As the mother of an almost three-year-old daughter, Stephanie knows it all too well. That scene at the table, after you did your stinky best to conjure up a meal on the table, and then a toddler resolutely refuses to eat her vegetables. But Stephanie is dedicated and didn’t stick around. Today she shares her tips to make those vegetables attractive to children again.
First of all, start acting normal about vegetables. Many parents – including my husband – create some kind of protective mechanism. From the moment they take the vegetables off the stove, they already express their concerns.
Will my child like this? What drama is going to happen now? Those worries are coming out of your subconscious. And children are extremely sensitive to these. These little mini-people immediately sense the difference in your behavior and start to react suspiciously. Try to be aware of this yourself and minimize it.
Eat the same as them
Now that we’re looking at ourselves. Eating vegetables is important. It’s common knowledge that toddlers aren’t the biggest fan here, but what about the parents? Do you like to eat vegetables or not at all? “Do what I do”, or model behaviour works much better with children than verbally oblige them.
Make the meal something cozy. Try to eat vegetables for yourself. Instead of chips as an aperitif, put cold vegetables on the table. Want to bet that your child will soon follow your example?
It’s not a big deal
Don’t make vegetables into anything heavy. Your child may not immediately be a fan of bitter vegetables, that’s normal. We’ve sort of developed some kind of aversion mechanism. This primal instinct causes us to have an aversion to spoiled food. But be patient.
The theory says we have to taste something at least ten times before we like it or not. So don’t make a drama out of it if your child doesn’t eat his portion. The fact that he puts his vegetables in his mouth is enough to get used to the taste. Let children taste repeatedly and be patient.
Important side note: By giving a reward when children eat vegetables, you are implicitly saying that eating vegetables is a terrible thing. So don’t do this.
Let them choose
When children can talk, especially around the age of two, our children develop a will of their own. Make use of this! Let them choose which vegetables to eat.
However be careful with proposing choices. Always give two options from which the child can choose, so that in the end you get what you want. “Would you rather have broccoli or leek?” Win – win. And as children may have an aversion to many vegetables, there will surely be those they like.
Annabel for example likes cucumber, small tomatoes or carrot. In her lunch box I always provide a vegetable she likes to eat. That way I’m sure she’ll have some vegetables that day.
Be creative with vegetables
But sometimes it takes more effort to make children eat vegetables. For these solutions, we need to be a little more creative.
How about carrot fries? If you put them on the menu and express them in this way, the child will remember that they are fries rather than vegetables. Annabel, for example, also thinks that princess beans are special for princesses. So she eats them without any problem.
Or bring out your smuggling skills. Make a pasta sauce full of vegetables or a mixed soup. That way, your kids won’t see the vegetables, which makes it a little easier for them to enter.
In the worst case, we have to bring Picasso out on our own and do it more creatively. Food is fun, so turn the meal into a painting. Here I show you some nice ones, to which you can say yes: