My eldest is a picky eater. And he’s strong-willed. He’s started to get better at mealtimes now, but for about 1.5 years, EACH and EVERY supper time was a fight to get him to eat at least one bite, even foods we know he likes. We tried just saying “fine, no food then” thinking he would eat when he was hungry. Nope, he just went to bed hungry. We tried making him sit at the table until he ate. Several times he fell asleep at the table, another 2 times he sat there until bedtime.
So how do you make sure a picky eater gets enough veggies? Here are some ways to make eating vegetables more fun for little ones.
1. Hide them! Ok, maybe this doesn’t make it more fun, but it works. I freeze grated zucchini, then can add it into a spaghetti sauce, or a lasagna or casserole. And what kid would say no to chocolate-chip zucchini bread? There is a cookbook out there called Deceptively Delicious that has TONS of ideas for pureeing different vegetables and how to hide them in regular foods.
2. Rewards. If you eat all your veggies, you get a sticker. Get enough stickers, and you can get a small toy from the store, or a special treat.
3. Make it a game! Roll a couple of dice, and that’s how many peas your little one has to eat.
4. Make it a contest. One of the tricks we found that works for my son is that he LOVES to win. So if we tell him, “look, Annie’s winning! Her food is almost all gone,” he will likely take a few bites to catch up.
5. Let your child pick which veggie he or she wants. You can let him pick out the veggies at the store, then make a big deal when you’re cooking them (these are the carrots that YOU picked out..they’re going to be so yummy!) or let them pick which vegetable they want from what you have at home. Either way, it includes your child in the process of meal preparation.
6. Serve them how they like them. I’m not saying become a short-order cook to please them. But if they prefer some veggies raw, don’t cook their serving. My daughter loves to munch on frozen peas and corn. So be it! (That’s also great if the kids are underfoot and hungry while you cook supper; I just give my daughter her portion of veggies frozen and she’s happy to snack on part of her meal so I can finish cooking.)
7. Have a garden. I realize this isn’t always possible, but if you can, try planting your own. There are several veggies that do fine in pots if you can’t have a garden. If you help your little one pick which veggies they want to plant, and involve them in the gardening process, they’ll be super proud to eat the vegetables that THEY grew!
8. Dip it. Yes, this one is a bit obvious. But what kid doesn’t love to dip? You can let them help you make their own dip, or just use ranch dressing. I also LOVE yogurt dressings lately.
9. Put some cheese on it. I’m always reminded of that commercial with the line, “Can’t get your kids to leave home? Stop cooking with cheese!” Broccoli, cauliflower, and many other veggies taste great with some melted cheese on them.
10. Mix it up! Making up a coleslaw, broccoli salad, or carrot salad with yummy dressings may make the veggies appealing enough for your child to chow down on. You can put raisins in the broccoli or carrot salads too!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Peas and Thank You blogging program for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate, click here.