Having trouble getting your kid to eat healthy? You’re not the only one. I’d like to say my mom struggled with getting me to eat vegetables and so I have some great wisdom passed down through centuries of child-rearing to share with you, but that’s not the case. As a kid growing up we always had a garden. We helped grow the food and then we got to help devour the food. I remember building snap pea tee-pee’s in our backyard and hiding inside, pulling the snap pea’s off and eating them without washing them (why yes, I was a veggie loving rebel as a child). Who wouldn’t want to eat a snap-pea tee-pee? I even turned herbivore in college, which lasted for 6 years of my life. So no, I didn’t have a clue that there are actually people in the world that don’t like eating fruit and veggies.
Until I had a child that is.
Unfortunately for me, as in most things, my daughter is completely different than I was as a kid and therefore we’re trotting through this toddler meal planning thing like a blind man, in a new city, wearing ear plugs, and without a guide.
You too? Great, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the tricks that helped me get my toddler from eating no veggies + few fruits to almost any produce on the market [& other healthy snacks].
- Show them where their food comes from. This may or may not actually get them to EAT the food, but it’s teaching them healthy habits. We built our own garden this year and even though AG hates tomatoes no matter how many times she’s tried them, she still wants to try every single tomato that comes off of our tomato plants. I’m hoping that eventually her tastebuds will change and she’ll realize that tomatoes are heaven sent. If you’re not following us on social media (shame on you) then you probably missed this picture of her chomping on some broccoli – She was always hit or miss with broccoli, but since watching it grow in our garden “like a tree”, her dinosaur loving self will growl and eat “broccoli trees” any day of the week.
- Let them help prepare meals. Pull a chair right up to the counter and let them hang out next to you while you chop, taste test, and create their meals. I was prepping a salad the other night and AG took at least one bite of broccoli, cauliflower, green and red peppers, carrots, onions, green beans, and tomatoes. Did she like all of them? Definitely not. I did however learn which veggies she does like and will be able to include them in future meals.
- Let them see you eating it. Every night I make AG and I the same exact meal. She even watches me dish the food onto each of our plates before sitting down at the table. But yet she’ll refuse to eat hers while managing to eat every last bite of mine. Anyone else’s kid do this? Although not an ideal situation, it’s proof that if they see you eat it, they’ll want it too. Start them out with their own plate of food, but if they’d rather migrate to yours (and it doesn’t bother you) then let them. If the healthy food’s getting into her belly, I’m not going to sweat what plate it’s coming from.
- Limit their snacks. I can’t stress this enough! AG loves food and therefore thinks she should have food readily available to her at all times. In the early stages of her eating I would make her 976523 different meals and snacks/day because she’s never been a chunky kid and “what could it hurt”. What could it hurt? My bank account, my patiences, my sanity … Just to name a few. Half of the time she wasn’t hungry and my gluten free, dairy free, soy free, veggie infused, organic, free-range, (ok, you get the idea) something or other would end up in the dogs mouth and my toddler would end up with the bag of Goldfish I swore I wouldn’t give her. Give them 1 snack between breakfast and lunch + 1 snack between lunch and dinner. If your kid is anything like mine, the first few days they’ll whine for more snacks mommy please. Don’t give in. By the time they get to their next snack or meal, they’ll be hungry enough to eat the healthy stuff vs hold out for us to give in and give them the non-healthy option.
- Give them options. This especially works for the
stubborn childrenfuture CEO’s in the family. Stick with 2-3 parent approved snack options (aka an apple with almond butter, carrots with hummus, an orange + cheese stick). That way your toddler will have a say, but you still win.
Display the good stuff. Keep a basket/bowl/tray of fruit and veggies where your kids can see them, while hiding the not-so-good for you treats in the back of the cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind. From time-to-time AG will still ask for something she knows we usually have hidden in the cabinet, but since she can’t actually see it, I may or may not tell a little white lie like “we’re all out but look at this delicious little Halo just sitting on the counter for you“.
- Don’t buy it. Don’t like the idea of white lying to your mini-human? You’re such a good person. So here’s the alternative, just don’t buy the over processed, red dye #9, sugar and fat infused snack options. **parent tip: this is the WORST option, because what are you supposed to do on those days when your kid is losing it, you’re buried in work, and you didn’t realize that last apple you saved for little Tommy to have before grocery shopping is actually rotten. I’m just saying. Don’t set yourself up for this. Also – what about the chocolate and potato chips you’re going to reward yourself with after the kids go to bed. Yeah, didn’t think about that did ya? Moving on …
- Pack ahead. Heading out the door for the day? Stock up on some of your kiddos favorite healthy snacks. Too many times I would leave to run a quick errand and end up staying out way longer than expected. There we’d be with a cart full of stuff, a line full of people at the register, and another 15 minute car ride home. So I’d grab for something off the aisle to calm my crying kid (think: Doritos, Tic Tacs, Airheads). Or worse, I’d hold out while we were in the store only to give in and get McDonald’s nuggets on the way home. To avoid that, I’ve started planning ahead while at the store and buying snack pack versions of healthy treats, as well as packing those treats before going out.
**Some of our go-to, on-the-go, snacks include: individually packaged baby carrots, Halo’s, bananas, fruit + nut trail mix, peanut butter crackers, & cheese sticks.
- Hide it. Don’t worry, we’re not back to hiding snack food in the cabinet and lying about it. However, depending on how good of a cook you are (aka how well you can follow a recipe), you can hide veggies in almost any meal.
- Add them to your favorite recipes. Shred carrots, sweet potatoes, and zucchini then add them into your recipe for meatballs or turkey burgers. Sub half of a portion of rice with cooked and diced cauliflower – I promise they won’t notice the difference. Dice peppers and squash and mix it into a vegetable fried rice. There are so many recipe options!
- Get a great blender and make your own soup. We recently tried a tomato soup recipe listed in the book that came with our nutribullet. It included tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cashews among other things. And it was good enough that AG ate it 3 days in a row for lunch.
- Smoothie it. We start every morning off with a smoothie for breakfast which always includes at least two cups of spinach! In the beginning, I was sticking with the same smoothie every day because it was working and she was drinking it all + some of mine. But after a bit I became brave and we’ve tried out so many new combinations that are both Mommy and Toddler approved.
- Squeeze pouch it. Most toddlers I know could live off of those pureed fruit and veggie pouches. They have no clue that the good ones are packed with tons of healthy things (not just apple sauce). We opt for the Simply Nature organic pouches from Aldi because they’re really affordable. But you can find different versions of them at any store.
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What are your go-to parenting hacks for getting your kids to eat healthy?
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