When you read this blog title you may have thought, “Of course kids are picky about veggies – is there another type of picky eater?” In fact, there is! A lot of children are picky protein eaters, which can affect their growth and development. Some kids are picky fruit eaters, and they miss out on essential vitamins and nutrients. There are even picky dessert eaters who can struggle with social events like birthday parties, family celebrations, holidays, classroom parties and sporting events because they refuse to eat desserts. And then there are the kids who are picky about eating their vegetables. What’s a parent to do? Here are a few tips for you to try with the picky veggie eater in your life!
Learn how to introduce: When introducing a new food to a child compare it to introducing them to a new friend. You want to find all of the ways your child can connect with this new friend, so tell them the things they may love about it! I write a lot about how to introduce veggies to toddlers; in fact, I have specific tips on how to introduce onions, carrots and celery. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the veggie and introduction techniques before you present it to your toddler for the first time.
Delay dinner: If your kids are screaming that they are hungry for dinner, cut up some veggies and place them on the table. Do this before you start to prepare dinner. Studies show that the best opportunity for kids to try new foods is when they are hangry…yes, I mean hungry and angry. Thanks to this delay tactic, they may be more adventurous and take a few bites to satisfy their hunger.
Make textures tasty: Vegetables have a different texture than most of the foods toddlers find enjoyable. So, exploring ways to make veggies more appealing for your child will be easier if you consider the food textures they currently love to eat. Do they prefer crunchy textures? Try introducing kale by making kale chips (versus sautéed kale). Are they more willing to try a veggie if cheese is melted on it? Or if it’s hot rather than cold? Then trying my chard hot salad recipe might do the trick! Does your child tend to choose foods with a softer texture? Make my rainbow cauliflower popcorn instead of serving raw white cauliflower. Your chances of success are much greater and, let’s face it; it is a lot more fun!
Dunking into dips: Taste buds are developing during the toddler years, so veggies tend to taste bitterer during this time. Having an option to dunk veggies into a dressing, dip or condiment will help them learn about the new flavors. And, yes, it’s okay if they smother the entire veggie in ranch dressing while they are experimenting with a new vegetable taste. Remember raw veggies have the most nutrition, so encourage them to dunk away to get all the vitamins and nutrients they can!
Teaching children to eat and enjoy veggies can be stressful. I hope some of these tips will help you navigate your way to successful mealtimes that include a variety of fresh vegetables!