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7 ways to get toddlers to eat more green vegetables

May 23, 2011

How about eating some veggies?


I’M PRETTY SURE THAT getting kids to eat more veggies has been a struggle since the advent of dinner itself.  So when Marie submitted her questionI’d love to get my son Lex (2 years, 2 months) to eat more green foods — broccoli, zucchini, peas, maybe even attempt a salad someday? I’d love any and all help in that department!–I thought about what works here (sometimes) and wondered if it could help there. Here goes.

  1. Keep your expectations low. Settle for a bite or two until he develops more of a taste for these things. As you know with kids this age, everything comes and goes and that includes different foods.
  2. Try the oldest trick in the parental book: bribery. We give Phoebe a bite of something she prefers, say, banana, after each bite of zucchini (or chicken, or carrots, or really anything other than pizza and pasta…)
  3. Let him help you prep the veggies in the kitchen. His curiosity may come in handy. I usually give Phoebe a bowl and mixing spoon of her own but regardless of her setup, she eats more veggies standing on top of her stool at the kitchen counter than she ever does at the table.
  4. Eat your veggies too. Kids love to emulate their parents so eat your greens too, and don’t hesitate to tell him how much you’re enjoying everything. Sometimes we make a little game out of it too by taking a bite together. Phoebe gets a kick out of doing the same thing at the same time as Mom.
  5. Be cool. Nothing is a bigger deterrent to something already unappealing than someone shrieking about “just one bite!” I usually tell Phoebe that she doesn’t have to eat the asparagus. That’s fine with me. But if she wants the banana (see number two), it’s going to take two bites. Up to her. And follow through. No greens, no treat.
  6. Grind them up and add them everywhere. This is a trick I learned back in our baby food days. I actually keep a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (organic if you can find it) on hand and I throw a cup or two into anything with big flavor of its own, like spaghetti sauce. For a more discrete addition, grind it up and add as much as you can get away with. This works for stuff like macaroni and cheese. In fact, The Sneaky Chef has tons of these tricks to add nutrition. We’re experimenting now and so far it’s working well. (Brainy Brownies are next.)
  7. For older kids, try a sticker system. Every time he eats a bite of veggies, he gets a sticker. Once he reaches a pre-designated number like ten, he gets a small reward. A toy, a trip to the park, etc. Just keep the magnitude of these rewards doable on an ongoing basis.

This is what we’ve discovered so far. What else works?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2011 2:46 pm

    Putting them in soup–or on homemade pizza (even blended into pesto)–is how I have gotten my toddler to love veggies. He eats soup almost every day for lunch and it’s always what we order in restaurants. Also, serve vegetables often–toddlers like to eat things they recognize. Mine will eat the familiar broccoli before he’ll even think about tasting a new-looking chicken nugget. He’ll often reject the new stuff altogether at this age.

    • charityc permalink*
      May 24, 2011 5:13 pm

      Thanks Regan. Love the idea of blending veggies into pesto! That’s on my list to try next…

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