This is a topic that comes up often & many parents quiz me on, so I’ve written this blog with lau_matthews_nutrition to help you try out some practical tips to help your little ones eat & enjoy their veggies.
Here are our Top Tips to Get Toddlers Eat More Vegetables :
Role modelling & sitting together at family mealtimes
The impact & role we have as parents to our children’s dietary eating habits & behaviour is hugely influential. From the beginning of the weaning journey it’s important to sit & eat the same food (even if it’s just a small portion!) with your little one. You’re their best role model during this huge learning curve.
It’s important to remove coercive feeding practices & move beyond this past notion of ‘clear your plate’. Once you begin to follow the ‘division of responsibility’ principle where you decide what to offer your child & they decide whether to eat it & how much, this in turn decreases the pressure to eat from your child.
Games & educational resources
Books, flash cards, board games, soft toys
Food related books & games including board games & flash cards are a great way to increase exposure to new & different vegetables away from the dining table, where any pressure to eat is naturally removed.
Research shows that food related picture books may have positive, long-term impacts on children’s attitudes to new foods.
Offer a variety of fruits & vegetables from a young age
to increase their repertoire, exposure and eventual acceptance.
Research suggests that offering a variety & frequent exposure to vegetables may increase consumption among children. It’s important for parents to note that it can take multiple attempts in offering veggies (at least 8-10 repeated exposures) before acceptance. So don’t give up too soon or feel disheartened if they don’t accept new foods immediately. Remember as parents/caregivers we are in this for the long game! There is no overnight quick fix solution here. Long term, consistent behaviour is needed with feeding little ones.
For those of you who’ve seen my cooking sessions with my son Raffy during lockdown you’ll see I had trouble preventing him from eating the ingredients! But seriously cooking with children has many benefits as it builds their confidence in the kitchen & gives them the opportunity to get familiar with foods & vegetables away from the dinner table where they may be more inclined to try new foods.
Family style dining
This can be a useful feeding approach where separate components of food are served at the table for children to utilise child friendly utensils (e.g. tongs, large spoons), so they can have some independence to plate up their own vegetables & help themselves, again by removing the pressure to eat & letting them lead the way & take control over what & how much they eat.
Be mindful & sensitive to portion size, place a small amount of new vegetables on their plate, so as not to overwhelm them. It’s also worth remembering that toddlers only need small portions to hit their 5 a day, e.g. a few cucumber batons or 2-3 medium broccoli florets count as a portion.
Offer more familiar vegetables alongside new vegetables
Avoid only offering vegetables that you know they will eat. These are still important, but it’s vital to continue to increase their familiarity with new vegetables too over time. Even if they don’t immediately try a new vegetable that you’ve offered, the exposure to it & increasing their familiarity to it, e.g. in seeing it’s colour, shape, smell will help to support them trying it in time. They may discover some new favourites! A good tactic is to offer more familiar veggies alongside newer unfamiliar ones.
Where time permits (!) prepare veggies in interesting ways
e.g. using a crinkle cutter or novelty shaped biscuit cutters, etc
Using different cutter shapes or a crinkle cutter can be a useful method to raise children’s interest in veggies, especially hard veg such as cucumber, pepper & carrots. It’s helpful for them to see the vegetables in their original form too so they have the chance to recognise them in their natural state, but you could mix it up sometimes, perhaps for their lunchbox or a picnic.
I recently gave a talk with the British Nutrition Foundation all about this topic and going into a bit more detail about my top tips. You can watch the webinar for free here:
I hope these ideas are useful. Let me know if you have any other techniques to get your children loving their veggies in the comments below, I’d love to know! X