Toddlers and veggies…two things that don’t mix, right? So many friends of mine have children who will not eat a single thing that even resembles a vegetable. However, the toddler years are so important for setting up healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. So today, I want to share 7 surefire ways to get your toddler to eat vegetables.
How to Get Your Toddler to Eat Vegetables
Luckily for me, Hannah does not fall into the camp of children who subside on tater tots and fish sticks. Although she does not chow down on broccoli and cauliflower the way I do pumpkin spice muffins, she is definitely on the veggie-train. I’ve actually had a number of family members and friends ask me how to get your toddler to eat vegetables. In this article, I will share some fail-proof methods I used to help my toddler become a veggie-loving girl.
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Tip #1: Start Them Young
I cannot recommend the Babyled Weaning (BLW) method of introducing solids strongly enough. Before Hannah was born, I did a lot of research on feeding baby and what causes picky eaters because I am extremely picky myself. I wanted to avoid that for my child, at all costs.
This program basically encourages parents to begin giving their babies a modified (read: well cooked and mushy) version of their own meals once the baby has reached six months of age. Instead of getting used to plain pureed texture, baby gets introduced to many taste and textures right from the start.
It was amazing to watch Hannah learn to eat this way. We had great success and I know it is a big reason that Hannah eats so well now.
If you have a young baby, Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett is a must read. It gives wonderful and easy to understand explanations and is a great read while nursing! A must-read for new moms!
Eating Vegetables Now That She’s a Toddler…
However, Hannah has grown from a veggie-loving baby to a determined and stubborn little toddler. It’s not that she doesn’t like veggies anymore (in fact, her daycare teacher recently told me she is the least picky eater at daycare by far), but she likes to assert her independence and say no. She is not so keen to eat everything on her plate the way she used to.
Given this new development over the past few months, I’ve had to figure out some strategies to make sure my little monkey is getting all the nutrients she needs. I’ve figured out some foolproof ways to get veggies into her belly no matter what!
I’m here to share my methods for making sure you get some vegetables into your little one each and every day.
Tip #2: Gardening
My number one tip for getting kids to eat their veggies is to garden with them! Gardening is such a great activity for children. It connects them to their food source (I cannot say how important this is) and builds confidence by giving them a sense of pride. Not to mention, you can have pesticide-free produce, which is the reason I started gardening in the first place.
Hannah is so funny when we are out in the garden. She calls the little plants her babies and the big plants the mommies and daddies. Last week we started picking out peas (a vegetable she rarely eats when serves on a plate). I showed her how to shell the pea pods, and she popped every pea in her moth and was asking for me. Score one for veggie mom!
Even if you don’t have space for a full garden, experiment with what you can grow on your deck or patio. Even an herb garden on a windowsill can be a great start down the path of growing your own food together.
Tip #3: Prepare Meals Together
Like gardening, preparing meals together can be a wonderful way to get your child to eat some vegetables. Even toddlers can be involved in the food prep process with activities like washing produce, pouring in ingredients (with supervision, of course!) and stirring.
For example, Hannah loves to help me prepare roasted carrots and parsnips, which is a common weekday side dish for us. I give her a very dull vegetable peeler, and she “helps” me peel the carrots. Then I chop them (out of her reach) and she adds them to the bowl. She loves to sprinkle parsley on them and then helps me to toss them in the bowl. She is not a big fan of carrots, but is much more apt to eat the carrots she has helped to prepare.
One game-changer for me was when my father made Hannah’s “Learning Tower.” This allows Hannah to stand at counter height and participate in food prep. The sides mean I don’t have to worry about her balancing up high. I can’t share his plans because, being the super handyman that he is, he didn’t use any! There are some similar plans here and here, or you can purchase a pre-made one here.
Tip #4: Be a Good Model
Babies and toddlers instinctively imitate their parents, so if you refuse to eat something, you can bet they will too. This instinct goes back to hunter-gatherer days so babies would avoid eating dangerous or poisonous foods. So that means you will need to save the chips and cookies for nap time and grin and bear eating your own broccoli!
I often use reverse psychology with Hannah (luckily she hasn’t caught on yet). If she says she doesn’t want to eat her brussels sprouts, I tell her “Oh good, because Mommy is very hungry for brussels sprouts and I want to eat all of yours.” My possessive little toddler shouts out “No! Mine!” and proceeds to gobble them up. This works about half the time, depending on her mood, but it’s worth a try!
Tip #5: Make it Cute
You have, no doubt, seen the cute designs and animals created out of food that have spread all over Pinterest these days (if you haven’t, here’s a link to my Pinterest Board all about it).
If you’re like me, you may not have time to create a masterpiece every morning. However, using a few cookie cutters to cut fruit and veggies into some fun shapes can be enough to encourage your child to try them.
Hannah is not a melon fan, but when I cut up her watermelon into stars and hearts, she is much more eager to try it.
Even swapping out veggies for more brightly coloured ones may be of help. Hannah does NOT eat orange carrots, but if I buy the heritage variety, she will try the purple ones (her favorite colour). There is also purple and orange cauliflower you could serve your little ones.
Tip #6: Don’t Make It a Fight
It’s so important not to get in a battle with your child about what they eat. This can cause extreme stress at dinner time and will just entrench your child in their no veggie position. This kind of power struggle can cause even more eating problems, the exact opposite thing your’re trying to achieve, a healthy eater (more info here)! Encourage and praise all you want, but don’t make mealtime into a battle.
Canada Health recommends that mealtime be a division on responsibilities. You, as the parent, decide What to serve, and when and where to serve it. You child decides if and what to eat. Here is a great resource from Eat Right Ontario with more information of best practices when eating with your toddler.
Tip # 7: Use Some Dip
Toddlers love to dip pretty much anything. Throw a little ranch or hummus on their plate and let them go wild!
Tip # 8: Sneak It In
If your little veggie-phobe is still absolutely refusing his broccoli, it’s time to get tricky. Pull a Jessica Seinfeld and sneak some veggies into their life, without them knowing! There are so many sneaky vegetable recipes, either in Jessica’s book, Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food, or on Pinterest. Here is my Pinterest Board on Sneaky Veggie Recipes:
Leafy greens are one thing Hannah will NOT eat, so I make up a batch of Kale and Basil Pesto every few weeks, which she loves. It is an argument-free way to get those vitamins in without any struggle (actually, the struggle comes from telling her not to eat the entire batch at once!)
Tip #9 Squeeze Packs: My Secret Weapon
Another sneaky way to get veggies in your little one’s tummy is squeeze pouches. If your tot is anything like mine, they LIVE for ‘squeezies.’ These are Hannah’s number one snack demand. I’ve actually had to enact a “one squeezie a day” limit in our house and it’s treated like a dessert.
I am always sure to buy the squeeze packs that include veggies (so many great brands have veggies and fruit mixed together and most are organic). This totally avoids fighting at the dinner table at our house. I provide lots of veggie choices for dinner, but I never have to worry if Hannah won’t eat them, because I know she’ll have happily slurp down her squeezie for dessert.
I have been buying so many squeezies that I ended up buying a re-usable pack to save a little cash. I love this adorable brand that even comes with a filling station to avoid messes!
How to Get Your Toddlers to Eat Vegetables
So there you have it, the top tips for how I got my toddler to veggies. I hope this helps you on your healthy-eating quest!
Do you have any great tips to grow little veggie-lovers? Please let me know below!