Toddlerhood is a phase of trying moments, and picky eating may be one of them.
Most toddlers start resenting vegetables and pick them out from dishes and refusing to eat those. Vegetable provide essential nutrients which toddlers need for growth and development and a healthy diet. How can parents get toddlers to eat veggies?
Senior dietician, Izabela Kerner, offers some practical tips to parents to help combat this problem. Here are our 10 sneaky ways on how to get toddlers to eat more vegetables without them even knowing it!
#1. The try-a-bit-of-everything strategy
Instead of allowing your child to pick and choose at the dishes at the dinner table, try scooping small portions of each dish onto his plate before mealtime.
Izabela says, “It is important to expose children to a variety of foods from each food group to meet their needs.” This strategy also makes it easier for you to encourage him to try a bit of everything and not turn into your kids into fussy eaters.
Offering a variety should ideally start from young, as preference usually develops earlier than we think. By the time your child becomes a toddler, he will be making choices and exhibiting what he likes and does not like.
2. Divide and conquer
Most kids just assume all green, leafy-looking foods taste terrible. So don’t bring out the broccoli, spinach or celery just yet! Trick them into trying veggies by first introducing the milder and sweeter tasting veggies like cauliflower, potato and carrots. Once they’ve warmed up to the idea of eating veggies, bring out the green stuff!
Best of all, offer a mixture of taste to let your toddler experience different flavours. Perhaps he’s not into bland ones, so try capsicums or beans for a different experience. Their bright colours may also attract toddlers to eat veggies!
3. Go shopping!
Take your toddlers grocery shopping the next time you need to stock up on fresh food. This way, children can choose what kind of meals they would like to have so you can be assured that there’ll be no disappointed faces during mealtimes!
The supermarket is also a fun place for kids to explore the rows of colourful vegetables and fruit on display. Take this chance to share nutritional benefits of vegetables that you see, and let your child touch and feel them for an experiential learning on-the-go!
4. Visit vegetable farms
Take your toddler on a veggie learning trip!
Singapore has several vegetable farms that allow public to visit, and some of them conduct tours suitable for kids too. Back to nature trip for the inquisitive toddler, too!
Schedule a day-out with your toddlers and check out these local vegetable farms: Bollywood Veggies, Green Circle Eco-Farm, Oh Farms (Hydroponic farm), Kok Far Farm (with weekend market), Agrogreen Technology.
5. Make up a story
Unlike adults, kids are not lured by the promise of antioxidants and the health benefits of vegetables. Izabela suggests using your kids’ favourite cartoon characters or heroes when explaining to your kids about the importance of veggies to their growth and development.
If Popeye and his can of spinach is the best you can come up with, try books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Amelia Bedelia series. The delicious pictures, presentation and descriptions of the food will make your kids unknowingly crave for fruits and veggies!
6. Be a role model and eat your veggies
Why bother trying to get your toddlers to eat veggies if you don’t even eat them? It has been known that children pick up their parents’ behaviours, whether good or bad. So now you have no choice but to adopt the habit yourself!
The next time you have a meal with the family, pile on the veggies and look as though you’re enjoying them (even if you don’t). Well, at least it’s good for you!
7. Master the art of camouflage
Sometimes it’s just better not to tell your kids they’re eating vegetables.
Simply hide the veggies in their favourite foods and they won’t know any better. Izabela recommends camouflaging veggies by chopping up and mixing vegetables into pasta sauces, lasagne, casseroles, soup, juices and omelettes. Try adding veggie toppings to pizzas or give your kids chopped veggies with a dip to munch on as a study snack to help them concentrate better.
Or get your creative juices going and create some pretty food art with those vegetables! Put together your toddler’s favourite cartoon character or spell out his name with them – they are bound to be thrilled with the surprise and hopefully, a way to get toddlers to eat veggies too!
8. Mix it up
Even if your toddler hates boiled carrots, he might love grilled carrots smothered in barbeque sauce. Vary your style of cooking to expose your children to the different flavours of vegetables. Let’s look at the humble corn for instance. You can butter it up and bake it, throw a handful of corn kernels in your Fried Rice or Shepherd’s Pie or make a delicious Roasted Corn Soup.
9. Share your kitchen space
Cooking with the toddlers may sound like a disaster waiting to happen, but their participation may actually be one step closer to getting toddlers to eat their veggies!
Involving them in preparing their meal will get them interested to try their creations. Start off with a simple dish like sushi. Prepare the fillings (corn, tomato, cucumber, tuna, crabmeat) beforehand and let your kids turn them into sushi rolls with rice and seaweed.
Cooking together can be a fun bonding activity for parent and child, and best of all, your tot will enjoy the sessions together and be more willing to try new food, including veggies!
10. Keep trying!
This is the most important tip!
Children’s food preferences and food-intake patterns are shaped largely by the foods parents choose to make available to them and their persistence in presenting a food that initially is rejected. Remember, children’s food likes and dislikes often change frequently so keep trying, you may be successful this time!
Parents, are you wrecking your brains over how to get your toddlers to eat veggies? Share with us some recipe ideas that have scored with your little veggie hater!