If I had to name the most common feeding concern that I hear from parents, it’s that their child does not eat vegetables. In fact, when I interview parents about their child’s feeding habits and mention the word vegetable, it is usually met with a chuckle: “If my child ate vegetables, I wouldn’t be sitting here, talking to you!” And I get that. When you can’t even remember the last time your child willingly took a bite of a vegetable, the idea can seem preposterous.
Here are some tips that may help you to get some plants on that plate:
-Start by creating a routine to try new things, with EASY new foods first (read: not vegetables). Keep your expectations reasonable; 2-3 small bites is typically a good starting point. These easier foods will allow your child to successfully learn the new routine, and will help to build confidence for trying new things.
-Have an immediate reward available once your child finishes the new food bites: Something like a small piece of candy or 5-10 minutes of a favorite show/game.
-Test the waters. Ask your child if they had to pick one veggie to try, which would it be? Chances are, their response will be difficult to understand, as they will be running away from you screaming...but it’s worth a shot ;-) Kids often observe the foods that their friends and family are eating, and believe it or not, they sometimes start to develop an interest in certain items.
-Don’t add the veggies to a mixture. If your child is already happily eating pasta with carrot/tomato/kale sauce, awesome! Otherwise, I find that the vegetable in its pure form is more approachable.
-Cooked or raw? Some kids tend to prefer cold, raw veggies, with maybe a sprinkling of salt. Other kids have a preference for cooked vegetables (butter doesn’t usually hurt!). If you have any inclination that one preparation will be more successful than the other, go with that.
-With cooked veggies, start with something sweet. Carrots, corn, or peas are good choices.
-Skip mashed potatoes as a first vegetable. The texture is often difficult for picky eaters.
-For raw veggies, cucumber, carrot, or bell pepper are often popular.
-With any veggie (or any food, for that matter!), make sure to taste it before handing it over. If it doesn’t taste good to you, it probably won’t to them, either!
-Stay the course. Stick with 1-2 vegetables that you present several times over a period of a couple of weeks. With repetition, you will be able to see if preferences are developing. Stick with the ones that look promising, and swap out the duds for a new and exciting veggie!
Until next time,