Adding vegetables to your child's diet not only serves as a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals, but it can also improve their gastrointestinal health and ensure that they stay hydrated. However, actually getting them to eat these healthy foods can be a challenge. Thankfully, we have some easy ways to get your toddler to eat vegetables and even request a second serving!
1. Incorporate Vegetables Into Foods Your Kids Love
One of the best ways to brighten your toddler's plate is to use vegetables in recipes that they already enjoy. For instance, almost every kid loves spaghetti and meatballs. Instead of using regular pasta, consider substituting this staple with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. These are great options to try thanks to the similar appearance and texture of their doughy counterparts. Best of all, your toddlers can help with preparing this ingredient, making them more excited about the meal!
2. Take the Time to Season Your Food
Let's be honest, who really likes the bland taste of vegetables? There's a reason why we add dips, dressings, and cheeses to mask the original bitter and sour flavor components of these foods. Rather than dousing your dish in condiments, the better option is to enhance these natural taste profiles by using spices, seasonings, and sauces. It might surprise you at how quickly your toddler takes to these delicious dishes when you add a bit of zest to your recipe.
3. Cook Vegetables in Different Ways for Toddlers
Steaming your vegetables is always the healthiest option, but it's not very fun or flavorful. If you're wondering how to get your toddler to eat veggies, consider taking a trip back in time and try your hand at a good old-fashioned casserole. Just remember that kids want variety, so also incorporate things like soups, tempura, and stir-fry vegetables into your weekly menu. This can make normally boring produce seem like an exciting dish to try.
4. Make Mealtime Fun for Kids
Toddlers love exploring shapes and colors, so invest in some cookie cutters! These will allow you to create fun food landscapes on your child's plate. This works well with vegetables like zucchini, peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes. Don't forget their greens though - broccoli, asparagus, and green beans all make for fantastic flora in your culinary works of art.
5. Let Your Toddler Choose Their Vegetables
Young kids thrive when they feel as if they are in control. What that means is that you need to include them in your family's meal choices. Select two vegetables at the grocery store or farmer's market. Describe what they taste like and how you intend to prepare them. Then, let your toddler decide on which option they think is best.
You can also start a vegetable garden with your kids. This will not only get your toddler excited about trying their crop, but it also serves as a spectacular sensory activity and teaches them responsibility.
6. Have Your Kids Assist With Meal Prep
Another wonderful way to get your toddler to love vegetables is to involve them in the preparation of their food. Ask them to wash the raw vegetables, mash the sweet potatoes, and cut up softer vegetables using a toddler safe knife. Then, have them add in the portioned ingredients to make your casserole or smoothie. Don't forget to praise them for their help and emphasize how excited you are to try their dish.
7. Try, Try Again
Remember that just like you, your toddler will have likes and dislikes. They are allowed to hate broccoli. However, while they may protest eating this green superfood today, that doesn't mean you should give up hope. Wait a few days and then let them try it again. Different recipes may bring contrasting results.
8. Lead by Example
If you don't eat your vegetables, then why should your toddler? Make sure that everyone's plate is filled with color. During the meal, ask your toddler what they like best and what they would change about the dish. This can make your recipes more enticing and better appeal to your toddler's discerning palate.
9. Praise Their Veggie Progress
Remember to acknowledge your child's progress. Whether they simply try a new dish and decide they don't like it or they gobble up every single bite, take the time to appreciate their propensity for change. New things can sometimes seem scary for the littlest members of our family. Knowing that you see and appreciate their efforts can go a long way in helping them to build confidence and formulate their own opinions.
Loving Vegetables Takes Time
The CDC recommends toddlers get one cup of vegetables daily to maintain a healthy diet. For the parents who want to know how to get more veggies in a toddler's diet, try these tips and tricks for a few weeks. The results might surprise you! Just remember that this process takes time, so be patient. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that "it may take a child up to 8-10 tries to accept a new food."
Finally, while it may be tempting to sneak vegetables into your toddler's meals, this won't give them the opportunity to learn to appreciate this food group. You want your kids to explore the different colors, textures, and flavors of their food. Blending up carrots and mixing them into cheesy macaroni may be an enticing idea, but it won't be beneficial in the long run. If you want to get your toddler to truly love vegetables, then they need to know that they are actually eating them.