We all know fruits and vegetables are good for our health. They are also good for our little ones too, but how to get children to eat their vegetables is sometimes another matter, especially when children reach toddlerhood and fussy eating kicks in. However, there are many ways to try and encourage your toddlers to gobble up their fruit and veggies and here are some of my top tips to getting them on their way:
Introducing a wide variety of vegetables and fruits during complementary feeding (weaning) can be a great way to get your little one accepting and eating a variety of fruit and veg from a young age.
Offer a variety
Remember that there are SO many fruit and vegetables out there and many options, such as fresh, frozen and tinned, which all count towards their 5 a day. Try exploring new, exotic fruits and vegetables that your little ones might not necessarily recognise as fruit and veggies such as dragon fruits, Sharon fruit and star fruits.
Get them familiar
The more familiar that your little ones become with seeing and tasting fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to accept them. Research shows us that familiarity leads to acceptance and a liking for foods, so don’t give up when foods are first rejected, keep offering over time.
Make them fun
Introduce weekly “taste tests” for the whole family, where everyone has to taste a new fruit or vegetable and rate it on its look, texture and taste. You could even do blindfolded tasting and get your little ones to guess which fruits and vegetables they’re trying.
Try a star chart
Star charts can be a great way of getting little ones to try and include fruits and vegetables in their daily diets. You could offer a reward at the end of the week if they’ve achieved their 5 a day such as a trip to the park or their favourite story.
This is one of the most important factors when it comes to trying to get your little one to eat their veggies. Children are often influenced by the food choices of those around them, including mum and dad, brothers and sisters and friends. So try and eat well yourself, and let your little ones see that fruit and vegetables are a regular part of your diet too.
Offer with accepted foods
You can try offering small amounts of new foods or fruits and veggies alongside foods that your kids already love. Initially they might ignore it, but over time, as they start to become more familiar they are more likely to start accepting those too.
Get them involved
Try to get them involved in food prep with fruits and vegetables – from shopping to chopping and serving – children are often more likely to eat foods if they had some involvement in it.
Offer fun snacks
These can include fruits and vegetables such as ants on a log (celery filled with cream cheese/hummus with a few raisins dotted on top). Or cucumber and tomatoes made to look like caterpillars, for example.
Offer fruit puddings as a dessert after dinner
This way you can boost your little one’s intake of nutrients whilst still making them feel like it’s a treat. Apple pies and yoghurt with fruits are a great option.
Try naming vegetables or whole dinners
“Cowboy casserole” or “Fireman fingers” which helps children to associate good foods with some of their favourite characters.
Give children a choice
“Do you want beans or peas with that?” – Again, if they have been involved in the choices, they are more likely to eat the dish!
Blend in veggies
You can also try blending foods into dishes such as lentils or beans into tomato sauce or courgette and pepper into soups. Just make sure that this isn’t done too regularly or for every dish. Familiarisation is key to their acceptance in the long term.
Keep a record
Many parents think that their little ones don’t eat many fruits and vegetables but end up surprised about the amount when they actually begin making a list. You may start off with a small list of veggies they will accept but keep trying and add any new ones as you go along.
Offer the accepted veggies too
Baked beans, avocado dips, red peppers, sweetcorn, frozen berries, banana, raisins, chopped grapes, carrots, sweet potato sticks are all options that young children tend to accept more readily. Trying to include these regularly can really help, as long as you continue to try and expand the variety at the same time.
Check those portions
Remember that children need much smaller portions than adults do to get towards their 5 a day. Their own palm size is roughly a portion of fruit and vegetables so ½ a banana on their cereal, a few carrot sticks with a small avocado dip, a spoonful or two of baked beans and a handful of berries with dessert is enough to tick off their 5 a day….
Please take a look for more information on child nutrition as well as toddler nutrition. For more information on how to get children to eat their vegetables as well as feeding little ones, please see my very comprehensive blog on dealing with a picky eater or do get in touch for a one to one consultation with Charlotte.