My 2 year old has never been a big meat eater. But fruits and vegetables – we definitely have those food groups covered. I mean, she didn’t get these thighs for nothing (see photo).
Dinner guests have always been amazed at how she pops broccoli, peas and carrots like they’re candy. And the quantity! It’s pretty intense when you eat so many peas that your poop turns green.
At the dinner table, she yells “that’s yucky, mama, I don’t want that!” Despite the fact that she eats so much during the day that her teachers have to cut her off (I’ll have to get into that another day), something still feels inherently wrong about a 2 year old only eating applesauce for dinner.
Below are a few strategies that we’ve been using to keep the table (and her belly) full of greens:
1) Find opportunities for your child to dine with her friends.
This might sounds weird, but in the 1970s Leann L. Birch, Ph.D. conducted an experiment with children. She wanted to know what factors influence children’s intake of vegetables that they like and dislike. And what she found was that kids respond best to peer pressure. That’s right, when your kids dine with friends who eat their vegetables, they’re more likely to eat the veggies that they normally won’t eat. No wonder my child will eat food at daycare that she won’t touch at home!
Since #1 is not always practical, below are additional ideas:
2) Offer variety by introducing/re-introducing vegetables.
Your child might not like everything you re-introduce to them, but you might find one or two diamonds in the rough! I think my daugther got tired of the same choices – broccoli, carrots, green beans or peas. Afterall, when you find veggies that your kids love, you keep giving them to your kids, right? Kids’ tastes constantly evolve in their first couple years of life. She loved sweet potatoes as a baby, and then wouldn’t touch them for the past year. When I recently re-introduced them, she went crazy for them.
I have also discovered that she loves edamame. It took her a few minutes to figure out how to de-shell them on her own (everything is “mines do it!”). But once she figured them out, she ate the entire plate! She has been asking us for edamame (pronounced “edama-mee”) for dinner every night since then.
3) Make 2-3 vegetable options each meal.
Seems excessive, but this works for us! The more veggie options on your kids’ plates, the more overall veggies they’ll eat. If a particular vegetable doesn’t appeal to them that night, they’ll have another one or two to choose from.
4) Vegetables first, sweets later.
I do this with both of my kids. I put the food they’re less likely to eat in front of them first when they’re hungry – the meat and, for my 2 year old, the vegetables. I’ll only introduce the “goodies” like fruit or yogurt, later in the meal after they’ve had a few bites of the vegetables and meat.
5) When all else fails, say cheese!
Although I don’t put cheese on my 9 month old’s veggies (she’ll eat just about any food so why spoil a good thing, right?!), I do occasionally spruce up my 2 year old’s broccoli or cauliflower with some cheddar or fresh parmesan. It’s a small sacrifice to make in order to keep those greens flowing.
Do you have any tips for getting your kids to eat their veggies? If so, I’d love to hear them!
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