kids, there’s one thing I somehow got right: My kids beg for broccoli.

About a month ago, my mom was in town and watched the kids so we could get out for a night. I kid you not, she sent us a video with my four-year old informing us, “I hope you have a fun night, but I really want you to get more of that yummy ranch broccoli. So please go get it tomorrow – if you like. And I love you. And bye.” It’s one of those moments where you find yourself laughing like crazy, but also beaming with pride like, “yeah! I got one right!” I don’t know that it’s really any genius parenting move, but he really does love broccoli – among other vegetables. Here are my get-your-kid-to-love-broccoli moves.

  1. Teach him about their favorite superhero. I realize this may not work on your 10-year-old, but it worked like a charm on my preschooler – and habits start early, or so I hear. Super heroes are big and strong. Why? They eat super healthy food that helps them grow big and strong. Yep, like that zucchini. I kid you not, he’d try anything… then after every bite he’d come up and show me his muscle and how he was growing. What can I say, he’s a ham… but we were onto something.
  2. Flavor it. Broccoli and some other vegetables do have something of an acquired taste… so work with it. The first time I ever got him to ask for seconds was the time I flavored it. A secret in my house: Extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice make everything more delicious. I steam vegetables, then toss them with the magic combo, lightly salt and pepper them and, if I’m feeling really crazy, top it with some parmesan. So easy – and so delicious. The requested ranch broccoli? I buy it in the frozen foods section; four minutes in the microwave and everyone’s happy. Find what your kids love and work with it. Love Asian cuisine? Try garlic and soy sauce. Italian? Work it into a marinara sauce or alfredo. Marinate it in Italian dressing. Flavor does wonders.
  3. Acknowledge it. Have you noticed that when we tell kids they have to do something or get exasperated, they’re less likely to do what we want? Our rule is that they have to try everything, but we don’t make them eat all of it – or even take a certain number of bites. But when they do try something new, we make a big deal out of it – even if they don’t like it. We don’t like everything we try, either – and that’s ok, right? So it should be ok for our kids, too – but take a moment to applaud that they did try!

Supposedly it takes 20 exposures to something before kids truly make up their minds – so even if it doesn’t take at first, keep trying – and in new ways.


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