Wondering what to do if your toddler won’t eat vegetables?
Well, it finally happened in our house.
My toddler not eating vegetables, that is.
My amazing little eater turned into a no vegetables kind of boy.
He certainly didn’t hate vegetables, but when other choices were on his plate – he simply chose everything else and left the veggies for the dog.
Unfortunately, this happened simultaneously with our son’s desire for more food before supper.
While there are many reasons a child may think he/she is hungry, sometimes they hit growth spurts and really are!
(If you’re not sure the reason behind your child’s hunger, check out Jamie’s article here about hungry toddlers)
So how do you satisfy that genuine hunger without ruining supper for young children?
Keep reading to find out the best way to turn your veggie power struggles into easy and enjoyable family meals.
If Your Toddler Is Not Eating Supper
Except instead of helping the problem we made it worse.
When it was supper time, my toddler had already curbed his hunger and only had room for one thing in his tummy. His very favorite food of all time – FRUIT.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
There’s a lot worse things than your baby loving fruit. But when he’s suddenly not eating his main course or anything EXCEPT fruit – it gets a little frustrating.
So here’s the trick that will change your life.
I guarantee, we’re not the first parents to do this. But I pretty much think it’s genius – and works like MAGIC.
The Veggie Appetizer Trick
Ready for it…
Here’s the big secret that you don’t have to read on for:
Offer vegetables as your pre-supper snack.
Treat those veggies like the delicious appetizer they deserve to be!
For our little man, who’s 13 months old, we offer cooked or steamed veggies as they are so easy and safe for him to munch on. If your kids are older, an array of cold veggies can be an easy treat to grab and go.
Here’s what we do:
Before prepping any supper, we make sure we have the vegetables ready.
Then, like clockwork, our little man will come toddling into the kitchen trying to open every cabinet door (that’s child locked thankfully) and look for a treat.
This is where the magic happens – offer a vegetable instead. (We always ask for the “please” sign before handing it over!).
This completely satisfies our toddler and he’ll continue to walk around the kitchen and snack on veggies until supper time.
While snacking on vegetables is definitely glorious enough, the trick gets even better!
Since implementing the veggie snacks, our little man is a way better eater overall.
When he sits down for supper he’s ready to eat his main course and more vegetables.
When he appears to be slowing down, we offer fruit.
So when it comes to snacks before meals, “carrots are always an option” is a super common phrase in our house. 😉
Hide Their Favorites
If you have a baby or toddler not eating because they can only focus on one food, or food group, this picky eating trick is just for you.
If your little one loves fruit as much as ours, it’s time to hide your fruit.
And I don’t just mean in a dish that your little one can’t see into.
Those sweet budding brains are so smart, that your baby will figure out which dish typically contains fruit and will reach or ask for it.
We usually hide our fruit on the island behind our baby’s high chair – otherwise strategically place your fruit behind something else on the table.
This may sound crazy, but trust me, it’ll make your life so much easier.
Introduce New Vegetables/New Foods in an Exciting Way
So your green beans aren’t exciting enough?
Don’t sweat it, mine usually aren’t either.
However, sometimes just adding a little novelty to your meal can make a big difference in your child being willing to try new and different foods.
Here’s a few ways to make your normal foods, more fun:
- Cut it in fun shapes or different styles (cut a sandwich into a star or cut your bell peppers into strips)
- Make a silly face (cut cherry tomatoes in half and use them for eyes, while making a smiling face out of their broccoli.
- Bake it differently (try air frying your sweet potatoes for an added crunch)
- Combine foods for silliness (ants on a log: put peanut butter on celery and add raisins!)
- Let them use a fun fork or toothpicks to pick up their food
Offer Opportunities to Try New Vegetables and Try to Avoid Food Pressure
When a child feels too much pressure to eat a certain food, especially one they don’t like, it’s not going to go well.
Try your best to lay off the pressure and simply offer vegetables.
Sure, try these tricks, but if it still isn’t happening, more pressure probably isn’t going to do the trick.
Just keep offering your child more chances to try the new veggie and see how they do.
Don’t be afraid to let your child simply play with their food a little bit. This is a great first step at them becoming more comfortable with a new vegetable or food.
If they still don’t eat it, keep exposing them to the new vegetable every time you make it.
You never know when the day will come that they feel confident and ready to try it.
Set A Good Example
A lot happens at the dinner table and it’s a great place to start setting an awesome example for your toddler.
One great way to help your child try different tastes and eat nutritious food, is by modeling.
Your toddler is probably watching you even more than you think, and leading by example just might help your child feel more comfortable trying new foods – “just like mom!”.
Try to choose a healthy snack before meals and have enough vegetables available for them to eat when they’re hungry.
Great easy choices are:
- Baby carrots/carrot sticks with hummus or cream cheese dip
- Cucumber slices with ranch or tzatziki dip
- Bell pepper strips with guacamole or salsa
- Steamed or roasted broccoli florets with melted cheese on top
- Cherry tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and pepper
- Snap peas or sugar snap peas with peanut butter or almond butter dip
- Zucchini or squash slices roasted with a little olive oil and seasoning
- Celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese and raisins on top (also known as “ants on a log”)
- Sweet potato or carrot fries baked in the oven with a sprinkle of cinnamon
- Cauliflower or broccoli tots made with grated veggies and baked in the oven.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Remember to always supervise your toddler while they are eating solid foods (and all foods) and cut the vegetables into age-appropriate sizes to prevent choking hazards.
Good Bye Picky Eater
I should also mention that our little man was a pretty good eater at daycare and when we visit family – due to all the distractions.
However, at home with just us was when we had a toddler not eating vegetables (and maybe we were a little bit of pushovers and he knew we’d cave).
Our house has changed greatly since implementing the veggie appetizers.
My husband and I exchange looks of amazement and glee at the variety of foods our toddler is eating on his own and actually enjoying!
This method also works for older children, and Sally is definitely speaking my language in her article about it here.
Use Baby Led Weaning to Guide a Healthy Diet
We follow baby led weaning and try to let our son make as many of his own food choices as he can (within reason).
For instance, we like him to have choices on his plate to choose what to eat, and especially choosing how much to eat.
If he has leftovers on his plate, we will certainly ask him if he’s all done, but will never make him finish all his food.
That’s one of the beauties of baby led weaning – letting a child or baby decide when he/she is done helps him/her learn how to control their eating habits, which is a great skill for people of all ages.
While baby led weaning guides will tell you your baby’s body knows what he needs, it’s tough to sit by and not encourage certain food groups.
I’ll be honest, we never count our toddler’s servings of each food group each day. But we do try to follow the rule of at least one item from each food group each day.
That makes things much less stressful and much easier to keep track of his nutrition.
As parents, we’re aiming to raise a healthy well-balanced eater (aren’t we all?!), but we’re not driving ourselves crazy either.
Until the next food revolution anyway 😉
Why does my toddler suddenly hate vegetables?
There are several reasons why a toddler might suddenly start to dislike vegetables.
It could be due to a change in their taste preferences or a reaction to a negative experience with a certain vegetable.
Additionally, some toddlers may resist eating vegetables because they are going through a picky eating phase or because they are asserting their independence.
As a parent, it’s important to continue to offer a variety of vegetables and to be patient with your child as they learn to like new foods.
What happens when kids don’t eat veggies?
When kids don’t eat enough vegetables, they may miss out on important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other important nutrients that are necessary for growth and development.
This can lead to health problems such as constipation, nutrient deficiencies, and a weakened immune system.
Additionally, a diet lacking in vegetables may increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers later in life.
This is why it’s a good idea for us all to try to have a balanced diet with good vegetable intake, while minimizing junk food and sugary drinks.
How many vegetables should a 2 year old eat a day?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a 2 year old should eat 1 cup of vegetables per day.
It’s important to offer a variety of vegetables to ensure that your child is getting all the necessary nutrients.
The great thing about vegetables is that you can offer them in different forms, such as raw, steamed, roasted, or blended into a smoothie to keep things fresh and fun for your child.
What veggies are good for picky toddlers?
When it comes to picky eaters, it’s important to offer a variety of vegetables and to be patient as your child learns to like new foods.
Some of the best vegetables for toddlers that are known to be “picky” include:
- sweet potatoes
- bell peppers
- cherry tomatoes
These vegetables can be cut into fun shapes or served with dips such as hummus or ranch dressing.
As I mentioned above, be sure to watch out for any foods that can be a choking hazard and cut foods safely for your child’s age.
Additionally, you can try different ways of adding vegetables into your child’s favorite foods (I hate the term sneaking!), such as blending spinach into a fruit smoothie or adding shredded zucchini to pasta sauce.
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Best Tips For Getting Your Toddler to Eat Vegetables
Encouraging your toddler to eat vegetables can be challenging, but with patience and persistence, it doesn’t have to be nightmare.
By offering a variety of vegetables in different forms, such as raw, cooked, steamed, and blended, and by making meal times fun and engaging, you can help your child develop a taste for nutritious foods.
Additionally, it’s important to be a role model and to eat vegetables yourself, as children often mimic their parents’ eating habits.
Remember to be patient and to celebrate small successes, as it can take several exposures to a new food before a child is willing to try it.
With these tips and a little creativity, you can help your toddler develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.