Here's How I Feed My Picky Toddlers Veggies
and what finally worked for us
Around 5:00 PM every evening, I hear the chorus of the witching hour: “my tummy’s hungry!” My 3-year-old twin toddlers—without missing a beat—always come clawing at me for food right before dinner time. You know what the amazing part is, though? Whenever I sing out through the house, “dinner’s ready!” shortly after (and serve their plates that include new vegetables), their tummies all of a sudden seem like they’re not hungry after all. This used to be our every day. But I’ve come up with a better, fool-proof game plan and have some tips to share with all of you toddler parents!
As a pediatric nurse practitioner dual certified in primary care and acute care with my doctorate, I’ve spent over a decade studying and providing care to children. In other words, cracking the code to keeping kids happy and healthy is my specialty! In full honesty, the toddler version of me would have been my own worst nightmare—I was as picky as they came! (I mean, where was Plant Camp when I was a kid?!....We’ll get to what that is a little later, though ☺) I’m still relatively picky as an adult; so, I’ve made it my personal mission to figure out how to avoid the same pitfalls that led me to always refusing new foods, especially vegetables. When my daughter cried recently because her plate had green beans on it, and my son said “this is yuck” to the broccoli I put on his plate, I knew it was time to roll up my sleeves and get creative. Through talking to other toddler moms and navigating my own trial and error at home, I’ve found some easy methods that actually work.
Here are my top 9 tips to how I feed my picky toddlers their veggies:
Try and try again.
This is probably the most crucial part to remember. Just because your toddlers refused that cauliflower 6 times in a row doesn’t mean you should give up forever. It can actually take up to 10 times to successfully introduce new foods. So, try offering it and try again (and again). Just keep your cool and know that with time (and patience) you’ll get there.
Take advantage of kid-friendly food brands, like Plant Camp, that already have the veggies hidden in something they already love.
Hello, most brilliant idea ever! Nice to meet you! When I first heard about Plant Camp’s plant-based Macaroni & Cheese made with hidden veggies (including nutrients from peas, carrots, spinach, and broccoli), I wondered, “Why is this not already in my pantry?” Between the hidden veggies, organic gluten-free noodles, 10 grams of protein, and cheesy goodness, each serving just can’t go wrong. When I’m tired from working all day, I don’t have the time (or energy) to deal with the dinnertime woes AND cooking. The kids love the classic flavor and it makes me happy knowing that they’re getting the nutrients they really need. Plant Camp’s Macaroni & Cheese with hidden veggies is a total win-win! As a side note, I’ve actually treated myself to this macaroni & cheese before—and I can confirm it tastes quite amazing.
Get them involved in the meal-making.
To keep them invested in the process and more likely to eat whatever is being served, my twins will put on chef hats and aprons and take turns helping me prepare meals. For example, when we make Plant Camp’s Macaroni & Cheese, one twin pours the noodles out of the box and then the other helps me stir. Remove the fright and add delight, and then you’re all set! Also, if you frame the question in a “this or that” format, such as “Would you like to eat corn or peas with your dinner tonight?” instead of a yes/no format, then they’re less likely to object what’s on their plate. Toddlers generally do better when they get a part in the decision-making!
Serve meals with fun presentations.
When I’m feeling extra creative, I’ll create faces out of the kids’ dinner food before serving it to them. My personal favorite is to use green peas for eyes, carrots for arms, and lettuce for hair! ;)
Make up a song about it.
In our house, we truly have songs for everything—brushing our teeth, washing our hands, cleaning up messes, and everything in between. So, when one of my twins tries a new vegetable, there’s a special song I sing for them—which makes them dance around and sing it with me with pride!
Don’t pressure too much.
It’s a fine balance to push vegetables but not overdo the pressure. I try not to focus too much on how much or how little they ate in the veggie department at dinner. My parents used to make me sit at the dinner table until every bite of my vegetables was gone—and, boy, were those some long meals. Instead, I approach it like this, “I see you didn’t try your corn tonight. Maybe we can try again tomorrow night so you can grow to be big and strong!” Hilarious, but true story: I sometimes pretend that the veggies on their plates are mine. I’ll say in a joking manner, “Doooon’t you eat my carrots!” and then they’ll laugh and actually try to eat them before I do.
Read and talk about vegetables more!
This tactic has worked SO well for my toddlers. We read books about potty training when we ditched the diapers, we read books about what to expect preschool before the first drop-off, and most recently, we’ve read books about vegetables and where they come from to get them more comfortable with trying them.
Set a positive example.
Whenever I eat vegetables in front of my twins, I make sure to say how good they taste. If there’s ever a veggie that I don’t like, though, I just won’t mention that part. I try to keep things positive and upbeat! This is a good time to “fake it till you make it.”
Set out a few colorful veggies during the witching hour.
I got this idea from another mommy blogger and I have to admit—it’s just so smart! During that witching hour right before dinner when everyone’s tummy is hungry, just set out a tray of colorful vegetables for them to grab and go—in a no pressure environment—until dinner is ready. I tried this recently, and I’m shocked to report, both twins ate a bite of broccoli!
The moral of this story is you’re NOT alone (getting kids to eat their veggies is anything but easy!), to be patient, get creative, and remember that yummy kid-friendly foods like Plant Camp’s Macaroni & Cheese with hidden veggies exist to keep your kids full of the nutrients their growing bodies need in the meantime. Hopefully, in time, some of these tips work for you and your picky little ones, too. May the (veggie) force be with you!