My daughter has recently turned 3 (as I mentioned in my last post) and her strong will and personality is now shining through in everything she does. O, joy! Along with her sophisticated vocabulary and entertaining views on the world, my toddler has now started to express some new, quirky behaviours. One of these is an occasional aversion to cooked vegetables and/ or green bits in her dinner… Yes, my normally-vegetable-loving daughter is discovering a fussy streak.
So, in an effort to minimize this phase, I have started to think about which vegetables A-L happily eats, when and why. Based on these deliberations, here are 5 top tips that have worked to encourage my daughter to eat her veggies…
1. Encourage children’s natural curiosity about vegetables.
Raw vegetables are really interesting objects: brightly coloured, unusual shapes and interesting textures. This may explain why A-L has always had an obsession with our veggie box. We get a weekly delivery of vegetables and each time she is keen to get into that box of veggies, pick them out, place them around the kitchen floor, offer them to her dolls and, more often than not, eat them. A pepper rarely makes it into my fridge without a few bites taken out of it. Rather than castigating A-L for the vegetable chaos that she creates, I feel that this is an important way for her to recognise how fun and appealing vegetables can be.
2. Make the connection between cooked vegetables and the raw original.
A-L and I recently sat down to a meal which included pieces of spring greens. She instantly declared that ‘I don’t like that’ (picking out a slice of green leaf). Seen from the eyes of my child, I realised that a limp, pale green cooked vegetable may not actually be that appealing (she obviously wasn’t aware of the culinary delights of a spring green). So, I decided to show her the raw, bright green original and make the connection between the two. We looked at the original spring green, it’s different textures and colours, and identified which part of the vegetable we were now about to eat. To my pleasant surprise, A-L dug straight in and ate the spring greens along with the other parts of the meal. She then proceeded to play with the spring greens for at least 15 minutes…
3. Eat vegetables yourself.
Children imitate. It is therefore helpful for toddlers to see their peers, parents and others eating vegetables. Make eating vegetables a normal, everyday event. As a vegetarian household, we have vegetables in every meal (well maybe not breakfast) and my daughter sees that we eat all kinds of weird and wonderful vegetables. Don’t make a big deal of eating vegetables and don’t anticipate that your child won’t like particular vegetables (i.e. whilst you may not like cabbage, don’t verbally say ‘oh, I don’t think you’ll like that’…maybe they will).
4. Promote vegetables as ‘tasty’ rather than ‘healthy’.
Evidence suggests that children do not respond to health warnings about food. They don’t really care if ‘eating vegetables is good for you’ so it’s better to promote vegetables as tasty, fun or appealing in other ways.
5. Allow children to feed themselves vegetables from an early age.
Until this day, A-L will happily pick up a piece of cooked broccoli and eat it without a second thought. I put this down to the fact that we offered her florets of cooked broccoli from a very early age and allowed her to feed herself with them. I think that ‘baby-led weaning’/ finger foods certainly played an important role in establishing a strong and positive foundation for my daughter’s veggie eating.