How to get your Infant and Toddler to Eat (and Enjoy!) Veggies
3 minutes read
Kate Geagan, M.S., R.D.N.
Dietitian and sustainable nutrition pioneer
Veggies First: Help Shape a Love of Healthy Foods Right from the Start
When it comes to tackling the trickiness of pickiness, what’s the best way to help grow a love of veggies from the start? Here are 4 tips to help set your little one up for success, starting even before your baby’s first bite. There’s a whole world of tasty food waiting!
In pregnancy and nursing: Enjoy a variety of veggie flavors
Your baby’s first taste awareness starts in the womb, as flavors from the mother’s diet in pregnancy are introduced through amniotic fluid. In nursing, breastmilk flavor reflects the foods, herbs and spices of the mother’s diet as well. These early experiences have been found to help shape flavor preferences later on, so get a jump start on developing baby’s love of veggies by including a wide variety of colorful vegetables as part of your pregnancy routine and (if you are breastfeeding) nursing diet. And here's another upside: A veggie rich diet is chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that nourish you and your baby.
In weaning: Offer veggie tastes early and often. And don’t be afraid to have fun!
When your little one is ready to start solid food, introduce a rainbow of single vegetables into your rotation right from the start. Offer veggie blends early to get tiny taste buds used to a variety of flavors, as veggies range from sweet (such corn or snap peas) to earthy (hello beets and parsnips), to bitter (dark leafy greens or brussels sprouts, we’re looking at you). And repeat often: It can take your little one up to 10 tastes before they accept something unfamiliar. Your baby may even make a “funny face”, when they encounter a new flavor, which is perfectly normal, so stay calm and keep offering. Early exposure to a variety of flavors and textures in infancy is linked with reduced fear of new foods past age 3, and is also associated with greater eating variety success in adolescence and adulthood.
In toddlerhood: Practice persistence and patience
Toddlers are famously finicky. In toddlerhood, your little one’s pace of growth begins to slow down at the same time their cognitive and muscle development lets them be even busier exploring their world-and their boundaries. While picky eaters do tend to get enough calories, they often fall short of vegetables, which are a key source of essential nutrients such as fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C. Continue to offer a variety of veggies at meals and snacks. Inviting your tot to choose a new unfamiliar veggie at the store to try and prepare together can help naturally spark their curiosity. And while you shouldn’t be a short order cook, many toddlers do have personal preferences around the formats they like best -explore a variety of ways you can enjoy veggies-whether roasted, raw, stir fried, steamed, or incorporated into things like omlettes, stir fries, soups, muffins, noodle or rice bowls, or even smoothies.
At the family table: Try to be a role model
Remember that family meals are an important place your little one learns to role model a love of healthy foods. And variety is the spice of life! Offering new veggies alongside familiar favorites, seasoned with herbs, spices or as part of traditional foods your family enjoys, can help ease fears around new foods. Toddlers are keen to follow what their parents do: The pickier a parent is about eating veggies, the more likely their tot will be picky as well. So try to be a role model. If your little one see parents and siblings enjoying a wide variety of good-for-them veggies, chances are they will be more eager to dig in.
This is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always discuss any health and feeding concerns directly with your pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read above.