How to Make Kids Like Vegetables

April 30, 2012

Q: How do you make kids like vegetables?

A: You plant a garden and have the kids grow the vegetables themselves.

This was the answer someone gave me. This completely did not work.

In March, we started this little backyard garden. Squash, early pumpkins, okra, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. I’ve tried all of these things before, with the exception of okra, and all of them have failed miserably, with the exception of tomatoes. So I had medium to low hope of this doing anything. Or, more honestly, I was glass-half-empty and full of I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing, so I planted about 25 squash plants.

This is the garden a few weeks later. I now have about 90 gabillion squash blossoms. (25 is waay too many squash plants, as any sane person will tell you…a good number: 4 or 6.) So, honestly and currently, we have approximately 150 squash blooming/growing, and I need to come up with some ways to eat squash. Because seriously.

Also, the whole idea that the kid would like vegetables because he raised them like pets? False. First of all, he’s pretty disinterested in the whole thing. He’d rather play soccer next to the garden rather than look at it. Secondly, I don’t know, it just didn’t work at all. Which brings me to the next advice I’ve received….

Q: How do you make kids like vegetables?

A: Trick them.

I’m not against tricking kids…hello Santa. Tooth Fairy. Fresh Beat Band. But I’ve tried Jessica Seinfeld’s ideas, and my kid is not easily tricked. Not much gets by him. He’s super into chili though, so this could work.

At this point we’ll need to make squash chili though.

Actually, I may try that. Also, fair warning, I may feature a lot of squash recipes here over the next month or so. Because I have 150 squash. At the same time.

Here’s Jenny’s.

The Bloggess’s Squash Recipe

I called Jenny yesterday because I know she likes squash. This is what she does:

“Cut up the squash, put a ton of butter on it, put some salt on it, microwave it for 4 minutes, put more butter and salt on it.”


It was actually quite good. Sort of like popcorn, but with vegetables.

However, this also did not work for the kid. I think I need to somehow make squash Frito Pie. The squash will be silent.


This post is part of a partnership between myself and the Vicks brand as it launches Vick’s Nature Fusion, a new line of over-the-counter cold, cough and flu relief products. The alcohol- and gluten-free line bodyslams symptoms with a sweet and natural kick. As evidenced above, Vick’s has partnered with Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone to produce a series of videos featuring bloggers asking questions about the challenges of serving up healthy foods. And let’s keep it real, Curtis is pretty easy on the eyes and ears, so it makes YouTube completely tolerable. 

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  • Reply Kathryn April 30, 2012 at 7:36 am

    We put squash in everything, diced small. Chili, shephard’s pie (which we also make with half cauliflower), frittata’s. Grate it and its almost impossible to detect. And there’s always zucchini bread, which has a great sugar to squash ratio 🙂

  • Reply James April 30, 2012 at 7:39 am

    I loved the microwaved squash. We also grilled some last night and it was awesome. I hope I don’t turn yellow.

  • Reply Kyran Pittman April 30, 2012 at 7:49 am

    We have a “meat -n-three” chain here called Dixie Cafe, and one of my favorite sides is their baked squash casserole. There’s a recipe for it here:

    Thinking of you as Mom 2.0 approaches. Have a wonderful, wonderful time!

  • Reply Kpaull April 30, 2012 at 8:13 am

    a little butter, some sliced onions. sweat them in the pan until soft and slightly carmelizing. add sliced squash, seasoned salt and pepper. my dad made it this way and I still love it. also make a summer salad of cubed squash, garbanzo beans, bell pepper, feta cheese, fresh herbs and a vinaigrette. yum! crusty bread and a grilled piece of fish. viola! I could do this all day!

  • Reply Barchbo April 30, 2012 at 9:39 am

    We love the grilled squash but we also enjoy a garlic squash puree and a buttery squash potato mix (lotsa butter) Squash is where it’s at, baby!

  • Reply liz April 30, 2012 at 9:47 am

    We make squash cookies (with zucchini, but would work with yellow). Somehow the handful of mini chocolate chips are enough incentive for C. to ingest the squash.

    Also, you can make Italian-style fried squash blossoms. Dip them in marinara, they are awesome!

  • Reply Jenbug April 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Maybe kebabs? Kids love stuff on sticks. Try sticking the squash on a stick with other stuff that’s not “ew, gross”.

    I loved raw squash but hated cooked squash when I was a kid. The mush factor was just sooooo gross to me. Now, I love squash any way I can get it. As a kid, raw squash with Knorr vegetable dip mix was one of my favorite treats. Mostly because the squash acted as a dip delivery system. You can hardly taste the squash and the dip was fantabulous!

    Another way I make squash so they’re not so mushy is to cut them into spears, put them in a baggie with ridiculous amounts of Italian salad dressing, toss them around, let them marinate for a while (the squash will soak up some of the dressing), take them out, and put them on a baking sheet. Roast them for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Not too mushy, great flavor.

    Ooh! And what about pickling them? They might make some cool, weird pickles, and if you can them, you can stick them in the pantry and deal with them later!

  • Reply Rebecca R. April 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Maybe you could try candying the squash? Just cut them into small pieces and saute them with butter or vegetable oil until they get all dark and sweet (but before they burn). If anything, the “candied” part of “candied squash” might sound enticing to your son.

  • Reply laura k April 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    A lot of kids don’t like veggies because people tend to serve them as side dishes, hanging out all by themselves on the side of the plate. Curtis Stone is right on with the chili, and things like it: spaghetti sauce, mac and cheese, soup, grilled cheese sandwiches. If you tuck veggies into things they aren’t so “gah, straight up vegetables!” Squash is awesome in mac and cheese, and even on pizza. Saute it a little first so it doesn’t get all watery on your pizza. 🙂

  • Reply abbeyviolet May 3, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    We grew up with a huge garden so we had LOTS of squash. Here are some of our favorites: fried squash- slice thinly, press each side of each slice into flour seasoned with salt and pepper, fry in a skillet with melted butter— be generous with the butter. It is time consuming, but oh so incredible. Then there is the general steaming method, like Jenny’s, but mostly cut them up in slices, put in a steamer, liberally salt and pepper when they are tender; Next – squash bread – this uses a lot squash fairly well and you can freeze it! It is usually a quick bread, something like pumpkin bread seasoning wise and I’m sure google will find you good recipes. Otherwise, we stick it in stir frys, pasta, quesadillas, casseroles, and curries, things like that. I’d say frying it is the most irresistible and squash bread uses up the most and can be kept longest in the freezer. You can always just chunk it up in ziplock bags and freeze some of it for later too.

    (I’m glad to discuss further if you have other varieties or want more details— I do love squash!)

  • Reply Cindy May 4, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I’m so jealous of the squash! My garden stalled out. It’s still too cold, but this week has just started to warm up. I may replant some thing. Like squash.

  • Reply Laura May 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I had to laugh a little to myself about the garden idea and how it didn’t work. I tried that years ago when my circus act was small. They jumped whole heartedly into the digging in the first part…and throwing dirt…and making mud. But the weeding and tending wasn’t so much fun they decided…it was hot…and dirty. They enjoyed the harvesting…at first. My kids would hold up triumphantly the fruits, er, vegetables of “their” labor. Then came the eating of all those wonderful vegetables and well that wasn’t so exciting then.
    I don’t garden anymore.
    I do enjoy our local farmers’ market and, surprise, my kids as they have gotten older actually do seem to enjoy fresh vegetables…some.
    Liking the squash ideas. I will have to give those a try for sure.

  • Reply deb May 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I love your blog…but this eternal question always baffles and vegetables. My kids all eat their vege..3,5,6 years old. Lucky no. The rule in our house they must try them before saying they do or dont like them and by try I mean they must eat the whole portion,and that goes for all foods not just vege’s. We dont make a big deal of it if they dont eat them but congratulate them if they do. We dont disguise them either. If they dont eat whats on there plate they are not entitled to a treat after nor anything else, Im not a short order cook. They also understand that vegetables make them super heros and without vegetables they cant climb trees or do the monkey bars. Often we will discuss what foods will do what for their body while at dinner….fish is good for our eyes and brain, broccoli good for bones and heart that sort of thing.. xx Deb

  • Reply MOG May 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Anything is good with enough butter and salt.

  • Reply Denise Malloy May 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    We tried that whole grow your own thing – each squash ended up costing me about 30 bucks by the time I paid the water bill. Now I embrace bribery, threats and coercion in the food arena which makes my parenting style sound like Tony Soprano.

  • Reply Todd May 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    I think my parents read the same advice… and considering this was ca. 1980 I’m a little shocked that nobody has bothered to call BS on the whole “raising a garden makes a child eat veggies” thing in the 30 years since. But we had a HUGE garden, so my mom got pretty resourceful. Warning: I’m almost positive that both methods of cooking squash I’m about to suggest completely negate any healthful properties the veggies might have, but at least they’ll eat them, right?
    1) Bake it, halved with seeds removed, filled with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. SO tasty, and a bit reminiscent of eating that Thanksgiving yam-marshmallow concoction that aunt so-and-so always shows up with, but less marshmallowy (not a real word? Gee, thanks google chrome!)
    2) Julienne it, bread it, and deep fry it. Squash fries. I think my mom used Italian bread crumbs, which was pretty much all you tasted. And, you kind of expect a squishy (squashy?) center inside a crispy fry already.

  • Reply Leigh Ann May 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Is there a way I can plant Curtis Stone and have him grow in my garden?

  • Reply Venomous Kate May 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Peel the squash, grate it and squeeze it until it’s dry. Then you can stir it into stuff, even chili, and it’s not as easily detected.

  • Reply Emily May 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I love stuffed squash blossoms! They’re so delicious… I’d be raiding your garden for those alone!

  • Reply Miss B May 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    You can pickle it, which, if your kid likes pickles, would help with getting him to eat it. And, if he doesn’t, would still let you do something with it that you can keep to eat later, instead of trying to eat squash three meals a day all summer. Also, you can make lasagna with thin vertically-sliced squash in place of the noodles, which works really well.

  • Reply Mindy May 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I put squash into macaroni and cheese for my 1 yr old. It’s from a recipe that came with my Baby Bullet…ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, steamed squash, butter, milk, and a little pepper. Puree and then heat. I pour it over whole wheat pasta (could also bake with some bread crumbs). It’s not the baked mac and cheese I normally make, but I found that I really like it too!

  • Reply heela June 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    i don’t know how my mother did it but we are 6 siblings that love to eat and cook and i don’t really remember any of us not eating our vegetables. maybe because they were always there. fresh and cooked as a part of every meal, always. they were never disguised as something else because we pretty much loved them and i even used to get Brussels sprouts as a birthday treat (i swear) way back when they were expensive. and i love squash. here’s a bunch of stuff you can make:
    – squash soup – with onions, celery, carrots and parsley. serve chunky or puree.
    – make your own breadcrumbs flavored with lemon rind, garlic, fresh oregano, and ground pepper, and then roll strips of olive oil smeared squash in them. bake until golden. top with Parmesan.
    – or, and this is a bit of a fuss but works well with big ones, stuff them. make some savory rice using round risotto rice (white or whole grain), lots of fresh herbs (mint, parsley, coriander, dill) diced tomatoes and some lemon juice and sugar+salt+pepper to taste. scoop out the squash flesh and stuff with the rice. set in a big pot and cover with water mixed with a few tablespoons of tomato paste, salt and pepper and olive oil. delicious!

  • Reply frogprof September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Slice the squash into rounds; do the same with as much of an onion [white or yellow] as you want. Steam in one of those ’70s steamers with some summer savory sprinkled LAVISHLY.
    Serve with tons of butter. And a wee bit of salt.
    Mmmmm. I need to go to HEB …
    (Sorry I’m late to the party but I just discovered you through Jenny.)

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