As most parents know, there are two things you can't force a child to do: eat and sleep. This is especially true of toddlers who often assert their independence through eating or not eating the food you put on their plates.
For many toddlers, vegetables come under particular scrutiny. But don't despair! With time and patience, even the most fussy eaters can find several veggies they like and a few they may even love!
Here are some helpful strategies.
- Don't give in to a food ‘hook’. Most young children go through phases where they want to eat the same thing day after day. But that doesn't mean you have to oblige. Serving a variety of foods, including vegetables, will encourage your child to be more flexible when he's hungry.
- If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Studies have shown it may take ten or more tries before a child accepts a new food. Try serving a small portion so it's less overwhelming or consider pairing veggies with something you know he likes.
- Avoid nagging, forcing, bargaining or bribing. All of these tactics will create power struggles and are doomed to fail in the long run. Just continue offering an array of veggie choices and encourage him to give them a try. Keep an upbeat mood at mealtimes.
- Set a good example. Have family meals together and let your child see you eating a variety of nutritious foods yourself. Toddlers are also more likely to eat what their peers are eating, so look for opportunities where he can eat healthy foods with his friends.
- Involve him in choosing and preparing the vegetables you serve. For example, let him decide whether you should cook green beans or broccoli for dinner, or whether to bake a carrot cake or orange muffins for tea. He can even help wash veggies like lettuce and long beans. Simple choices will help him feel a sense of control.
- Make it fun. Try making a ‘veggie face’ (with cucumber eyes, tomato nose, green bean mouth, and shredded carrot hair). Toddlers also love dipping so try serving veggies like broccoli with a delicious gravy or celery with yogurt.
One thing to keep in mind when serving fresh fruit and veggies: Raw vegetables and hard fruits can be a choking hazard for young children. Be sure to cook them or cut them into small enough pieces so that they don't pose a choking risk.