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At one of my son’s well visits to the pediatrician, his doctor and I started talking about getting kids to eat more vegetables. He told me that he doesn’t like parents to “hide” vegetables in smoothies, purees, or other foods. While the kids are getting the nutrition, they still haven’t learned to eat vegetables. They don’t experience the taste and texture, and it’s not setting them up for eating them when they’re older. He told me to keep putting vegetables in front of Caleb and not to hide them.
Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned with Olivia and Caleb. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. Some things work with one kid but not with the other. Remember that you’re looking for a long-term solution; not a short-term fix. My mom has told me many times that if I think it’s hard now, it’ll be even harder to change when the kids are older.
1. Cut the veggies into different shapes/ sizes
One day for lunch, I placed some baby carrots on my then 2.5-year-old son’s plate. Surprisingly, he picked one up to eat it. But he struggled to bite it because he was using his front teeth. It dawned on me that I should cut them into smaller pieces so it was easier for him to eat them. And guess what? He finished them all!
If you have little cookie cutters, you can also cut vegetables like cucumbers into fun shapes!
2. Put the veggies out on a snack board
My friend, Jane, is the consummate host, even when it’s just a play date at her house. One summer, my kids took swim lessons at her pool with her two kids. She would always bring out a little snack board with things like fruit, veggies, cheese, and crackers. It was basically a charcuterie board for kids! The kids could grab what they wanted, when they wanted it. I watched her then two-year-old son walk up and grab a carrot and start munching away. I was so impressed! (Caleb was NOT eating carrots back then.)
Here is my recommendation: Don’t put crackers, bread, or fruit on the tray if you want them to eat the veggies. After they eat the veggies, you can put out other snack items, too.
3. Put the veggies into/onto fancy dishes
My kids get really excited when they get to use the “adult” ceramic plates. Because they feel fancy, they tend to be more willing to eat the veggies on their plate.
4. Let the kids help peel/cut the vegetables
My kids love to help in the kitchen, and often my first reaction when they ask is “No, we don’t have time.” But lately I’ve been trying to make time, and I let them do whatever is safe for their little hands.
I’ve found that when they help peel and cut veggies, they eat more than they would if I just did it myself and gave it to them. They’ll also snack on them while we’re prepping the food, and I’m all for it! I don’t care when they eat them, as long as they eat them!
5. Change your scenery
Do you mindlessly eat or drink when you’re focused on something else? My kids are the same way! I’ll pack a lunch and we’ll have a picnic at the park, and because they’re watching what’s going on around them, they’ll usually eat whatever I give them.
6. Give them veggies as a snack before meals
Olivia will often ask for a snack around 4 p.m. I usually tell her that we’re going to eat dinner soon but if she’s really hungry, she can have some vegetables. And if she’s actually hungry, she’ll eat the veggies. If not, she’ll wait until dinner.
7. Give them veggies as a first course
This one goes with Number 6. Break up your dinner into courses. Give the vegetable first, then the main dish, then fruit, then dessert, etc. Give them the food they’re least likely to eat when they are the most hungry.
What are some tips and tricks you use to get your kids to eat more vegetables?