Getting your toddler to eat more (or even any) vegetables is a common problem, particularly if your toddler is a fussy or picky eater.

In this 10 minute video, Dr Orlena Kerek explains how to help your toddlers eat more vegetables without pressuring them and whilst teaching them healthy eating habits.

For those of you who prefer to read than watch, here's a transcription of the video. 

It is Normal for Toddlers and PreSchoolers Not to Like Vegetables

As frustrating as it is, the truth is that most young children don’t like the woody and sometimes bitter texture of vegetables.

They normally prefer the sweet and less challenging textures and flavours of carbohydrates, protein and fruit.

Hands up who has a “carb junkie” in the house who just eats bread and pasta?

Related: How to Cook Veggies Your Kids will Love

Healthy Eating for Kids is a Long Term Goal

Teaching your child to love healthy foods and willingly choose healthy options is the long term goal. Healthy eating is something that you learn to do like riding a bicycle or learning to walk. We aren’t born knowing how to eat healthily and it doesn’t come naturally to most people.

grandmother teaching a child to ride a bicycle. The child has fallen off.

Make Sure you Meet Your Child’s Immediate Nutritional Needs

Of course you need to make sure your child has enough calories, vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients to grow healthily and to learn.

In the UK it is recommended that children under the age of 4 take a multivitamin supplement.

Many people don’t want their children to rely on supplements but it can be a good short term measure if your child really isn’t eating enough fruit and vegetables to get their vitamin requirement.

How Do You Know if Your Child is Getting Enough Nutrients?

If they are growing normally they are getting enough calories, but they can still have micronutrient deficiencies. The only way to know for sure is to measure their intake.

You can do that by going to a dietician or if you want to do it at home, you can keep a food diary for a week and then use a tool that works it out for you.

(I love the “Tot it Up Challenge” by the Infant Toddler Forum. You can read how to use it here.)

Most Children Prefer Fruit to Vegetables

I know that most children prefer fruit to vegetables and it’s great that they eat fruit rather than cookies or cake.

Look at fruit as a stepping stone to vegetables.

Think out side of the box and present fruit at mealtimes as part of the main course.

How to Get Your Toddler to Eat More Vegetables. Video and blog post with Dr Orlena Kerek, pediatric doctor, explains how teaching your kids to eat healthily is a long term project that takes time and persistance. Lots of amazing tips to implement

How Do We Get our Toddler to Like More Vegetables?

My number one rule is not to pressure kids to eat anything but to allow them to have control of what goes into their mouth.

If you eat a healthy diet, full of lots of different fruits and vegetables (aim for 20-30 varieties a week) then eventually (chances are) your kids will follow suit and start to eat vegetables.

(On a side note, my first child was very picky. He is now 9 and is far more open to eating vegetables and even trying new foods. He sometimes asks for cooked peppers (capsicums). The reality is that it took him years to get there!)

Hidden Vegetables Can be Useful

Find balance between presenting “obvious” vegetables in their “naked” form and “hidden vegetables”.

Related: Help Your Picky Eater Try New Vegetables with their Favourite Dip

Top Tips To Get Toddlers to Eat Veggies

  1. Don’t pressure kids to eat.
  2. Model good behaviour and eat a healthy diet yourself.
  3. Use a combination of obvious vegetables and hidden vegetables.

Keep Presenting Your Child with New Vegetables

Get them used to the idea of vegetables.

Use books, toys and fun activities.

Have them cook, go to the shops and even plant seeds in the garden. (Baby carrots and peas are a good place to start. You can grow baby carrots in a pot on the window sill.)

It Takes Time for Kids to Accept New Foods, (Including Vegetables)

Remember that it takes 15 times of willing trying (aka putting it in your mouth and swallowing it) to decide whether you actually like something or not.

That 15 times can take years. And then they may decide that they genuinely don’t like it!

Rotate Accepted Vegetables

Write a list of absolutely every fruit and vegetable that isn’t totally disgusting to your child.

Then rotate what you present them.

If you present the same thing every day, everyone gets into a rut.

When Kids Refuse an Accepted Food

Plus you run the risk of them getting bored of it and suddenly your once “go to vegetable” is struck of the accepted list.

If that happens, just give it a rest and go back to it after a period of time. (Unless something disgusting like vomiting happened, chances are they’ll come back to it eventually.)

How to Get Your Toddler to Eat More Vegetables. Video and blog post with Dr Orlena Kerek, pediatric doctor, explains how teaching your kids to eat healthily is a long term project that takes time and persistance. Lots of amazing tips to implement

Present New Vegetables to Your Toddler

Make new foods fun and exciting. Think of a fun “tasting experience”.

(And remember that they might not try anything and that’s fine.)

I find that dips are a great way to try new things. Choose a dip that your child is loves and see what happens when you dip in new fruit and vegetable sticks.

Go for lots of different sticks.

Equally you could try lots of different vegetable dips with a favourite vegetable.

Go for new foods that are similar to what your child already likes and gradually widen the “accepted list”.

Here’s a mammoth list of dips to get you going!

Pair New Vegetables With Loved Foods

This is called “food pairing” when you use something they love (think cheese, bacon, butter, garlic, ketchup or even sugar) with something new and “scary”.

The loved food helps the new food become less scary and increases the chance of them actually trying it!

pizza with hidden vegetables sauce

Get Your Toddler to Eat Vegetables with Hidden Vegetables

Hiding vegetables from your toddler isn’t going to teach them to choose and accept them in the long run but it can be useful to get them used to different tastes and to make sure they are getting the nutrients they need (especially if you’re worried about constipation.)

Hidden Vegetable Tomato Sauce

My favourite is “hidden vegetable tomato sauce”.

I just put everything into the oven, roast them and then whizz it up. It looks like regular tomato sauce which you can then use for pasta, spaghetti carbonara or even pizza. 

(Here's our favourite "hidden vegetables pizza".)

Hidden Vegetable Cake

toddlers sitting on a beach eating large slices of carrot cake

I make cakes with vegetables in them. Here is my favourite carrot cake. I often add sweet potato, courgette or even pumpkin.

Check out my friend, Assunta's amazing hazelnut and zucchini cake.

Hidden Vegetables Soup

I love to make left over vegetables into a simple and easy soup. Just add stock and whizz up!

Here's how to get a warm lunch on the table in minutes.

Here's how to make homemade stock.

Hidden Vegetable Smoothies

If your kids like smoothies, they are another fantastic way to get a dose of vegetables into them!

Here's a great blueberry and cauliflower smoothie from Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean.

Teaching Toddlers to Eat Vegetables

Toddlers don't learn to eat and love vegetables over night.

Teaching our kids to eat a healthy diet is a long term project.

Teaching our kids healthy eating habits may not always be easy but it is so worth the effort as we watch our kids grow up into older children and adults who lead a healthy live and eat healthy foods.

What ONE small thing are you going to do first to teach your toddlers to eat vegetables





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