Do you feel that? The Mom guilt tugging away at your heartstrings when your kid turns his nose up at the healthy stuff. Arrrghh, knowing how to get toddlers to eat vegetables without nagging and resorting to bribery is like trying to find the golden chalice. The struggle is real!
Finding ways to get your kids to eat healthy new foods without browbeating them to eat veggies can be a mammoth task. It was a daily struggle for me and my two kids. My 4-year-old son is naturally a fussy eater; he does the usual trick of pretending to vomit every time I present him with a salad or any vegetables. If it’s green, he refuses to go near it.
This discovery came as a tremendous shock because I was one of those smuggety-smug parents who already had a six-year-old who would eat absolutely everything I gave to her. But this time, I needed to know how to get my toddler to eat vegetables and quickly! I thought about how I was going to be smart with this little fusspot by using the common old tricks of sneaking veggies into his food:
- Green smoothies at breakfast. A hand full of spinach, a banana, and a handful of berries blended with a handful of ice and some peanut butter, Almond Milk or coconut water, are always wolfed down in our house. The kids think they are a milkshake. Sometimes if my kids have been super busy with school and activities or are feeling low in energy after being poorly, I add a Superfood Shake scoop for an extra boost. This is a super simple way to get toddlers to eat veggies as you can disguise them as a milkshake.
- Blended or juiced vegetables in sauces can be anything from courgette, carrot, beetroot, celery, or anything else you have in the fridge. This is a sneaky way to provide veggies for kids as they are completely tasteless and disguised.
- Homemade soups and tomato sauces, made from fresh vegetables, lentils, and stock, then blended and sprinkled with parmesan cheese for a delicious, comforting dish. Tomato sauce is a favorite of my little one and he’s no idea what goodness it is packed with!
- Fresh juices made from a mixture of vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, celery, and fruit to give it a sweet taste, my kids love apples and oranges added to their juice. I prefer the tartness of grapefruit in mine. Juicing is also a great way to use up fruit and vegetables, and if you use a slow press juicer, you can keep the fresh juice in the fridge for longer, although it doesn’t last that long in our house!
Nothing new there then, parents have been hiding food in their toddler meals for years, but it didn’t solve my problem. I didn’t want my son to shy away from eating veggies. I wanted him to grow into an adult who consistently wants to choose to eat vegetables. All of this effort ensured that my son had enough veggies in his diet, but it didn’t make him “love” vegetables in the same way my daughter did. I wanted him to learn about food and where it came from rather than having to hide it in his dinner.
How to get children to eat vegetables
One day, I came across a book called French Children Don’t Throw food which gave me tremendous insight into why French kids eat the same food as their parents, including eating vegetables at every meal, without any fuss. The French did seem to have all the answers regarding healthy eating habits for kids. This book says that we shouldn’t be forcing our kids to eat veggies but should be leading by example and not making it a big deal.
A straightforward trick they use to get toddlers to eat vegetables is to serve a platter of vegetables as a starter. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s exactly what I thought! They believe that kids should eat vegetables like any other food without drawing any attention to it. So, for instance, no child has ever been scolded for not finishing their ice cream. However, I’ll wager a bet that many parents have lost their cool when their toddlers won’t eat vegetables and fruit!
So we all need to chill out when getting kids to eat vegetables, and here’s how to do it without the drama!
How to get toddlers to eat vegetables
Serve a platter full of raw vegetables sliced as a “starter” before every meal.
This idea made complete sense to me because:
- Before dinner, my kids are at their hungriest, most relaxed, and not particularly paying attention to what they’re eating, especially if the tv is on.
- This is when my kids are also most likely to wrestle each other to the floor for no reason whatsoever! All perfect conditions to sneak some veg into them without them noticing!
- Although I’m not a fan of kids eating in front of the TV, this is a great way to get them to focus on something other than the fact that they are eating veggies, especially if they are a particularly picky eaters!
If you need advice on chopping and preparing healthy foods, click here
On the first day, I decided to concentrate on coaxing my kids over to the healthy plate
Time needed: 5 minutes.
- Day 1: Choose foods you know your child will eat for the first platter.
Pick foods which you know they will love to put on the platter for the first day. If they will only eat bananas then only put bananas on the plate.
- Leave the plate on the table next to them and walk away!
Don’t mention it, don’t tell them it’s for them, let them discover it themselves. Do it when they are distracted with something they enjoy. Just dump it and run! Hopefully, they should wrestle each other for the food on the plate and then ask for more! If they don’t eat it take the plate away without saying anything, dont offer alternate snacks!
- Day 2: Add a new raw vegetable or fruit.
Try to make it something you know they’ll be likely to want to eat, I find most kids like halved cherry tomatoes and grapes.
- Day 3: Try a platter of just vegetables
Remember to make them easy to eat. If you’re trying them with carrot batons for the first time, give them a little pot of humous to dip them in. keep things simple at first.
- Try adding a new vegetable each day
Make sure they are easy to eat and chopped or sliced thinly.
- When they get used to the platter, mix fruit and veggies
Serve as a starter every day before each meal, this will ensure your kids eat their veggies and will prevent the battles over soggy broccoli at the dinner table. you will be more relaxed at the dinner table knowing that your kids have already eaten their veg so if they choose to leave the veg on their dinner plate it’s no big deal. if you don’t nag them or stress over them eating their veg at dinner you’ll probably find that they eat it on their own accord!
Best vegetables for kids
Try to choose easy-to-eat vegetable kids until they get used to eating from the platter. Below are some of the best vegetables for toddlers and kids to try while your child gets used to this new eating method. Beware any small foods that may represent a choking hazard to a toddler or baby. There is some excellent information on choking hazards for children up to 24 months old here if you are in any doubt.
- Cherry tomatoes chopped
- Sliced sweet peppers
- Bell peppers
- Apple slices
- Grapes chopped up
- Beef tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine
- Mango slices
- Celery batons
- Sugar snap peas
- Green beans
- Fresh peas
- Kiwi fruit
- Raw sliced mushrooms
- Beetroot pickled
To read more about healthy snacking for kids, read my post here
Benefits of eating veggies as a starter
- Dinner time becomes much more relaxed because you know your child has eaten all the good stuff before they sit down to eat dinner.
- Because there is no pressure to eat vegetables at the dinner table, dinner time is relaxed, it won’t matter if your toddler won’t eat vegetables off his plate because he has already eaten the healthy stuff!
- Your child will choose to eat lots of veggies for himself with no input from you at all, and the dinnertime battles will become a thing of the past!
- The kids will become less fussy about what they eat!
- They will not be psyched up and prepared for a dinner table battle. You catch them off guard!
- Everyone can relax at mealtimes.
- The kids stop focussing on what they don’t want to eat and start to enjoy their meal, so there is no conflict!
- They will fight each other over the last carrot on the platter!
- The vegetables they eat will be raw and full of vitamins and minerals, otherwise lost in the cooking process.
To read about meal planning for the week, click here
The first thing to say here is it’s probably no big deal if your toddler won’t eat carrots. We spend hours worrying about getting toddlers to eat vegetables when we don’t need to.
I would try taking them off the menu for a few weeks. Then, in a few weeks, around snack time, get a small bowl with some carrot batons and a bit of humous and eat it in front of your toddler. Commonly, we can’t eat anything without our toddlers wanting some! You’ll probably find that your nosey toddler will think they’re missing out on something and ask for some of yours. If not, don’t sweat. Just substitute carrots for some other vegetables until their taste buds develop more! Life is too short to worry about how to get your toddler to eat a carrot!
In my experience as a parent, we often find ourselves saying things like, “eat your carrots, and you’ll get your pudding” we put a significant emphasis on eating vegetables at dinner time that signals two things to a child:
・Veggies must be suffered before they receive a treat, and
・Vegetables are important to you
Therefore it gives them power over you, and they often refuse to eat them to get a reaction from you, its almost as if we are encouraging picky eating.
Kids sometimes have an aversion to some vegetables’ textures. My son hates the slimy feeling of lettuce with dressing. You’ll probably find that this stage will pass, so if your toddler won’t eat vegetables or your teen hates fruit, take the food they are struggling to eat off the menu for a while!
Knowing how to get toddlers to eat vegetables is something that most parents stress over at some stage. I try to pack as many vegetables into sandwiches and wraps, such as tomatoes and cucumber, and hide vegetables in sauces.
My kids also love homemade soup with buttered crusty bread, so I invested in a soup maker like this one, which I find excellent for speedy after-school dinners. The soup maker makes the soup in 21 minutes. If I’m in a hurry, I use the pre-cut packs of vegetables from the supermarket to save time on chopping. This method is an excellent trick if you are struggling with ideas on how to get toddlers to eat vegetables, and it is a teatime life-saver for me!
Check out these quick and easy recipes to get toddlers to eat vegetables without the fuss!
Sometimes children like to feel that they have a treat. A great way to get kids to eat more fruit is to blend some strawberries and raspberries into a sauce for topping porridge, yogurt, cereal, ice cream, or rice pudding. My kids also love it spread on toast.
You can use any fruit but preferably sweeter ones like berries.
My kids also love mashed banana on toast or in a sandwich with jam. They see that as a real treat for some reason!
Figuring out how to get toddlers to eat more vegetables and fruit can be challenging, and one of my favorite ways is to hide them in good old smoothies.
The secret is to add a few until your kids get used to the taste, then gradually add more each time you make one until eventually, you’ll find you can add almost anything you like, and they’ll wolf it down.
Don’t be tempted to present them with a super green smoothie from the off.
Try blending a banana ( or half a banana) into some milk and tell your child it’s a milkshake. Next time you make it, add a couple of strawberries or other fruits.
I also like to cut up slices of pink lady apples to eat with hummus, and it goes down a treat!
Another trick I used when I was struggling to get my 3-year-old to eat veg was to blend some raspberries and a few baby spinach pieces into some chocolate almond milk to disguise the flavor of the spinach. I gradually added more spinach when he got used to the taste. This recipe is one of the easiest no-cook recipes for toddlers who don’t eat vegetables.
There may be a few reasons your child may not want to eat vegetables. If it is a sensory issue, you could try to introduce different textures in the hope that you may find one they like. It may be a struggle to find any vegetable your child will enjoy, which is very common. Try to make sure your child sees you and other family members eating healthy fruit and veg and always have it available on the table. If you’re worried about your child’s restricted diet it might be wise to seek medical advice and get them medically reviewed by the doctor who may recommend a supplement for your child to take to ensure they are getting the correct amount of vitamins and minerals in their diet.
This soup maker is a great way to get more vegetables into your kids, and it also has a function to make smoothies, too, so that you can have two gadgets in one! I wouldn’t be without my soup maker. It’s used daily in our house and is the easiest way to get my toddler to eat veggies !
for some healthy and quick recipes to get your toddler to eat vegetables read my post here
If you’re still wondering how to get toddlers to eat vegetables or have any tips of your own, drop us a line in the comments!