Guest Post: Getting Your Toddler to Eat Veggies
This is the first in a five-part blog series written by students enrolled in the University of Texas’ Nutrition Through the Life Cycle class. Funmi Babalola is a UT freshman who is majoring in the Didactic Program in Dietetics and is Pre-Med.
“Eww! Broccoli tastes nasty.”
Unfortunately, this is a sentiment shared by many toddlers. Parents know that a toddler should be eating plenty of vegetables (according to MyPlate guidelines, 1/4 of their plate should be vegetables), but convincing your child to eat these foods can be a daunting task. Although it may be difficult to change your toddler’s food preferences, it is possible to increase the vegetables in a child’s diet by following these 10 guidelines and by using NurturMe foods.
1. Introduce vegetables earlier.
Toddlers begin having strong food preferences at around 2 years of age. Introducing healthy vegetables into their diets before age two is a smart tactic to help your toddler become accustomed to the taste of vegetables. Then, as they grow older, they will already love or at least be accustomed to the taste. NurturMe baby food comes in 6 flavors that are suitable for children between 4 months and 4 years. Introducing NurturMe foods and appropriate vegetables early is a great way to accomplish this task.
2. Invent creative nicknames for vegetables.
Toddlers are often more willing to eat vegetables if you have creative names for them. Instead of broccoli, say baby trees; carrots can become orange swords. Being playful and fun about vegetables encourages young children to eat them.
3. Cleverly mix in vegetables with foods they already love.
If your son or daughter already loves macaroni and cheese, incorporate some NurturMe Scrumptious Squash into the mix as you cook it. Your little one will love the taste and will unknowingly benefit from the additional vitamins and minerals provided by the squash. This tip can be used with many foods. Just add a package of a NurturMe vegetable that blends with the color of a food that your child already loves.
4. Eat vegetables with children.
Toddlers love to imitate those around them and love to please their parents with their actions. In addition to verbally encouraging your toddler to eat vegetables, eat vegetables with them. If a toddler sees you eating what you have prepared for them, they will want to eat the same thing. Set a good example and provide positive reinforcements.
5. Let them prepare dishes with vegetables with you.
Toddlers will be more willing to eat a new meal if they helped in the preparation process. The dish won’t seem so foreign to them because they helped every step of the way.
6. Give them a variety of choices.
Vegetables have a variety of textures and flavors. Allowing your son or daughter to try several types of vegetables will increase the chance that they will like a few.
7. Cook the vegetables.
Cooking helps reduce the bitterness that toddlers often dislike about some raw vegetables. Cooking also makes vegetables softer and easier to eat.
8. Grow a garden.
Toddlers are more likely to want to eat a vegetable if it came out of their own backyard. Grow a garden and let your child be involved in the maintenance of the garden. Let them help you plant, water, and pick vegetables.
9. Praise your child for trying vegetables.
Encourage your child to try unfamiliar vegetables, and praise their “ bravery” when they do. Avoid using punishment and taking away privileges if your toddler refuses to eat vegetables – some children are very taste-sensitive and simply can’t stand certain tastes.
10. Take your toddler to the grocery store with you.
Let your toddler choose from the variety of colors in the vegetable aisle. They are more likely to eat a vegetable that they were attracted to and allowed to choose.