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Helping toddlers try vegetables

Vegetables provide lots of the vitamins and minerals that growing bodies need. They are not always excited about trying new vegetables, but helping toddlers eat vegetables is important to help them grow into healthy children and adults. Use these tips to encourage your toddler to try and enjoy vegetables.

The division of responsibility

The division of responsibility is a way that parents and children can partner to eat in a healthy way, make meals a positive time and avoid power struggles that no one enjoys.

Parents’ responsibilities:

  • Decide what food to serve
  • Decide when to serve food
  • Decide where to serve food

Children’s responsibilities:

  • Decide how much food to eat
  • Decide whether or not to eat

What to serve

  • Aim to serve 1 to 1 ½ cups of vegetables each day. Include a ½ cup of vegetables at 2 meals and 1 snack.
    • Remember that it is up to your toddler to decide if she will eat that much or not.
    • Understand that your toddler may eat more on some days and less on other days.
  • Serve your toddler the same vegetables that you eat so he can see you eating it and learn to enjoy them as you do.
  • Try serving tender-crisp vegetables like slightly under-steamed or lightly roasted vegetables.
  • Explore new vegetables together with your child. Ask him to pick out one new vegetable that he would like to try when you are at the store.
  • Add vegetables wherever you can like chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna or shredded vegetables in meatloaf or casseroles.

How much equals one cup of vegetables?

  • ½ cup of cooked carrots = ½ cup of vegetables
  • ½ cup of raw bell peppers = ½ cup of vegetables
  • 1 cup of romaine lettuce = ½ cup of vegetables
  • ½ cup of cooked spinach = ½ cup of vegetables

When to serve vegetables

  • Get into a routine with your toddler. Have 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks at set times each day.
  • Serve a vegetable with at least 2 of the meals and 1 of the snacks.
  • Offer vegetables frequently. Don’t be discouraged if your toddler doesn’t eat them right away. It may take 10 to 15 times before he or she finally eats them.
  • Serve vegetables in a calm and pleasant environment like a snack after playtime, when your toddler is more hungry and relaxed.
  • Don’t pressure, nag, bribe, or force your toddler to eat their vegetables. Allow them to explore new vegetables at their own pace.

How to serve vegetables

  • Increase the likelihood that your child will try new vegetables by serving sit-down meals and snacks at a table away from distractions like television, phones, or other electronics.
  • Give your toddler the leadership role to decide whether he will eat with a utensil or fingers, fast or slow, and how many vegetables to eat.
  • Eat family meals where your toddler will be able to learn to like vegetables by watching you.

Get your toddler involved

  • Grow a vegetable garden. Encourage your toddler to help tend it and teach him where vegetables come from.
  • Get your child’s input at home by asking if she would like carrots or zucchini with her meal.
  • Get your child’s input at the store by asking him to find the greenest broccoli in the bin.
  • Allow your toddler to help prepare vegetables so that she can start learning about the color, texture, and smell of vegetables. Have her rinse vegetables, pick peas out of pods, tear lettuce, snap green beans, or put ingredients in a bowl and stir.

Resources to explore

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