In my last post, I shared a few tips about what to expect and how to help encourage your child to eat more. Here are more tips to help your child eat more variety of foods, including more vegetables:
How can I get my child to eat more variety?
- Offer a "nibble tray". At snack time, fill a muffin tin or ice cube tray with bite-sized portions of colorful, nutritious foods. Try cooked macaroni, cheese cubes, kidney beans, grape halves, broccoli florets, ready-to- eat cereal, and canned pineapple tidbits.
- Let children cook. Your child is more likely to eat what he has helped to make.
- Children can help wash vegetables, tear up lettuce, scrub potatoes, or stir batter.
- Be playful. Call these finger foods playful names that a two-year-old can appreciate, such as: apple moons (thinly sliced), avocado boats (a quarter of an avocado), banana wheels, broccoli trees (steamed broccoli florets), carrot swords (cooked and thinly sliced), cheese building blocks, egg canoes (hard- boiled egg wedges), little O's (o-shaped cereal). "Olive or raspberry fingers" are much more appealing to be nibbled off their fingertips.
- Serve new foods over and over again. A food not eaten at first may soon become a favorite. Simply place a new food on the table with familiar foods. If not eaten, try again another day.
- Prepare foods in new ways. Prepare foods with different tastes, colors, shapes and textures – your child may enjoy foods that you don't! Cutting foods into small bits or interesting shapes, or simply packaging or presenting foods in silly ways-anything from plastic measuring cups to ice-cream cones.
- Dip it! Young children think that immersing foods in a tasty dip is pure fun (and delightfully messy). Some possibilities to dip into: cottage cheese or tofu dip, cream cheese, fruit juice-sweetened preserves, guacamole, nut butters, pureed fruits or vegetables, yogurt.
- Eat well yourself. Eat meals with your child. She will be more likely to try new foods if she sees you eating them.
- Ignore "food jags". A food jag is when a child will only eat one or a few foods. It is quite common and is usually temporary. Try to offer other foods with the desired food. To ensure variety, serve the desired food at only one meal per day.
- Prefer to drink it? If your youngster would rather drink than eat, don't despair. Make a smoothie – together. Milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit – along with supplements such as wheat germ, flax meal, chia seeds, honey, or peanut butter – can be the basis of very healthy meals. So what if they are consumed through a straw?
How can I get my child to eat more vegetables?
- Try raw instead of cooked. Many children prefer raw vegetables that are crunchy and colorful. Slice vegetables and serve with a nutritious dip made from cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, chickpeas, or avocado. Grated raw carrots are a safer choice than carrot sticks or coins for children under the age of four.
- Add them to favorite foods. Add grated or diced vegetables to soups, spaghetti sauce, pizza, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, kabobs, pancakes and muffins.
- Camouflage vegetables with a favorite sauce (melted cheese sauce is my personal favorite) or veggies topped with peanut- butter sauce, a specialty of Asian cuisines.
- Make veggie art! Create colorful faces with olive slice eyes, tomato ears, mushroom noses, bell-pepper mustaches, and any other playful features you can think of. Zucchini pancakes make a terrific face to which you can add pea eyes, a carrot nose, and cheese hair.
- Plant a garden. Let your child help care for and harvest the plants at home or at a community garden. He will be more interested in eating vegetables that he has helped to grow or pick. Peas or cherry tomatoes straight from the garden are usually a big hit. Or visit a pick-your-own farm for locally grown fresh veggies and fruit.
- Be a role model. Don't expect your child to eat her brussels sprouts if you won’t eat them yourself! Make vegetables a regular part of meals and snacks.
- Offer fruit instead. Serve a variety of colorful fruit to your child if he refuses to eat vegetables. Fruit and vegetables contain similar nutrients.
My child refuses to drink milk. Should I be concerned?
It is recommended that young children drink 2 cups (500 mL) of milk every day to meet their needs for vitamin D and calcium. If your child does not drink milk, discuss other ways of providing calcium and vitamin D with a dietitian or doctor.
Does my child need a vitamin-mineral supplement?
If a child is eating a variety of foods from all four food groups, supplements are rarely needed. Many common foods — including breakfast cereal, milk and orange juice — are fortified with important nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron. So your child may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think. A dietitian or doctor can offer advice when a supplement is needed. (Be sure to keep supplements out of reach of children to avoid overdose.)