If you’re a parent, you know that all children go through phases and kicks. Maybe your 4-year-old won’t wear anything other than her favorite red T-shirt for days on end, or your pre-teen is seemingly obsessed with wizards/vampires/werewolves/whatever. Children do the same thing with foods–they may experience “food jags,” during which they’ll only eat one or two items, meal after meal. Pickiness results in part from children asserting their independence and identities, and in part because their taste buds are more sensitive than adults’ to unpleasant flavors, like bitterness.
So your child won’t eat vegetables. You may wonder how you’ll ever provide your child with a balanced diet when all of the vegetables you’ve served have been rejected. However, there are some steps you can take help turn the tide.
Approach #1: Be Persistent
Toddlers are just learning how to express themselves–they often enjoy saying “no” to nearly everything. This doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t have opinions about foods that should be respected. It does mean that you should test his resistance to the food before you declare it off limits as part of his balanced diet. If your child rejects a vegetable, continue to offer it. It may take 10 to 15 offerings before your child chooses to eat that vegetable.
Approach #2: Engage Your Child in Growing, Choosing and Cooking Vegetables
For an opinionated child, eating vegetables can be fun if she is in control. Grow a small patch of vegetables in your yard, and let your child help you tend the garden. She may be more apt to eat vegetables she’s grown herself. Let her help you wash the vegetables before dinner. Allow her choose vegetables at the store.
Approach #3: Set a Good Example
If your child won’t eat vegetables at mealtime, don’t bribe or cajole him into eating the foods, which can create an unhealthy relationship surrounding food and rewards. Instead, model the behavior you want to see by eating vegetables as part of your own balanced diet. For your child, eating vegetables should be considered unremarkable and normal, not something that must be forced.
Final Tips if Your Child Won’t Eat Vegetables
Keep in mind that a serving size of vegetable for a toddler is one tablespoon per year of age. If your child won’t eat vegetables to clear her plate but still takes a few bites, but perhaps those few bites are ample for her balanced diet.
If your child continues to be resistant to your attempts to eat vegetables, try adding pureed vegetables to kid-friendly recipes that are traditionally veggie-free: Think mixing boiled, pureed cauliflower or squash into macaroni and cheese, or spinach and carrots in meatloaf.