A toddler is a child aged anywhere between 12 and 36 months. During this stage, your little one will experience enormous cognitive, social, and emotional development. Likewise, their dietary needs will change dramatically, too. In general, one-year-olds should already be eating the same foods as the rest of the family. Plus, they should have at least three nutritious meals a day, with some snacks in between.
Vegetables, of course, are one of the healthiest options for your bundle of joy. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibers – all of which are essential to vigorous growth and development. Unfortunately, veggies and tots often do not sit well together. No matter how much you plead, they might just flat-out refuse that plate of carrots and peas. And if the dish is poorly prepared, then your child may even end up hating veggies altogether.
Your goal, then, is to make greens more enticing, palatable, and easily digestible for your bundle of joy. There are several fool-proof ways to go about it. We detail them below, including the most delicious recipes that even the fussiest of toddlers will love.
What Veggies Can Toddlers Eat?
Toddlers can eat virtually any vegetable. But to make mealtimes more exciting, opt for veggies that little kids tend to love. Lucky for you, they also happen to be easy to transform into delicious meals.
The best vegetables for toddlers:
- Bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
- Sweet potato
Of course, do not limit yourself to the vegetables on this list. Feel free to experiment to find out which one best suits your child’s palate. In the end, it all comes down to how you prepare it.
Variety is important:
Do not feed your tot the same vegetable every single time. Make sure to switch things up. Ideally, your child should consume a variety of veggies each week. This includes:
- Dark greens (broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, and other greens)
- Orange veggies (carrots, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato)
- Dry beans and peas
- Starchy vegetables (corn, green peas, and white potatoes)
- Others (cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini)
A word of caution:
Large chunks of raw vegetables are a choking hazard. Your child can only eat them safely once they reach about four years of age. Until then, you will need to chop down the veggies and make them easier to chew and swallow
The serving size matters, too:
You also need to consider how much vegetables you will be giving your toddler. Generally, tots aged between 12 and 24 months will need one cup of raw or cooked veggies per day. Upon reaching 24 to 36 months, you can add another half-cup to meet their increasing dietary requirements.
How Do You Introduce Vegetables to Your Toddler?
When introducing anything new to little kids, remember to take things slowly. The same goes for food. For example, do not just give them a huge slice of cucumber from the get-go. Do not force them to eat it, too. Turning mealtimes into a power struggle is a recipe for disaster and might make your child even more reluctant to sample veggies.
An easy way to introduce vegetables is to start small – quite literally. Begin by grating raw veggies, then slicing them into thin strips. Gradually increase the size of each chunk, but make sure that each piece is still easy to chew down. You can capture their attention by cutting the veggies into fun shapes.
This is no doubt the easiest and safest way to start. Even better, you can do it with practically any vegetable, and incorporating the grated bits into various dishes is also an absolute breeze. Sprinkle a few on your child’s favorite pasta or yogurt, and they probably won’t even notice it.
Thin it down:
Once your toddler has gotten used to finely grated veggies, start giving them extremely thin portions – or around the size of a matchstick. Consider pairing it with some healthy dips. Beet hummus, for instance, is the perfect compliment to strips of cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers.
If you think that your child can already handle thin strips with no issue, try slicing them into slightly thicker portions. Again, proceed slowly.
Experiment with shapes:
After feeding them thick strips of veggies with success, it is time to get creative. You can use cookie cutters to fashion the veggie into adorable shapes, such as flowers, stars, and even animals. Alternatively, you can mix and match different veggies to form images of trees, faces, and so on. For sure, even fastidious kids won’t be able to say no so easily to cleverly designed dishes.
What Do You Do If Your Toddler Won’t Eat Vegetables?
In most cases, varying the sizes of vegetables may not be enough to jumpstart your toddler’s healthy eating journey. Little kids, after all, tend to be strongly averse to veggies. This is likely because they are more sensitive to bitter taste than adults. And as we all know, vegetables – especially those from the cruciferous family like broccoli and kale – can be quite bitter.
So, if your toddler simply won’t eat veggies, the solution is simple: mask the bitterness with other more appetizing flavors. Here are some ingenious, mouth-watering, and incredibly healthy ways to go about it.
1. Try Hidden Vegetable Recipes for Picky Eaters
If your toddler can’t even see the vegetable, then they likely won’t refuse the plate. The idea sounds simple, but it does require some craftiness. Ideally, you should slip that veggie in your child’s favorite food. While some parents do not want to resort to tricking their little one, sometimes it is necessary as some tots can be quite adamant with their refusal to eat veggies.
Here are some ingenious ways to hide veggies in meals:
- Sneak veggies in baked goods. For instance, you might wantto add some kale and other greens to muffins, waffles, and pancakes. You can also toss in some beets to chocolate cake, or carrots and squash to light-colored pastries.Make sure, however, that the baked goodsare free from nasties, such as excess sugar.
- Add some sweet potato to chicken nuggets. Once fried, your tot will only notice the crispy chicken bits, not your secret ingredient.
- Use butternut squash in your alfredo pasta sauce.
- Hide some vegetables in your Bolognese sauce – or any other pasta sauce, for that matter. Ideal options include carrots, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, and zucchini.
- Slip in some veggies in your child’s meatloaf, meatballs, or hamburgers. Consider carrots, celery, onions, pumpkin, and zucchini. For best results, grate or dice them into small pieces.
- Ready a creamy vegetable soup. Broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, and leek are great choices.
2. Whip Up Some Vegetable Desserts
Little kids love desserts, there is no question about that. Unfortunately, they can be unhealthy and loaded with too much sugar, so it is best to keep your child’s dessert intake to a minimum. To take things up a notch, consider infusing some vegetables to their beloved treats.
Here are other ways to make desserts more nourishing:
- Sprinkle some shreds of zucchini on top of chocolate chip cookies.
- Incorporate some kale and other greens into the cake batter.
- Whip up some raw carrot cake.
- Make cupcake frosting and batter with sweet potato.
- Use beets to give the frosting a pinkish tint.
- Make some summer corn ice pops.
- Toss in spinach and other green veggies to smoothie pops.
3. Prepare Veggie Snacks with Dips
Try to give your child raw or lightly vegetables as snacks. These are the ones that tend to be a crowd-favorite among kids:
- Bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- String beans
And, one of the best ways to enjoy raw veggies is by dunking them in flavorful sauces. This can make eating more interactive and stimulating for your little one. Even better, you can also prepare some nutritious, highly delectable vegetable-based dips and sauces. Aside from beet hummus, try using veggies to prepare or enrich your ranch dip, guacamole, fruit salsa, and nut butter.
4. Make a Vegetable Puree
Vegetable puree refers to cooked veggies with a creamy paste consistency. Start by washing, peel, and dicing your preferred vegetable. Steam – not boil – the veggies until they are soft enough to be squished with one finger. That is because steaming helps preserve the nutrient content of the veggies.
To puree, simply place the cooked vegetables in a blender or food processer. You can also add some herbs and spices for superior flavor, and plant-based oils for a smoother consistency. Keep at it until you achieve your desired texture.
Here are some of the best veggies to puree:
- Bell pepper
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
Here are some of the best ways to use vegetable purees:
- As a sandwich spread
- To help thicken soups
- As a garnishing sauce
- As the base for pasta sauces
- Add to patties, nuggets, and meatloaf
- Add to baked goods, such as cake and brownie batter
- To enrich smoothies
- As a garnish
Of course, you can also let your toddler enjoy the puree as it is.
5. Juicing Is Your Best Friend
If you have a juicer, then you are in luck. Aside from pureeing, it offers another quick and easy way to get picky toddlers to consume veggies.
The downside to juicing is that it can take away up to 90% of fiber. Still, it is a fantastic option if you want to give your kiddos some extra nutrients, as well as an immunity boost. As a bonus, your totwill receive a healthy dose of hydration, too. Just remember that juicing is simply a supplement – not a replacement for fresh fruits and veggies.
Here are some of the best fruits to run through a juicer:
- Romaine lettuce
- Sweet potato
Tips when juicing vegetables:
- Add some fruits for a burst of sweetness and enhanced flavor. Likewise, feel free to try different combinations. Carrot and orange, for instance, complement each other exceedingly well. You can also try juicing apple, carrots, and beetroot (also called the ABC juice).
- Do not forget to strain out any solid bits, as they may turn off fussy eaters.
- Try using attractive glasses and straws to entice your toddler.
- Consumed the freshly-juiced veggies on the same day.
What Other Things Can You Do?
There is more to mealtimes than the act of eating itself. For little kids, it can also be an emotional experience and a time to bond with the rest of the family. More than that, food fuels their imagination and creative side, too. And by tapping onto these, it will be much easier to persuade your toddler to finally nibble on those dark leafy greens. Here’s how.
- Make your toddler involved with the food preparation. It can be something as simple as choosing which vegetables to eat, washing salad leaves, or adding chopped veggies to the saucepan before you cook.
- Try out vegetarian recipes, especially for pasta and other dishes that normally use meat.
- Focus on food presentation. Make the dishes look fun and exciting to appeal to your child’s interests.
- Change things up every now and then. Varying the textures and tastes will help engage your child’s attention when eating.
- Keep trying. Some toddlers need a bit more prodding before they finally decide to try and taste veggies. Picky eaters, in fact, may only try a new vegetable after seeing it for 10 or more times.
- Praise your little one when they finally sample some vegetables. Make sure to specify exactly what they did well. For instance, you can say, “I love that you ate some carrots and zucchini!” In contrast, do not punish your child if they refuse to eat some veggies.
- Lead by example. Let your child see you eating and enjoying vegetables. Eventually, they will probably want to copy you.
Introduce Green, Leafy Vegetables for Healthy Tots
Every parent knows how important it is for toddlers to eat vegetables. After all, they are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and all the other good stuff. Unfortunately, many parents struggle to get their kids to eat or even try veggies. But do not worry, it is not a lost cause. All it takes is getting creative with dishes and experimenting with different flavors. More than that, you can also appeal to your child’s emotional side, and that includes involving them with the process and praising them when needed.