Getting the little ones to eat their recommended servings of fruits and veggies can be a challenge, especially when they are naturally pulled towards more calorically dense foods like carbs. But I’ve found a few simple tricks that help and that don’t require Herculean efforts on your part—because I definitely don’t think it helps anyone to have to work to sneak veggies into foods where they don’t really belong, or to have to spend all day in the kitchen. Here’s what we do in our house when it seems like we’re not getting enough produce in our diets.
Serve a veggie alone.
While balanced meals and snacks are key to balanced energy, it can be really helpful to take a food and serve it all by itself to eliminate the competition. Often, we do this before dinner and have an appetizer of something like fresh snap peas, sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, or even frozen veggies. This almost always means that L will eat whatever is on offer, in part I think, because it’s sort of fun to have an appetizer. And, without other foods to distract your little eater, they might be able to enjoy the choice that’s actually in front of them.
Try something new.
If you feel like you can’t get your toddler to eat their broccoli no matter what you try, change things up! Reach for a veggie from the same family, like cauliflower or Romanesco, and see if that helps. Kids can get bored with food just like adults and sometimes a simple change in what they’re seeing can help. Of course, new foods can be scary, so try to compare the flavor or texture of the food to something you know they like if possible. Try: “This is Romanesco. It kind of tastes like broccoli, but I think you’ll like it even more since it looks like spiky trees!” L also likes it when we talk about veggies being cousins to each other (since she loves her cousin).
Cut foods differently.
If you always slice carrots into rounds, try matchsticks or ovals cut on the diagonal. If you’re always slicing cucumbers into sticks, slice them in rounds or cubes. Try cutting butternut squash or sweet potatoes into fun shapes before roasting. Basically, switch things up and see what your kiddos think!
Share the food.
This works best for us when we share produce as a snack because L inevitably seems to want what I’m going to eat, especially if there’s only one thing that we’re sharing. It’s worth a shot to see if it works with your kiddo! (Peer pressure can also help…we’re always talking about her friends who love bell peppers whenever we have them and I swear, that’s the real reason that L started eating them recently.)
Include lots of flavor.
Don’t be scared of making veggies really flavorful. So cook up green beans in olive oil, salt, and grated garlic. Or toss carrots with a curry or peanut sauce. Or, of course, ketchup is always a good dipping option—especially for foods like Carrot Fries. In my book, if these flavorings and dips help your kiddo to love a veggie, then more power to them! (Not to mention that ketchup is a pretty concentrated source of the antioxidants in tomatoes:)