Let’s face it. The best way to get your toddler to eat his vegetables is to introduce them during infancy. Some parents do this and still have trouble getting their kid to eat the green stuff. Other parents have given in to more pleasant foods at the first sign of disapproval. Whatever category you fall into, it doesn’t matter. The truth is that even with the best diet, some toddlers enter the protesting phase once they realize they have an opinion. While this phase often results in barely touched plates and frustrated parents, take heart—this too shall pass. Here are some tips that may help your toddler adopt a more balanced diet.
1. Be an example.
You can’t expect your child to eat healthy foods when you don’t even eat them yourself. Although this should go without saying, you’d be surprised how many parents actually think this is possible. Children are sponges! Their first lesson on a healthy (or unhealthy) diet will come from you. So load up your plate with the green stuff and be an example!
2. Give them variety.
Sometimes we get in a rut and offer our children the same foods day in and day out. If you find that is you, be sure to add new and exciting veggies to your shopping list. Remember that your child may have a different palate than you, so don’t be afraid to buy those vegetables that you don’t care for—your child may love them! My toddler was the only one in the house who liked raw carrots. Look below at the vegetable chart for ideas from Cooksmarts.
3. Respect their taste buds.
I get it. You’re frustrated and you have your child’s best interest in mind, but please don’t force (or threaten) them to eat their veggies. Just like there are some vegetables that you like and some you can do without; your child also has likes and dislikes. Take into consideration that it may not be stubbornness, but your child may actually prefer the taste or texture of another veggie.
4. Retrain their palate.
Has a weekend at grandma’s got your child refusing to eat anything void of sugar? No problem. You can retrain your child’s palate by either not offering any foods containing sugar (including fruits) or offering a very tiny amount until they are back on track. Vegetables are less tasty after eating something very sweet. So be sure that your little one doesn’t have any fruit, candy, or juice right before lunch or dinner time.
5. Offer them as snacks.
It may seem weird to some of you, but calling a vegetable a snack may encourage your child to eat more of it. Instead of fruit or crackers for snack time, offer your little one some baby carrots and cucumbers (or whatever they like!). When this is practiced on the regular basis, it may not only get your child to eat more vegetables, but also teach them that a snack doesn’t always have to be sweet or come in a package.
6. Eat together.
Many families these days eat their meals on the sofa or in front of a screen. But your toddler will benefit greatly from seeing the entire family (especially their older siblings) partake in, and enjoy, eating their vegetables—which, in turn, will encourage him/her to follow the example.
7. Explain the “why.”
Some kids just want to know why they should eat something green instead of snacking on cookies all day. Take the time to explain to your child about the good foods that will help them grow to be healthier, stronger, and smarter. Explain to them about the bad foods that should be avoided or eaten in moderation. The downside to this is that they may become the food police when you are hanging out with Netflix and a bowl of ice-cream!
8. Be patient.
Yes, it’s easier said than done, but making eating a stressful time for your toddler is not good for either parties involved. Relax! Chances are it’s just a phase. And remember, if you are truly concerned about your child’s change in eating habits, schedule a visit with your pediatrician to rule out any serious conditions.
As a disclaimer, your pediatrician’s advice is the best advice. I am not an expert, but I do have two boys who now love eating their favorite veggies! Let us know in the comments below your tips and tricks to surviving the “veggie protesting” phase.