Nothing is better for toddlers to eat than vegetables – and nothing seems harder than serving it to them! Try these 10 tips to get kids to eat vegetables.
Is your little one a classic vegetable-hater? Then try these easy, crafty ways to slip a few more nutrient-rich you-know-whats into her diet. And remember to consistently offer vegetables every day, even if she doesn't eat them. You'll be surprised sometime when she decides to take a bite!
1. Be a good role model. Children have their parents as primary role models and often like to copy what they see. If your child sees you regularly eating vegetables she will be more eager to try them herself.
2. Vary types and textures. Serve those veggies any way you can? — canned, fresh, or frozen. Each type has a different taste and texture, so while one child will eat only canned green beans, another child will prefer fresh steamed ones. Nutritionally, they are all fairly equal, with the exception of canned vegetables having a lot of salt. Just rinse them if you're concerned about that. But remember the focus is on eating the vegetables, not worrying about salt. If your son loves the texture of mashed potatoes, see if he'll eat other vegetables that have been mashed or pureed.
3. Add toppers and dips. If having a cheese or butter sauce or ranch dip makes all the difference between eating vegetables or not, then let your child sauce and dip away! Sometimes just drizzling melted cheese on broccoli or cauliflower will make that vegetable acceptable. Offer a baked potato and encourage your child to put a few tablespoons of vegetables on it before topping it with cheese sauce or sour cream. Kids love to dip their food, so encourage eating raw vegetables, like colorful bell pepper strips, with a favorite ranch dressing. Use caution with children under 2, as raw vegetables can be a choking hazard.
4. Pile it on pizza. Try any vegetable that will work on this all-time kid favorite food. Add chopped tomatoes to the pizza sauce. Sprinkle on shredded zucchini, canned or fresh mushrooms, chopped onion, or red or green bell pepper rings. Some kids will even enjoy broccoli "trees" on their pizza. If your child really loves cheese, make sure you add plenty of it along with these extra vegetables.
5. Whip up an omelet. Sauté some spinach, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion and add them to the omelet before folding. Don't forget to throw in lots of kid-friendly cheese.
6. Mix up some coleslaw. Maybe your toddler would welcome the crunch and color of coleslaw. Make your own with prepackaged slaw mix (or get out the grater and a head of cabbage) and add low-fat slaw dressing. Boost the color and nutrients in the slaw by adding a few more shredded carrots. Try serving broccoli slaw, too. If she already likes regular coleslaw, she may really enjoy this "bright green crunchy coleslaw." It's a great way to get more nutrient-rich broccoli in her diet.
7. Slather on spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti sauce and all canned tomato products count as vegetable servings. So have spaghetti often, if tomatoes are one of the only vegetables he'll eat. You could shred some zucchini or carrot into the spaghetti sauce, but be careful with this concept — it often backfires. Keep the salt and spice levels low. Whenever you serve breadsticks, set out a bowl of spaghetti sauce. He'll love dipping the breadsticks in this vitamin- and mineral-rich sauce!
8. Doctor the soups. A child who refuses a plain serving of carrots or corn may eat vegetable soup. If that's the case, then add a few extra canned or frozen vegetables to the soup when heating.
9. Go liquid. Tomato juice and vegetable juice count as vegetable servings. And they're both packed with valuable vitamins and minerals.
10. Serve more fruit. If nothing works in the vegetable category, don't give up! Just serve more fruits. Fruits have many of the same crucial nutrients that vegetables do, like vitamins A and C and fiber. Doubling up on fruits will ensure your toddler or preschooler gets all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.
At the end of the day, with a happy, healthy and thriving child who won’t eat vegetables, you probably don’t have much to worry about. He’ll eventually learn to eat them.