Simple tips to get a toddler to eat vegetables
They’re a hot topic. Especially for toddler moms.
What are you supposed to do when your toddler decides that vegetables are no longer on the list of things they’re willing to eat?
I know we’re all just trying to figure out how to get our toddlers to eat vegetables without massive temper tantrums.
My son used to be great at eating vegetables when we started introducing solids to him as a baby, but once we entered the toddler stage, they would suddenly incite epic tantrums.
And this can be really difficult, because as parents we so badly want our children to fuel their bodies in healthy ways.
But one of the great things about children is that they are constantly changing and adapting.
The anti-veggie stage doesn’t have to (and hopefully won’t) last forever. And continually offering vegetables to them is one of the many ways to make sure that it is simply a stage, and not a long-term food choice.
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How to get toddler to eat vegetables
Remove the pressure
This one is big.
Presenting food (and I cannot stress this enough), ALL food, in a simple and casual manner is critical.
This means that, when giving your child chick fingers, you offer them simply.
When you give them vegetables, offer them simply.
That chocolate chip cookie? Yup, offer it simply.
The goal is to make all food just that — food.
And if you’re a toddler mom you know that toddlers love opposition. So don’t present foods in a way that immediately puts you on the defensive (“you need to eat all your veggies or else you can’t get dessert”).
Make veggies fun
Do you remember eating “Ants on a log” as a kid?
It’s simply a slice of celery with peanut butter in the indentation and topped by raisins.
Making the food fun so that you can actually get your toddler to eat vegetables is another helpful trick for some children.
It can even be as simple as laying the food out on a plate in a creative design such as different bell peppers laid out like a rainbow with broccoli as trees.
For some kids, making the food look more like a fun treat rather than the vegetables they’ve decided are “icky” can work really well to get them to eat them.
Let them pick
There’s a subtle art to giving toddlers options.
On one hand, you want to give them the ability to demonstrate their independence and make decisions on their own.
On the other hand, if they have too many options you’re going to hit an indecision roadblock. Or worse, a full-on meltdown.
Since decision making is so exciting for our kids, but can also end in disaster, its best to limit their options.
For example, pull out green beans and carrots. Let them pick which vegetable will be served at meal time.
But don’t make it a big deal.
Do it casually, if you can.
“Hey bud, Mommy’s making dinner. Can you help me pick — should I make green beans or carrots?”
If the mere question results in a meltdown, revert to the first point — removing the pressure.
Remind them that they don’t need to eat them, you just wanted their input.
Involve them in the meal prep
This has been big for our son.
Not just to get him to eat vegetables — but to interest him in nearly any food.
If he’s involved in picking the food and/or assembling the food, then he’s a lot more excited about the meal!
Often times my son will gladly stand on a learning tower at the kitchen counter next to me. Whether the food I’m making interests him or not.
If this works for you kid, investing in a learning tower and some child-friendly knives may help you keep them involved (and therefore, eating)!
The great thing about involving them is that they’re learning more about the food that they’re eating.
Talk them through the different ingredients, what the end result will be, and why you do different things.
This usually works up an appetite for my son, so I usually casually leave some of the vegetables I’ll be making with dinner right in front of him on the counter. If he’s hungry and has the opportunity to eat something, its not unusual for him to snack on some of the vegetables just because they’re there and the only thing available to him (not to mention, mom didn’t explicitly tell him to eat them — so he doesn’t need to demonstrate his ability to be defiant).
Eat your vegetables in front of them
Remember the recommendation about removing the pressure? This is another primary example.
Kids, particularly toddlers, are much more inclined to mimic their parents than they are to listen to them — go figure.
So when you present vegetables with dinner, one way to get your toddler to eat them is eat them yourself.
Put them on your child’s plate, but don’t make a big fuss about them. They’re just like any of the other food on your kid’s plate, and your own plate.
If the mere sight of you eating vegetables throws your child into a tailspin, consider calmly reminding them that, though they don’t have to eat the food you are going to continue to enjoy yours.
Share your plate
Toddlers are notorious for wanting what other people have.
Especially their parents.
One thing which helps get these toddlers to eat their vegetables can be as simple as sharing a plate.
For example, sometimes I’ll share a plate with my son. Everything that we’re eating is exactly the same, but I just all combined on one plate. Even if I tell my son one side of the plate is for him and one is for him, it usually works pretty effectively. If he sees that we’re eating the same foods, he’s usually content to eat all of the foods offered to him.
An issue that you may come across with this method, however, is if there is something he really loves on the plate along with those vegetables then your kiddo very well may try to snag food off of your side (I know mine does)!
But do keep in mind, the plate-sharing stage won’t last forever.
You don’t even have to do it with every meal. Maybe you just share a lunch plate and you each have your own plate for breakfast and for dinner.
Either way, it can give your kid a taste for vegetables so that they’re willing to eat them from their own plate.
Offer vegetables as the first course
If your kid is good at staying in their seat at meal time, or a particularly ravenous eater, sometimes offering your toddler vegetables prior to any other food is helpful.
Again, offer them without pressure.
For example, get your child to sit at the table and put vegetables in front of them. Tell them that they don’t have to eat them when they start to fuss, but that they do need to sit in their chair until you’re able to finish with the rest of their food.
If they’re fussing a lot, bring out their other food (sandwich or whatever) like it is no big deal.
For some kids, if the food is in front of them, they’ll eat it.
I’ll go ahead and admit that this is not my favorite way to get a toddler to eat vegetables. But it definitely works for some children.
Some children, such as my own, will just use the vegetables as spoons for the dip and never really eat the vegetables.
Others, however, find dips to be a fun way to eat a food that they previously had no interest in.
You could do this by offering a new dip they’ve never tried before (which could work out great or rather poorly — toddlers are fun like that). Or you can offer them with a dip they’ve tried before and liked.
Sneaking veggies into meals
This is a classic mom move, and for good reason.
Sometimes sneaking vegetables into a food is the easiest way to get a child to try, and even potentially enjoy a vegetable.
If you’re not sure where to start, a couple of great vegetable options include spinach, butternut squash, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. All of these can all be added pretty inconspicuously to different dishes.
For example, tomatoes, zucchini and spinach all blend pretty well into pasta sauce.
Perhaps you mix some spinach or cauliflower into a smoothie.
Or pureed butternut squash into your homemade mac n cheese.
All of these can be a great opportunity to get your toddler to eat vegetables without them knowing (and throwing a tantrum) about it!
My son can eat like a teenager when he wants to.
I mean, seriously, this kid eats a ton of food.
So one of the things we do in our house is to make a snack plate.
In the morning I set some cut up fruits and vegetables onto a plate. For example, I might put some apple slices, bell pepper slices, snap peas, and some broccoli onto a plate. Having some fruit on the plate will usually entice him to start grabbing things from the plate. Once he’s cleared out the fruit, if he’s hungry, he’ll usually eat a lot of the vegetables as well.
Again, the key with the snack plate is to present it without hounding.
I usually say something like “here’s the snack plate for the whole family to share! Help yourself” and either take a vegetable myself and walk away or just put the plate somewhere he can see it and walk away.
And finally, just keep presenting the option
Just because your child has decided they won’t be eating vegetables ever again, it doesn’t mean that you stop putting them in front of them.
Continue to serve vegetables at meal time.
And to eat your own vegetables in front of your child.
Let them see that vegetables, just like every other food kept in your home is just that — food.