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How to Help Your Child Learn to Eat Beets

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This article was reviewed by a team of experts, including Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist. View full list of reviewers below.

Sarah’s grandmother used to live next to a beet farm. She grew up snacking on beets all the time and they really reminded her of her childhood home and her parents. She wanted to serve beets in her own home to share this memory with her granddaughter, but there was a problem. Sarah was just such a picky eater and she couldn’t even stand the sight of beets! 

“They look too wet and too squishy,” Sarah would remark anytime they were served. 

Her grandmother had a personal connection to beets and Sarah’s refusal to eat them really frustrated her. She decided to serve beets every night for a week, thinking it would help.

Each night beets were on the table, Sarah couldn’t focus. They were bright and distracting and she couldn’t visualize herself even touching them. It made her reluctant to try anything else on the table, even the foods she usually liked.

After the beet week was over, both Sarah and her grandmother were frustrated and upset. They both wished there was a better way. 

If anyone realizes the struggles of feeding a picky eater, it’s our team. That’s why we are here to help you with this guide for teaching kids to eat beets. We’ll cover a ton of picky eating information, including:

Related: Join BetterBites – the best-selling course for the families of picky eaters

The Benefits of Beets for Kids

Are beets good for kids? You bet! Beets are a nutrient-packed vegetable option for children. Aside from boasting a vibrant color, they are a good source of fiber. Fiber is important for children because it helps their bodies regulate blood sugar levels and maintain cholesterol levels. 

In addition to fiber, beets deliver antioxidants to children’s bodies. These antioxidants, called betalains, carotenoids, and flavonoids, aid in preventing illness and keeping their brains healthy and thinking!

Growing up next to a beet farm, Sarah’s grandmother likely knew how beneficial beets are for kids. We don’t think anyone can blame her for really wanting to serve them to Sarah. 

Related: Need recipes with beets? Check out Real Easy Weekdays: The Meal Plan for Busy Families

How to Serve Beets to Picky Eaters

Beets are a bright addition to any child’s plate. When you cut inside the beet it will reveal white rings, which are created by the weather during the growing season. Beets can be eaten raw or cooked. Peel and grate raw beets to add color to salads, or blend them up and add to pancakes for a pink surprise your picky eater will be interested in! (You can find the recipe for our popular beet-packed pink pancakes in our rotation meal plan, Real Easy Weekdays.) You can also enjoy raw beets pickled on a sandwich to add another flavor layer. Raw beets can be frozen to create stunningly colorful smoothies as well.

Not sure how to cook beets for a child who doesn’t like them? There are many ways you can cook beets for kids and toddlers, including baking, simmering, roasting, boiling or steaming. Cooked, shredded beets can be added to rice, noodles, quinoa or other grains right before serving to create a beautiful, magenta-colored side dish for a meal. 

If you are serving beets to a picky eater or to a toddler for the first time, your child could become overwhelmed by a large portion. We suggest serving “micro portions” to picky eaters when they are being introduced to a food for the first time. A micro portion is a small piece of food about the size of a pencil eraser. Small portions help your child become more familiar with the food, and they also cut down on food waste if your child doesn’t eat beets for the first few (or several) times you serve them.

It may have been easier for Sarah to learn to like beets if her grandmother had known the power of a micro portion!

Another important factor in getting picky eaters to try beets is not to pressure them to eat. Pressuring a child to eat a particular food almost always backfires and can often have the opposite effect. Here are some examples of ways caretakers may unintentionally pressure their children to eat:

  • “You can’t leave your chair until you’ve finished eating your beets.”
  • “I am going to put on a timer, and you have to finish your plate by the time it goes off.”
  • “If you don’t try at least one bite of the beets, I will be very sad.”

Sarah’s grandmother may not have pressured Sarah to eat the beets with her words, however, her actions of serving beets every night for an entire week was a form of pressure. Removing pressure from the situation makes the child more likely to try beets.

Related: Learn more about picky eating and how to reverse it

Related: Get our picky eater guide – From Stress to Success: 4 Ways to Help Your Child Eat Better without Losing Your Mind

How to Talk About Beets to Help Your Child Try Them

Fussy eaters are driven toward dismissive language to describe new foods. You may have heard your picky eater refer to a new food as “yucky” or “gross” before even trying it! This often frustrates parents who work so hard to put a balanced meal in front of their children. It also does not help to encourage picky kids to try new foods. 

To combat this, we can replace these negative words our children are using with neutral words that describe food in a new way. Neutral words allow our children to make objective observations about a food based on its characteristics rather than what they assume the food will taste like. By modeling (showing by example) neutral language in front of our picky little ones, we can influence the language they use around foods as well. This helps their minds become open to the idea of accepting the food in the future. 

Will changing your language around food be the cure-all to your picky eating struggles? It won’t. But it is an important step in our overall strategy to help you get your child to eat beets.

Here are some words you can use to describe beets to your selective eater: 

  • Red (sometimes yellow)
  • Sweet
  • Wet
  • Smooth 
  • Small
  • Round
  • Hard (raw)
  • Soft (cooked)
  • Earthy

Sarah’s grandmother likely had a vast knowledge about the characteristics of beets, and could have chosen to give her the details. Maybe if she told Sarah that beets were smooth and had a sweet taste, Sarah would have understood more about them and been less reluctant to try them.

How to Help Your Child Understand What Beets Do in Their Body

If you’ve ever tried to talk a child into eating something they don’t want to eat, you know that it has about a 0% success rate. Kids don’t magically want to eat something new just because we tell them they should. 

Instead, we should use their natural thirst for knowledge and teach them about what the food does inside their body. When we share age-appropriate information like this, it helps children understand that there is a connection between the food they eat and how their bodies feel.

Here are a few messages you can share with fussy eaters about beets. Teaching kids about the benefits of beets is another way to get kids to eat them.

Age 0-3: Beets give your brain power.

Age 3-5: Beets help your brain think.

Age 6-11: Beets have nutrients that keep your brain working well.

Age 12-18: Beets have antioxidants which help protect us from any cells that try to make our body or brain sick.

If Sarah’s grandmother had known that talking about what beets do inside the body would have impacted Sarah’s willingness to try them, she may have chosen to tell her, “Beets have antioxidants which help your body protect your brain over time.”

Beets Food Activity 

Food play can be a good way to desensitize your child’s body and brain to new foods. Playing with foods helps picky eaters receive new sensory information through the sight, smell, sound and touch of a new food in a way that feels fun and natural. This can eventually lead to tasting a new food!

It is really important to know that food activities do not have to be complex. Simply involving your child in food-related tasks, like putting the produce away after grocery shopping, totally counts as food play.

If you love the activity we created below, you may want to check out Food Play Every Day: 101+ Food Activities for Kids.

Beet & Apple Puzzles

Age: 2+

Materials

  • 1 beet
  • 1 apple
  • Cookie cutters
  • Knife

Steps

  1. Slice the apple into ½-inch thick slices. Repeat with the beets.
  2. Use cookie cutters (or a knife) to cut out matching shapes in the apple and beet slices.
  3. Mix and match apple “puzzle” pieces with the beet pieces to create red and white creations. Let your child rearrange them as they see fit.

Note: If your picky eater is still learning to like apples, try pairing another hearty fruit or vegetable (like pears, melons, or carrots) with the beets. 

Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!

About Kids Eat in Color

Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents. 

Author

Alysha Fagan

Reviewers

Johane Filemon, MS, RDN, CLT

Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L

Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L

Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed

References

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Coyle, Daisy. “9 Impressive Health Benefits of Beets.” Healthline, May 26, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-beets.

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“The Health Benefits of Beets.” Cleveland Clinic, December 28, 2020. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-health-benefits-of-beets/.

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Min, Kyoung-Chul, and Yoo-Im Choi. “Review of Effectiveness Sensory Integration Therapy on Feeding and Oral Function of Children Focus on Single-Subject Research Design.” Journal of Korean Society of Occupational Therapy 29, no. 1 (2021): 101–13. https://doi.org/10.14519/kjot.2021.29.1.08. 

Papalia, Diane E., Ruth Duskin Feldman, and Sally Wendkos Olds. Human Development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. 

Parham, L. Diane, Gloria Frolek Clark, Renee Watling, and Roseann Schaaf. “Occupational Therapy Interventions for Children and Youth with Challenges in Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing: A Clinic-Based Practice Case Example.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 73, no. 1 (January 2019). https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2019.731002. 

“Preschooler Development.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002013.htm.Roley, Smith Susanne, Erna I. Blanche, and Roseann C. Schaaf. Understanding the Nature of Sensory Integration with Diverse Populations. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed, 2007.

Alysha Fagan

Alysha is the Program Manager for Kids Eat in Color. She leads initiatives and creates content to helps caregivers reduce stress and help their kids thrive at mealtime. Prior to joining Kids Eat in Color, Alysha project managed and built high-performance Customer Service teams for Top corporations. She is currently working towards a political science degree to fulfill her passion of advocating for systemic change in government. She enjoys being a mom, lifting weights (you heard that right!), and writing

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