I’ve always tried to eat pretty healthy, but as we settle into winter with a pandemic around us, eating well is quite literally one of the very best things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and also boost our immune systems so that we’re better able to fight off any sickness.
But, I also know that eating healthier isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Especially if you live with and cook for picky eaters! Thankfully, Rob will eat just about anything I cook him—his mom raised them cooking meals with lots of vegetables, and I’m so grateful for that. I have plenty of friends who struggle to get their husbands to eat well, so I know it can be tricky.
I also know how hard it can be to get a kid to try and eat something unfamiliar or that they’ve deemed “icky”. But, over the past 9 months, I’ve been able to get Owen to try more new foods than I had before I was 10 years old, and he loves them! Most of these tips below apply to toddlers, but who knows, maybe you can test them out on your significant other too, ha!
What I’ve found is that the more vegetables we eat and taste, the more likely he is to like them. Your taste buds literally change when you start cutting out processed junk and feeding yourself nutritious, whole foods.
I have a few tricks that have worked well for us, and hopefully they help your toddler to eat their veggies too!
How To Get A Picky Eater To Eat Veggies
Serve Veggies First
I found this especially helpful when Owen was little. I’d serve him carrots and broccoli, or sweet potato—whatever vegetable I was making—first. Feeding these first when he’s really hungry, helped get him to try more of those. Then I’d finish with any grains and protein which I know he loves.
Sneak Veggies Into Foods They Love
When making some of their favorites, sneak in puréed or finely chopped veggies into them. One of the easiest ways to do this is pasta sauce—add spinach or carrots and blend it up. They’ll never know!
Smoothies are another way to sneak in veggies. Most kids I know have no issue eating fruits, mine included, so if I make a pineapple and mango smoothie (his favorite), I add spinach or kale and cauliflower to it and he never knows! This is also a great hack for adults that need more veggies.
Don’t Bribe With Treats
Okay, admittedly, we do bribe Owen to eat his dinner sometimes, but I don’t think it’s a good habit to get into. Bribing kids to eat vegetables with a treat for dessert kind of defeats the purpose. Just let them explore them on their own and try serving them different ways or with different flavors until you find one that sticks.
Take Them Shopping Shop With Them
A little harder at the moment with CoVid, but going to a Farmer’s Market or going to the store with them and letting them pick out a few new fruits and veggies to try will make them more excited about it! Who knows, you may end up trying something new too!
Let Them Help
We got Owen this kid-friendly knife set, so I’ll let him help me chop veggies in the kitchen. This was such a great idea I borrowed from another mom. It makes him feel more apart of the process and so many times I find him sneaking pieces of whatever he’s chopped!
While we eat, we talk about how he helped chopped up the things on his plate and for whatever reason, it makes him far more willing to try them! I’ve even gotten some, “mmmm, mommy it’s goooooood!” remarks when he’s helped out.
Serve Often & Repeatedly
Apparently it can take several attempts before a toddler tries and likes something. Especially if it’s something new and unfamiliar. Don’t decide after one attempt that your kid hates something. Serve it again and possibly try it a different way until they become used to seeing it.
This is probably the biggest helper in getting Owen to eat new things. Since the pandemic hit and Rob works at home, we all eat together now. Before, he’d get home too late and I found myself in a rut fixing Owen the same things over and over again.
Eating together means he sees mom and dad eating and enjoying the same foods and most of the time means he is more willing to try them and enjoy them himself! I’ve been shocked at how easily he’ll try new things since we started this.
Serve One Meal
Instead of offering a different meal for your kids, just cook one meal for everyone. Not only will this make your life easier, but it’s the easiest way to get them to try new things.
If they won’t eat, I personally say tough luck. If they know that refusing a meal means they get what they want, they’re going to keep doing that. Another tip to make sure they eat something is to always serve at least one familiar food!
The one caveat here is that I’ll sometimes make Owen’s version of it pieced out. Like instead of all mixed together, he likes to see all the elements, or if I know it’s going to be really spicy, I’ll set aside his before adding the spice.
Even if you think they aren’t going to like something, serve them a small amount of it so they can try. I’m always shocked by what Owen will try when it’s available—Brussels sprouts anyone?!
Soups are such an easy way to sneak in veggies! Especially if you do a puréed veggie soup. Take tomato or tortilla soup—you can easily get in onions, garlic, celery, carrot and tomato into a soup—just add some of their favorites like pulled chicken and avocado to the top!
RELATED: Toddler-Friendly Meal Ideas
Avoid Too Many Snacks
I swear, toddlers live for snack time, but instead of loading him up on snacks, I really try to limit those so that he’s hungry at meal time and will actually eat.
For snacks, I always try to serve fruits and vegetables. Of course, we also do crackers here and there, but making a fruit or veggie a normal snack means he’s more likely to eat them at dinner too.
Kid-Friendly Vegetables for Toddlers
Not all kids love broccoli, but Owen sure does! I always serve it steamed with lemon squeezed on it. He loves the tartness from the lemon and always devours it. Butter is another easy option, especially if you’re trying to put weight on your little one.
Carrots are naturally sweet, which means toddlers usually love them! We will serve them boiled with cinnamon or lemon on them, or raw. Carrot chips which you can buy at the store are a lunchbox essential, especially if there’s hummus or guacamole to dip them in. This makes for a great snack too.
Sweet potatoes are also naturally sweet. Try them mashed with a bit of cinnamon, or roasted with savory or sweet spices. Owen loves them roasted with cinnamon. This is such an easy side dish and one I can guarantee Owen will eat.
Zucchini & Squash
These are relatively plain, so it might be the easiest way to get your kid to try them. Add spices or lemon juice to make them more appetizing.
I put this one on here because it’s such an easy one to sneak into foods. You can blend it up with pancake batter for fun green pancakes, mix into smoothies, sauces, soups, etc!
Tomatoes are so good for you and so yummy! Pasta sauce, soups, and even chopped and raw! Owen loves pico de gallo and has no idea he’s just scooping up spoonfuls of tomato and onion, ha!
We’re still working on this one, but if your kiddo loves mac n’ cheese, blend some of this into the sauce and keep adding more and more until it’s just butternut squash sauce, which looks like cheese! Butternut squash and carrot soup is another easy and yummy way to get more veggies in.
Sugar Snap Peas
Kids love the crunch of stuff, at least I’ve found that to be true, so sugar snap peas dipped in hummus, guacamole, or even a little bit of ranch dressing is another easy snack.
Owen loves chickpeas in curry sauce and hummus, a great plant protein snack and it has tons of fiber, which is essential for building healthy guts!
Another fiber rich food that most kids love! It took Owen a while, but now he LOVES avocado. Cubed on it’s own, mashed into guacamole or on top of soup!
Tell me—do your toddlers eat vegetables willingly, or are they picky eaters?! What are their favorites?