Getting your toddler to eat vegetables can be one of the toughest jobs yet!
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, chances are your toddler is or will go through a phase (maybe even a looonnngggg phase) of refusing to eat any veggies!
I’m living this phase as I write this, and man does it suck!! The worry that my baby is not getting adequate nutrients, the frustration that my cooking is going to waste, and the guilt that I did something wrong to get us to this point….
On the contrary, forcing kids to eat vegetables also has negative consequences. Children need to establish a healthy relationship with food and not fixate on good and bad foods.
While it’s easy to dwell on the could have and should haves, all I/we can do now is focus on the present and set up for a bright future!
I’ve been experimenting with a few tricks to help get my toddler to eat more vegetables, and I want to share them with you all!
From some quick research, it appears the strategies to get older kids eating veggies is a bit easier of a task – you can usually play a fun taste-test game, start a garden, or get them involved in cooking – all helping them stay excited about eating veggies.
For a toddler, these methods appear to take a bit more work and patience, so let’s break it down.
Set a Good Example
- There’s nothing more important to instilling good habits in your children than by setting a good example. When a toddler see his or her parents eating healthfully, they are much more likely to follow suite. So first things first, load your own plate with veggies!
Keep Offering Vegetables
- It may seem pointless to put the extra effort in to serve a food that you’re certain your toddler won’t touch, it’s important to keep serving those veggies! Studies show it may take 10 or more tries before a child accepts a new food – including veggies. Also keep encouraging your toddler to try and taste them. Taking a bite yourself and showing how delicious they can taste!
- Experts say your child will probably change his mind about vegetables eventually (fingers crossed!).
Offer Vegetables as Snacks
- Serving vegetables as a snack can be a nice way to not overwhelm your child with multiple options such that are served at a meal time.
- With a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy foods like vegetables, and limits on unhealthy snacks, it’s easier for your child to accept the fact that vegetables are a snack choice.
- Check out this post for some favorite snack ideas
- Keep a container of chopped vegetables, like cucumber, softened carrots or peas readily available!
- I sometimes still resort to fruit and veggies pouches, just to ensure my toddler is getting the nutrients and exposed to the vegetable flavors.
Make Veggies Fun
- “Raw broccoli is my favorite food” – said no one ever!! Veggies are no match for a juicy burger or fresh donut, so it’s important we do our best to add taste and fun to the experience!
- Serve your toddler veggies with dip, yogurt or cheese. Toddlers love to feel in control and have fun dipping!
- Roast or sauté your veggies in light oil or butter, add a bit of seasoning for taste – without going overboard of course.
Sneak Veggies In
- If none of the above strategies work, your next best bet, and a fairly simple approach, is to sneak those darn veggies in!
- Blend into a smoothie or plain yogurt
- Add onions or mushrooms to pasta sauces
- Add a veggie puree to a PB & J sandwich
- Make a veggie meatloaf
That’s Not All…
There’s many techniques to try and add to our toddlers diet to increase chances of vegetable liking. There’s also a few other things not to do!
Don’t become a personal toddler chef
You toddler may not eat everything they are served, but it’s important to not keep offering different foods. I’ve been guilty of this – if my daughter doesn’t like the pasta dish my husband and I are eating, I’ll keep going back to fridge grabbing turkey, cheese, chicken nuggets etc.. until she eats something. I have this fear that she needs to eat or she’ll starve – which is just not true!!
If she’s hungry enough she’ll eat. The more I keep tailoring her meals to what she demands, the harder time we’ll have getting her to eat a variety of nutritious foods. My goal is to continue serving a variety of foods, including vegetables, and encourage my daughter to be more flexible when she’s hungry!
Avoid nagging, forcing, bargaining, or bribing
All of these tactics create power struggles and are doomed to fail in the long run. Just continue offering veggie choices and encourage your toddler to give them a try. Keep mealtime moods upbeat!
Like I mentioned, I’m currently living this phase right now. Annndd boy, dinner tonight was ROUGH. She sat in her high chair and screamed until we gave her some food she could actually tolerate – which happened to be pasta filled with cheese & spinach (I called it enough of a win due to the fact the tiny amount of spinach was at least green so she could get used to the color!).
My point is that it’s not easy to get your toddler to eat vegetables. It’s a process, and one that requires consistency and patience. Good luck, Mamas!