Five Ways to Get Your Toddler to Eat More Vegetables by Joon Ma
When my son first started eating solid foods, he was a green-eating machine. Whether from our blender or from jars, he devoured pureed spinach, kale, chard, carrots, green beans and peas by the bowlful. When he was one, he started turning orange! We rushed to the pediatrician and were relieved (and maybe a little smug) when she told us it was from all the beta-carotene in the dark leafy greens and carrots. But then, he hit two and gradually turned against his old green friends. We mourned as we lost each vegetable one by one. First kale, then carrots, and even spinach were met with a grumpy face and tightly shut mouth. Finally, we were left with just broccoli (tops only) and green beans. We tried everything to turn the tide—scolding, cajoling, and even playing games—all to no avail. Then, we became creative. Here are 5 tips that worked for us, and will hopefully work for you too!
1) Mashed potatoes with veggies: Just steam the vegetables (or even easier, add them to the boiling water when the potatoes are close to done) and mash them with the potatoes, along with butter, milk and salt to taste. The trick for my toddler was making sure the vegetables were mashed enough to lose any noticeable texture. As long as we really pureed the vegetables, we found we could add quite a bit into the mashed potatoes. We used broccoli, spinach, carrots, and even bok choy!
2) Veggie spice muffins: We found this super tasty, low sugar recipe in Kim Laidlaw’s Baby and Toddler On the Go cookbook, and doubled the amount of shredded carrot or zucchini. Our son loved both the carrot and zucchini versions of these muffins. Best of all, you can make the master muffin mix in a large quantity and keep it on hand. With the mix pre-made, whipping up a batch of muffins is a cinch.
3) Veggie smoothies: This one was actually suggested by my son, inspired by a Daniel Tiger story. Plain yogurt and frozen bananas are the trick. Then, just blend in some vegetables. We found a handful of baby spinach and a quarter of an avocado are tasty additions. You could also try different combinations, such as adding sweet potatoes or carrot and mango instead of the spinach and avocado. The yogurt and fruit make these already sweet, but adding a little honey or cinnamon can turn them into a real treat. Experiment and have fun with different fruit and veggie combos.
4) Veggie chips: Try making your own veggie chips at home. Slice vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, beets or carrots, super thin, toss them in some olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and bake at 350 degrees until crispy. Another delicious and nutrient-packed treat is roasted seaweed. The store packaged versions are often packed with salt, so if you live near an Asian mart, buy plain dried seaweed and toast it at home. Just brush with a little sesame oil, sprinkle with a little salt and either roast in the oven or toast on a hot pan until lightly crispy.
5) Veggie pops: This is a fun and colorful way to sneak some vegetables into a yummy dessert treat. Have your toddler pick his favorite fruits and puree them with a cooked vegetable in a similar color until completely smooth. Then, pour the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until solid. We loved combining banana with baby spinach and pineapple, mango with carrots and orange, and strawberries or raspberries with roasted beets and apple.