When mealtime rolls around, your dining table turns into a battle zone. Peas are flung, broccoli is trampled, and tears are shed. At your wit’s end, it seems as if the efforts to entice your child to eat vegetables are in vain.
Despite the dinner time quibbles, vegetables are vital to a toddler’s diet. It may be tempting to let your child eat what they wish rather than pick a fight, but the nutrients in vegetables are essential for a child’s overall health and development.
Tessa Wellmon, registered dietitian of the Center for Healthy Living at UPMC Hamot, recommends children between the ages of 2 and 7 eat one cup of fruit and one to two cups of vegetables per day, depending on their age. Wellmon suggests starting with green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, but stresses “eating the rainbow,” or a variety, is essential, as all vegetables are wholesome.
Unfortunately, green, leafy vegetables are just what your finicky eater avoids like the plague. In order to escape even more frustration, these are a few helpful tips to figure out how to get your child to eat more vegetables.
1. The One-Bite Rule
Encourage your child to take at least one bite of a new vegetable. Trying a new vegetable once a week is a good habit to develop and exposes your child to a variety of new veggies on a regular basis. Be cautious that you do not become overly frustrated or pushy, as this creates a negative experience and will increase the chance of your child not trying the new vegetable on their plate.
2. Take a Dip
Healthy versions of certain dips, like as hummus or guacamole, are helpful ways to help disguise the taste of certain vegetables. If your child is not struggling with being overweight, place some hummus on their plate as a tasty and fun addition to vegetables such as carrots and peppers.
3. Get Involved
Make your kids part of the meal-time process. From picking a vegetable of their choice at the grocery store to washing or mixing the veggies at home, children are more likely to try a bite of their own creation.
4. Offer a Variety
During lunch or dinner have a variety of nutritious vegetables laid out on the table. When presented with options a child is more likely to choose a vegetable for their plate they want to eat rather than given one choice they are “forced” to eat.
5. Get Sneaky
If all else fails and your child still refuses to eat raw or cooked vegetables in their original form, find recipes that allow you to sneak them into their diet.
Many baked goods now have alternative recipes that include zucchini, cauliflower, and even avocado that will allow your child to receive the nutrients from the vegetables all the while being completely unaware of their presence. You can also hide vegetables in blended fruit smoothies, quesadillas, or even popsicles.
6. Be a Role Model
Turn the spotlight around and examine your own eating habits. Children not only observe how you act but also what food you eat. If you regularly consume junk food and avoid the vegetables, they are less likely to want to pick up a carrot or eat some broccoli as well.
For more health and nutrition tips visit the Nutrition Services at UPMC.