As children head back to school it’s important to make sure vegetables make a regular appearance on their plates. Vegetables are naturally low in calories and pack a nutrient punch with vitamins and minerals like potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber – just to name a few.

Children are often known as picky eaters for their refusal to eat certain, or at times all, vegetables. While some vegetables may take multiple exposures before a child will try the vegetable, there are some great strategies parents can use to help encourage their picky eaters to try something new.

At school, there are always a few rules children are required to follow. Bringing that structure home with food can be helpful as well. One great rule to create in the kitchen is “Don’t Yuck Someone Else’s Yum.” Words like “ew” and “gross” can be excluded from the kitchen environment whenever trying new foods or recipes, to help prevent negative feelings toward trying new foods. While children will dislike some foods, encouraging them to use the words “I don’t like that vegetable/dish yet” provides a more positive environment surrounding new foods. In addition, another great rule is the “Rule of 3.” Encouraging a child to try a new vegetable three different ways before it goes on the “I don’t like it yet” list is a great way to expand his or her palate.

Another great way to get children excited about vegetables is to involve them in the entire process. Include children in the meal planning process by asking them what they would prefer as a vegetable for a snack or meal. Depending on the child’s age, he or she can help with the grocery shopping, cleaning, peeling or cutting of vegetables for a snack or meal.

Children are big on snacking, so it’s important that snacks contribute to their overall nutrition needs. Pairing vegetables with another food group like fruit or dairy will help increase your child’s vegetable intake at snack time. Keeping pre-cut vegetables paired with dips like hummus or peanut butter on hand will encourage children to choose these as a healthy snack option.

Setting the example for children is especially important, as they are always looking up to their parents. Parents should encourage trying new foods and allowing children to assist with preparation and cooking as well as eating the vegetables with the children. For an exciting new way to try zucchini, check out this great recipe for Garlic-Parmesan Hasselback Zucchini!


Garlic-Parmesan Hasselback Zucchini

Serves 4 (1 zucchini each).

Using the hasselback technique – cutting partially into a whole fruit or vegetable every 1/2 inch or so – gives you an easy way to sneak lots of flavor into this healthy zucchini recipe. To bake the zucchini instead of grilling, place in a foil-lined 8-inch-square baking pan and bake at 425 degrees until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

All you need:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

4 small zucchini (about 1 pound total)

1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, large pieces broken in half

All you do:

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Combine oil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Make crosswise cuts every 1/2 inch along each zucchini, slicing almost to the bottom but not all the way through. Gently fan the zucchini to open the cuts wider and place a small piece of Parmesan into each cut. Brush the oil mixture over the top.

Place the zucchini on a double layer of foil and grill, without turning, until browned and tender, 16 to 18 minutes.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 75 calories, 5g fat, 2g saturated fat, 4mg cholesterol, 245mg sodium, 4g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 3g sugars, 4g protein.

Source: adapted from EatingWell, Inc.


Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at