Why Don’t Kids Like Vegetables and What To Do About It
  /   Dr. John Snow

Why Don’t Kids Like Vegetables and What To Do About It

Does your toddler flat-out refuse to eat their vegetables? Or maybe your child has a talent for hiding anything green during mealtimes. So, why do kids hate vegetables? While it can be incredibly frustrating for parents and caregivers, there’s some science behind why kids tend to avoid vegetables. Here’s what you need to know and what to do about it. 

Why Don’t Kids Like Vegetables?

Vegetables are rich in vitamins that are crucial for kids' development and growth. Naturally, parents want their children to be healthy and tick off essential nutrients in the diet.

So why do kids avoid vegetables? It can be for a few good reasons.

Kids can be more sensitive to stronger flavors, including the bitterness in vegetables. Research suggests that children naturally prefer sweetness, encouraging them to prefer high-energy, vitamin-rich mother milk and fruits. However, a kid’s natural preference for sweetened foods can make them vulnerable to overconsumption of sweet snacks. 

Although you may not think vegetables are overly bitter, some adult favorites, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale, contain a compound called glucosinolates, which gives them their characteristic bitter flavor.

Some believe it is associated with survival - that we have evolved to associate bitter taste with the presence of toxins in plants. But not all vegetables are bitter, and kids can dislike a wide variety of vegetables (as we’re sure you know). While an aversion to a bitter flavor can play a role, it’s not the sole reason for a hatred of veggies.

Regardless of your child's specific reasoning for rejecting veggies, their experiences add up over time and create a catalog of memories. If meals are a constant battle over vegetables with pressure to finish the plate, kids can develop a negative association with eating what they’re told. When that pressure is zeroed in on vegetables, it can create an even bigger dislike of them that has nothing to do with the actual taste. Mealtimes end up being full of tension, overshadowing the food. 

Instead, focus on exploration and creating a positive experience to help your little one develop a healthier relationship with vegetables. 

Overall, there are three main reasons why so many kids don’t like vegetables: 

  1. Texture Troubles: Vegetables come in a wide range of textures, like mushy, cooked cauliflower or crunchy raw carrots. Some kids can find these different textures bizarre and offputting. 
  2. Bitter Battles: Lots of veggies contain bitter-tasting compounds that many children are more sensitive to. 
  3. Fear of the Unknown: Kids have food neophobia, meaning they fear new foods. It typically happens in the years of early childhood. Vegetables come with a new world of flavors and textures, and kids can be hesitant or flat-out refuse to try new foods. 

How To Encourage Your Child To Like Vegetables?

We know kids are naturally hesitant to try and like vegetables and often prefer sweeter foods. Armed with that knowledge, we can start to try different approaches that take the pressure off and nurture a love of vegetables over time. Eating a diet full of a variety of veggies helps kids get critical vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for growth and development. Here are our top tips to try at home to get kids and toddlers to eat vegetables. 

Teach Kids To Like Vegetables

One study on kids in Finland wanted to know more about the association between eating vegetables and parental influence. Interestingly, researchers found that both maternal and paternal influence is important. Setting a positive example is a great first step when encouraging kids to eat more greens and veggies. 

It takes time to develop a love for many things. Repeated exposure to vegetables is a part of the process. Some research estimates that up to 10 to 15 taste exposures may be necessary to increase the likelihood of your child accepting the vegetable into their diet. While it can be very frustrating, stay patient. Even when your child has rejected a vegetable before, there’s a chance that, eventually, they will be more accepting. Researchers found that offering a variety of veggies helped both acceptance and intake.  

Make sure to make a big deal about how much you love vegetables and show your enjoyment when eating a meal together. Your little one can start to learn from you. Try to stay calm and positive as you find the ways that work best for your family.

Establish Healthy Eating Habits for Your Kids

Stony Brook University researchers found that there’s a strong link between what we eat early in life, as young kids and even babies, and our food preferences as adults. The research highlights the importance of early exposure to different tastes. 

When introducing vegetables, focus on a variety to help establish a broad foundation of healthy eating habits. Depending on your little one’s age, this could be some cooked and pureed carrots or small pieces of cooked veggies. Repeated exposure and offering up a variety of flavors is beneficial for kids, so stick with it and be patient. It’s normal for kids to refuse foods they previously liked or have their favorite foods and not touch others. Some kids may outgrow picky eating behaviors, while for others, it can last longer

Make healthy eating fun and be silly together. Try including your little one in the cooking process that’s appropriate for their age group. For toddlers, this could include tearing lettuce or sorting out washed vegetables. In preschoolers, you can let them choose a couple of ingredients and start measuring liquids. Getting kids involved with food prep helps make cooking and healthy eating more engaging and creates a fun, positive memory in the kitchen.

Make It Fun and Stay Positive

If you’re still wondering how to get your toddler to eat vegetables, you’re not alone. Did you always love vegetables as a kid, or did your love for them change as you got older? Try to encourage and explore eating vegetables to help develop healthy habits for your little one. 

Here are some ideas to make eating vegetables more fun: 

  • Make veggies fun shapes with cookie cutters
  • Sing songs about vegetables 
  • Grow some vegetables together 
  • Start to involve them in food prep, like washing or tearing 
  • Set them a challenge to eat a rainbow of veggies over the week 
  • Make veggie sticks and hummus for a fun and healthy movie night snack 
  • Choose a veggie-rich recipe from another country 
  • Blend vegetables into their favorite smoothies 

Make Vegetables More Available

It’s not uncommon for kids to encounter only vegetables in their evening meal. Increasing the number of vegetables kids see and taste makes them more likely to accept them. Try to offer vegetables as snacks throughout the day or present veggies in a different way. Some vegetables kids like include: 

  • Carrot sticks 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Dehydrated beet chips 
  • Mashed turnips 
  • Baked rutabaga fries

Use a Greens Supplement 

While fresh vegetables are always ideal, we know that getting your child to eat a variety of vegetables every day is hard. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. For parents with picky eaters, it can be tough to get enough essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in vegetables through diet alone. That’s where a greens supplement can help bridge the gap. 

Green supplements can pack a concentrated punch of vitamins and minerals found in vegetables that kids don’t typically enjoy. Our greens drink is specifically formulated for children’s health and can help fill nutrient gaps, especially for picky eaters who always refuse vegetables. 

Like any supplements, greens supplements are not a replacement for whole vegetables and a balanced and healthy diet. Speak to your pediatrician before giving your child supplements. 

Set Your Kids Up For Success

A balanced diet full of vegetables for kids, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins helps give children all the nutrients they need to grow big and strong. But it’s also normal for children to cycle through phases of picky eating as they develop, explore independence, and assert control over their lives. Even if your little one doesn’t like a veggie straight away, celebrate their efforts and continue to explore the world of vegetables. Start early and be patient; repeated exposure is key, so don’t give up if they refuse a vegetable at first. 

Many parents consider a multivitamin to help kids get everything they need without having to worry about picky eating. If you choose to add a children’s multivitamin to your little one’s routine, try to find one that’s age-appropriate and undergoes third-party testing. 


The sweetness and bitterness of childhood: Insights from basic research on taste preferences | NIH 

Bitter taste of Brassica vegetables: The role of genetic factors, receptors, isothiocyanates, glucosinolates, and flavor context | NIH

The Implications of Taste and Olfaction in Nutrition and Health | NIH 

Neophobia—A Natural Developmental Stage or Feeding Difficulties for Children? | NIH  

Getting children to eat their greens? Both parents need to set an example | University of Eastern Finland

Offering children a variety of vegetables increases acceptance | Science Daily

What We Eat Early in Life Influences Our Adult Food Preferences | Stony Brook University

Do's and Don'ts for Baby's First Foods | Eat Right 

Picky eating in children: causes and consequences | NIH   

Study: Children May Not Always Grow Out of Being Picky Eaters | University of Michigan