How I Got My Kid To Eat Vegetables

When my daughter, B, first started eating solid food, she would eat ANYTHING.  I mean ANYTHING.  Among her favorite foods were broccoli, lobster (she called it “mobster”) and scallops.  It was mostly awesome, although we couldn’t get her to understand that steak and “mobster” weren’t in the budget for daily dining.

And then something happened and I have no idea why.

At about 18 months old, she started refusing some of her favorite food.  The first foods on the no go list were eggs, chicken breasts, and broccoli.  She wouldn’t touch any of it.  By the time she was two, she wouldn’t put anything green in her mouth.

I figured if she got hungry enough, she would eat it.  Nope!  She’d refuse to eat if these were her options.

I tried the “just one bite” approach.  Of course she’d refuse, have a meltdown, and I would offer a face saving deal to get her to take that bite.  However, I stopped when she told me she didn’t want to eat some scrambled eggs.  She finally took “just one bite” and barfed all over my kitchen table.  I was an awful experience for both of us.

I knew it wasn’t helping that she was getting more and more meals outside of the house.  Though I’d specifically chosen a daycare that would only give her the food I provided, I found out that she’d told one of her daycare teachers that I didn’t give her breakfast (I did) so that they would give her a second breakfast.  This second breakfast was always french toast sticks, pancakes or cereal.  She was in toddler heaven.We didn’t find out about second breakfast until  the director pointed out that we weren’t paying for those meals.

Here’s what I did to turn things around:

  1. Select your team (and your battles) carefully.  We eventually switched daycare centers and found one that was more supportive of my eating habits.  However, I was much more relaxed in my approach so I wasn’t labeled a crazy lady early on.  We let her eat cupcakes at her new preschool on birthdays even though they most definitely contained gluten.  I opted to let her eat the daycare provided snack which was usually processed garbage.  I was very uneasy about this, but her eating habits slowly improved because they only gave her what I provided for major meals.
  2. Note what vegetables they will actually eat and rotate those.  At one point were were down to frozen peas (yes, still frozen!) and pumpkin from a can.  She also went through a phase when the only veggies she wanted were orange.  I made sure we always had those on hand and she ate them OVER and OVER again.
  3. Try them raw.  After a LOT of trial and error, I discovered that she is much more inclined to eat a vegetable if it is raw.  When I stir fry peppers and onions to make a fajita inspired meal, I save some of the raw peppers on the side.  This requires no extra work and she loves them.
  4. Don’t assume! You know what happens when you assume…. I recently added this to my list of tricks after B saw me eating Sauerkraut and asked for some.  She has been eating it regularly since then.  I naturally assumed that this was out of the question and never offered it to her, but I was very wrong.
  5. Be a good example.  Your kids are watching you.  If you stop eating vegetables, you are setting the example that they are not an important part of your diet.
  6. Diversify.  With greater diversity there is a greater likelihood that there will be something your child likes.
  7. Hide it.  Soups, stews, smoothies and meatloafs are some of my favorite places to hide a little something extra.
  8. Make it a rule.  I decided that as a starting point, I would make a rule that we would have to have a serving of vegetables at dinner.  We added other meals later.  I also made a rule that B couldn’t have seconds until she finished a small serving of vegetables.  Sometimes she opted out of seconds, but most of the time she powered through.

Here is a current list of veggies she will willingly eat:

  • Acorn squash
  • Bell Peppers
  • Butternut Squash
  • Broccoli (only raw, and just a little bit!)
  • Carrots (raw or in soup)
  • Celery
  • Jicama
  • Green Beans (Frozen or fresh)
  • Peas (Frozen or fresh)
  • Pumpkin
  • Sauerkraut (but NEVER cabbage)
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Spinach (raw or sauteed in coconut oil)

This is a pretty good range of veggies, and doesn’t include the ones that she doesn’t know she is eating.  Her diet is far from perfect, but we continue to make progress.

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