Do you regularly find yourself pleading with your little Lord or Lady to eat “just one spoonful”? Do you worry that your toddler isn’t getting enough of the vitamins and minerals essential for their growing body? Toddlers are notorious for being fussy eaters, even when we parents try our hardest to develop their taste buds.
Suzanne tells us how she followed all the weaning guidelines and avoided giving her son sweet foods for the first year and yet still ended up with a toddler whose list of items he would refuse to eat was longer than the list of credited cast members of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Caz noted that she had no problems with her elder daughter’s taste buds, but for some unknown reason her younger son went through a period of several months of refusing everything except baked beans and cress.
Having a fussy eater can be a frustrating experience, and most of us at some point have given into the demands of toast and ice-cream for dinner after eventually losing the will to battle on (and if you haven’t, then you’ve either got a freakishly well-behaved child or the will-power of whoever the patron saint of perseverance is). Vegetables are particularly troublesome, because, let’s face it, broccoli, sprouts, and cabbage aren’t exactly delectable delights. However, they are packed with vital nutrients that are important for your child’s development.
It’s important not to get too stressed about it. Make it into a battle and you are more likely to find yourself on the losing side. Instead, consider one of these tried and tested tricks that parents-the-world-over use to get vegetables into their child’s daily diet.
Grow Your Own
Get your child out into the garden and plant some seeds with them. Encourage them to help the seedlings grow with regular watering. You could buy them their own special watering can for the job. This not only teaches your child about where their food comes from, but may also encourage him or her to try new tastes by sampling the fruits of their efforts. You don’t need a huge garden or expert green fingers. Peas are particularly easy to grow with minimal effort and can be planted in a grow bag or a pot on the windowsill, and freshly podded peas taste deliciously sweet.
Bake A Cake
Grated vegetables are fabulous extra ingredients for muffins and add extra moisture. Carrots, beetroot, courgette, butternut squash, and sweet potato all make excellent additions to cake and if you are worried about your child’s sugar intake you can substitute the sugar with mashed banana. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen, and if it’s a complete disaster, you can always mix it with ice cream for a unique pudding.
Bring Out The Blender
Most children love pasta with a tomato sauce, and this is a great way of hiding lots of different vegetables. If you have a slow cooker you can chuck in a variety of goodies including carrots, peppers, courgettes, spinach, mushrooms, and add lots of tomatoes. Alternatively, throw it into a large saucepan and cook on the hob.
Once cooked, blend together for a nutritious pasta sauce. You can freeze it in bags in handy portions to create quick and healthy meals. Spinach is also a great addition to fruit smoothies, as it doesn’t affect the overall taste and is packed with iron and vitamins K, A, C, and B2. You don’t need to invest in one of those fancy baby food blenders; you can pick one up from around £15 online.
Dips and Platters
Kids love to play with food, which is why many toddlers will find dips appealing. Cut up some vegetables and give them to your child with a variety of dips, whether it be salsa, hummus, guacamole, or sour cream, and let them have fun. They may only lick the dip off to begin with, but it gets them used to different vegetables and you can encourage them to become more and more adventurous as you go.
Presenting vegetables on a platter with an array of colourful foods, including those they like may also encourage them to try new tastes. Use a cupcake tin and fill each cake tin with a different vegetable, meat, and bread etc. for a unique and fun meal. Have “indoor picnics” (or go outdoors if the Great British weather allows for it) and allow your child to pick out different foods. Encourage them by tasting the dishes yourself. Ellie, Mum to Charlie, notes that whenever they have an “indoor picnic” her son doesn’t like to share his food with her, so will gobble up things he is less keen on in order that Mummy can’t eat it herself!
Get Cooking and Shopping
Get your child involved in meal preparation. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. They could do a bit of stirring, sprinkle some herbs, or just hold your hand as you peel the vegetables. Getting your child to help is a fun way to teach them more about their food and get them familiar with different ingredients. This will hopefully lead them to be less fearful of different tastes and textures and encourage them to try more.
At the supermarket, avoid the classic toddler meltdown by getting your child involved in picking vegetables. Ask them to choose between two different vegetables to have with their tea, making them feel as though they have some control.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Flavour
When cooking for children it’s tempting to stick to bland, plain flavours. For some children this works well, but other children respond more positively to stronger flavours. Emma writes: “My two year old absolutely detests potato of any sort, but will happily wolf down a spicy chili con carne or a chicken curry. He turns up his nose at mild Cheddar cheese but loves Stilton. He definitely prefers strong flavours, the stronger the better.”
Most vegetables can be improved via the addition of herbs, spices, or even just a small knob of butter. Courgettes, for example, taste delicious when grilled with a sprinkling of black pepper and a brushing of olive oil. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment.