Friday, April 9, 2010

Eating Your Vegetables

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. Unfortunately, finicky eating of today can turn into the bad eating habits of tomorrow. Here are four suggestions to help your little Foodies eat their fruits and veggies!

  1. Eat YOUR Veggies! Don't be a hypocrite, Mom & Dad. The best way to get your child to eat healthier is to be an example. They are not going to want that side of mixed vegetables if you're ordering fries. Let your children see you making good snack and meal choices and they will too. (hint: just because a meal says it "comes with fries" doesn't mean that you can't swap that out for steamed carrots and broccoli)
  2. Sauces, Dips & sometimes Sugar. Top veggies and fruit slices with cheese dips, salad dressing, salsa or even yogurt. You can also steam veggies with a bit of sugar to sweeten the taste then lessen and lessen the amount of sugar with each meal until you're not using any at all.
  3. Play with Your Food. Let children get hands-on with their produce. In the supermarket, let them help choose what comes home by explaining to them how to tell when a banana is ripe or which is the best head of lettuce. At home, use themes such as color or shape to help make eating interactive. (ie. Today we're going to eat red things - strawberries, apples, beets, tomatoes and red bell peppers!) Very young children can have lots of fun smashing, crushing and tasting a variety of foods. Give them strawberries, blueberries, spinach and squash puree to use like finger paints, yum! Older kids will get a kick out of topping their own pizzas, so chop up some zucchini, spinach, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and bell peppers and let them go to town.
  4. Offer Extras and Variety. Until your little one decides to eat the leafy goodness on his own, you may need to resort to some sneaky food tricks. Try to offer (at least) two different vegetables in each meal, one out in the open as a regular side dish and one hidden somewhere else in the meal. For example, if you're making spaghetti & meatballs pair it with string beans; but also add some pureed spinach into the meatballs or chopped cauliflower into the tomato sauce. Other ideas: hide squash in your mashed potatoes and mac & cheese or mash peas into meatloaf. This way if your child still picks at the veggies she recognizes, they are eating the one that's hidden and you don't have to be a Mean Mommy. Encourage them gently and only you'll know that every bite of broccoli they take is actually above and beyond what they need.

No time to puree vegetables? Just buy a few jars baby food!

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