“How did you get the girls to prefer fresh vegetables? Mine will only eat macaroni and cheese!” First, a fed toddler is a happy toddler. So don’t judge yourself too harshly if your child has preferences, we all do–the important thing is that they are eating something. That being said, if you think there is a serious problem, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional, such as a dieticial. If you’re trying to get your child to expand their palate a bit, read on:)
I love vegetables! Before meeting my husband I was a raw vegan. While we didn’t intend on eating that way as a family, my husband and I knew that we would eat plant-based, focusing heavily on raw produce. But how do you encourage a child to enjoy fruits and veggies?
-Early exposure. I’m talking really early exposure, like in the womb. While I couldn’t stand to eat my normal desired salads while pregnant, I still enjoyed vegetables and fruits, fruits even more so than when I wasn’t pregnant.
-I served them safely and plain. I followed someone who specializes in baby-led weaning to make sure that I was giving them foods that they could enjoy and preparing them in such a way that they were safe. For example, at 22-months old, they are just starting to have the middle part of romaine lettuce. And as with my own foods, I use other foods to flavor dishes. For salads, instead of dressings, we use banana peppers, beets, sauerkraut, artichokes, and olives to make them flavourful.
-Raw. When it’s safe to do so, I serve their first tase of fruit or vegetable raw. There are different nutritional values for some veggies when cooked versus when served raw–it may make it easier to digest allowing some nutrients to be absorbed better. So there is value to cooking, but I generally reserve cooked veggies and such for dinner.
-Exposure. This is more than just tasting. They help prepare the meals, we point out and talk about produce we see in a book. They assist in gardening, learning about where their food comes from helps them to appreciate it. They have puzzles of fruits and veggies, felt produce that their aunt made that they match to images.
-We think about what we feed them and if it will impact their love of fresh veggies. If I gave them sweets regularly, fruits wouldn’t be such a treat and veggies would taste kind of, yuck. I’m regularly cutting the sugar content in recipes we make.
-Sweets aren’t treated special. We do have sweets, albeit not regularly and not traditional–their birthday cake was a raw vegan cake. But when we serve them, it’s along with the rest of the meal or another snack. Do they usually eat it first, oh yea, they are children after all. But there’s no, “finish your meal first and then you may have a treat.” This was something I learned from a dietitian and find it absolutely genius.
Something that I used to do with T, and that I’m needing to alter for E and V, was going through the produce at the market and picking something out. We made trying veggies in different ways fun. Sometimes we’d write out different ways to cook them and he’d draw one. The other day I did something similar, I’ll share in another post to keep this one a reasonable length, haha. Check out this post for more about exploring new foods.