As alluded to in my previous post (see Toddler Regression), here are some counter tactics I’ve developed and am still using since my 29 month old toddler decided to have a strike on veggies. Hope you find some of these tips and strategies helpful:
- Stay cool
- Remember if it’s 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, go ahead and offer more fruit for now, that’s alright. Hopefully the child will eventually turn around to eat more vegetables on his own again
- Keep offering vegetables as finger foods with foods and mixed into foods
- Keep modeling
- Find ways to mix vegetables into entrees (e.g., with chili or other meat dishes, as part of lasagna, in tacos or quesadillas)
- Blend them (e.g., vegetables blended into tomato pasta sauce, smoothies, into soups or into bean, fish or meat patties)
- Mash them or mince it in: if you’re able to mince or mash them in to mix them in enough as part of the main entrée (a small pair of scissors works really well here) then your toddler will not be able to pick them out easily, and may just resign to eating it. This is the main tactic I’m using right now, and it seems to work so far. It may also help to cook vegetables until they are softer or tenderer in texture, so that it is easier to incorporate.
- Offer a variety of dips: Depending on the age of the toddler, you can offer thin strips of raw or cooked vegetables with a variety of dips like hummus, spinach dips and curries so that it becomes fun to eat and to try the different tastes!
- Get creative! I tried a couple of instantaneous mini recipes over these past few weeks with varying levels of success. For example, I tried creating a kale chickpea patty (still needs work on that recipe), tuna cheese tomato quesadillas (successful), and a chopped tomato basil olive oil mix (somewhat successful). You might discover new recipes that your whole family can enjoy!
- Dress ‘em up: Seen those pictures of foods on toddler plates arranged attractively into smiling faces, sailboats or flowers? This method gives varying levels of success with my toddler, but it’s still worth a try! When I tried giving the plate above, I was heartened to see that at least she was willing to put a pea in her mouth and test out the texture/taste again – even if she spit it out at the end! It seems that she would readily eat the foods she does like and is used to, like black beans, but still leaves most of the other vegetables/finger foods alone on the plate. However, she does enjoy her meal more when I make efforts with plate presentation, so who knows, the new foods and vegetables might still be eaten at a future point!
- Offer ‘em in a different form: e.g., corn on the cob verses corn kernels. When I tried this, our toddler was willing to try corn on the cob and seemed to like it when she had been off corn kernels for a few weeks. Now, two weeks later, she wants me to cut the kernels off the cob and then will eat them that way. Of course it also depends on the age of the toddler what form you offer the food in!
Think of these ideas collectively as a two pronged strategy approach; you are not only trying to incorporate more vegetables stealthily into your toddler’s food, but you are also continuing to offer them regularly on her plates (and your plates). So don’t hide all the veggies in her food! Always keep some vegetables visible so that they become a familiar sight at meals, and are always there within reach if she wants to try them again.
Unfortunately, when trying to work more vegetables into the diet, it can at times feel like you’re having to go back to the basics of trying to mash in, mix in, and blend in vegetables to keep a good quantity in your toddler’s diet regularly. But take heart: your toddler will likely outgrow some of these veggie ‘dislike’ fads at a later point in childhood. Now two months after she had boycotted peas, carrots and corn, our toddler is willing to occasionally eat corn and peas again. Just today at lunch she had a bowl of mixed fried rice with scrambled eggs, tomatoes and peas and she ate all the peas within the entrée! And once again, don’t forget the power of modeling! Our toddler used to refuse to eat seaweed (think sushi) but now after watching us a few times and having it put on her plate, she was finally willing to try it the other day and then asked for more!
Feel free to chime in with other tips/strategies you’ve found successful!