Updated: Jan 10, 2020
It's that age old question. Why won't my kid eat vegetables? How do I fix this?
It's important to remember that every family goes through this phase at some point. Even that baby who supposedly eats everything will hit this milestone at some point. For us, it happened at age 1. It was like our son had his first birthday and overnight stopped eating everything. He looked at his beloved carrots, squash and yams with absolute disgust. It may not happen until the preschool years, but chances are it will strike at some point. The good news is, it's generally a phase and things will get better. Below are some things that helped us, and I hope they help you too!
1. Veggies and Fruits are unlimited in our house. - Ok maybe not unlimited, he can't eat 5 oranges a day, but you get the idea here. You can prep cut up veggies and leave them throughout the day for kids to snack on. Veggies and fruits are offered with EVERY meal and snack. If they say no to one, offer it again later on. Fruits are included in the meals. I know some parents who only offer fruit after everything else has been eaten. That didn't go well for us. I found the opposite actually. Eating his fruit first actually stimulated his appetite and he would go on to eat the rest of his meal. For that reason, I offer the entire meal at one time.
2. Sometimes it's just the texture or shape that needs to be changed. One day my son had a full on melt down because his cucumbers were cut as rounds instead of spears. #toddlerlife I recommend asking your child how they like them cut up. Give them two options and let them decide. When they make a choice, they'll be more willing to follow through. That brings us to point 3.
3. Let your child help cook! Yes, it can take longer and your kitchen will be a disaster. When children are more involved they are more likely to try new foods, or eat the ones they've helped prepare. Bring up a step stool and ask them to drop the broccoli (safely) into the steamer or put the yam pieces on the baking sheet. They'll love it and it's a great time to learn some life skills.
4. Veggie purees and smoothies! I don't always recommend to hide veggies, because I feel that in the long term I'd rather have kids CHOOSE to eat their veggies. However, when push comes to shove sometimes it needs to be done. Veggie purees can be added to pasta sauces, smoothies, soups, mac and cheese, muffins, loafs, etc. The nice thing here is that they're so versatile. Some of our favourites are adding butternut squash and cauliflower to mac and cheese, adding mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli to spaghetti sauce, or adding spinach, kale, zucchini and avocado to smoothies. Check out my Mama Muffin recipe on the blog that has 3 cups of added vegetables and 1.5 cups of added fruit!
5. Introduce foods that may not be traditional according to the North American diet. What I mean by this is two fold. First, theres no rules stating that you have to eat cereal or bacon and eggs for breakfast. Try offering pepper slices with breakfast and you may be pleasantly surprised! Second, try offering a variety of foods from different countries. Again you may be surprised by what their palettes accept! Some favourites in our house are sushi, teriyaki, samosas, and quesadillas.
6. Add Ghee, or grass fed butter, to steamed veggies. Often times it's the bitterness of vegetables that causes kids to turn up their nose. Adding a bit of healthy fat to the veggies makes it taste better and gives you a better chance of toddler compliance.
7. This may not be a popular opinion, and thats ok. When my son was about 1.5 we started calling broccoli "dinosaur trees" and asparagus "dinosaur grass". Those are two of his favourite vegetables. Coincidence? Maybe, I'm not sure. But it's worth a shot and he LOVES to eat them.
8. Lead by example and make sure your plate is full of veggies too. Children learn from what they see. They are always watching and listening! Always...
9. Don't give up! I know it's not easy. You may lose your cool. Take a deep breath and remember this too shall pass. It's a phase that everyone will go through. Just keep offering at every meal and you will figure out your child's motivation. My child now asks for a side salad with every dinner just so that he can have the croutons that it comes with, but he eats the whole salad. I call that at win.
It's hard to be perfect in an imperfect world. There is so much pressure put on families these days. It's hard to keep up with the Joneses. Becky's daughter eats veggies with every meal, Susan's son is vegan and has no screen time, and Karen's twins eat Cheerios off the floor. Really, it's best not to compare your family to others. How other people decide to do this parenting thing is up to them. As long as you aren't harming your child than do what works best for you! Providing a safe, loving, home where children can thrive is really all that matters at the end of the day.