Is your toddler stuck on eating the same few things every day? Mine was too.
And they weren’t necessarily the most nutritional things either… mac n cheese, grilled cheese, pancakes.
I had to really work on it, but now, he will actually ask me for eggs, grapes, and toast for breakfast or pasta with broccoli for lunch.
I promise, you can do the same with your toddler too.
All you need is a positive mindset, a little bit of patience, and start using these tips below.
You will have a healthier eater in no time!
Here are 9 tips to get your toddler to eat more vegetables and healthier meals!
1. Make eating healthy foods fun!
Toddlers love to learn about the world around them and they love to help! So get them involved!
A one year old can ‘help’ by carrying the ingredients for you to the counter. Or let them sit in the highchair while you narrate what your doing. Let them taste test meals with you while you cook. If they aren’t interested in eating, just allowing them to touch and smell it will teach them so much.
A two year old can help you wash fruits and vegetables, stir ingredients (with your help), and do things like help put their wheat toast in the toaster oven.
A three year old can help by getting the ingredients from a recipe (ex: carrots in the bottom veggie drawer) or cooking tools such as a pan.
2. Be a good example!
Toddlers learn what to eat by watching the things you eat. If you look disgusted taking a bite of broccoli, that’s a big red flag that your toddler shouldn’t eat it either!
You don’t even have to make a big deal about what your eating. Actually, it is best that you probably don’t point it out. Toddlers want to be like their parents, and that includes eating the same foods sometimes too.
3. Get rid of snacking in between meal times!
This one was huge in our house. I realized the crackers and other snacks in between lunch and dinner were filling up my son. When it came time for dinner, he would refuse almost everything on his plate. I soon figured out it was because I had ruined his appetite with all the snacks he had the previous hour. When I stopped giving him snacks a little while before dinner, he was much more willing to try new foods because he was actually hungry!
4. Don’t make separate meals just for your toddler.
Toddlers become accustomed to the things you feed them. If your having grilled teriyaki chicken with grilled zucchini and rice, cut it all up in bite sized pieces so they can eat with you. Letting them try lots of different foods, textures, and tastes will begin to expand their palette. Repeat the meals that you find he or she really enjoyed.
5. Make their favorite food with a new vegetable.
I noticed that when I pair my sons’ meals with things I know he likes, he’s more willing to at least try the other food. I don’t make it a big deal or say anything besides letting him know what he is eating. I will give him his favorite Annies mac n cheese and pair it with a side of asparagus. Sure enough, over time, this has become one of his favorite vegetables. The familiarity of having their favorite food gives them a sense of security when trying a new food. If they don’t like the new food, at least they can go back to eating their favorite dish.
6. Allow only one “treat” in the house and get rid of the rest.
I used to load up on organic animal crackers, Annie’s cheddar bunnies, organic cereals, etc. Until I realized that even though it’s organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy or good for you. And it was expensive!
These foods are all junk and should be considered a treat. Our go to treat now is Pirates Booty. The rest of available snacks in our house are fruits, a veggie tray, popcorn, or nuts. If there are only healthy snack options in the house, then they will be more inclined to make better choices naturally.
7. Try vegetables cooked different ways.
Try fresh, steamed, grilled, baked, broiled, pan fried, etc. You can even try them with different spices and seasonings. If they like one of those versions then write it down and try it again another day!
8. Accept that there are some foods your kid may never like, and that’s okay!
My son has never liked tomatoes. I’ve tried Roma, beef steak, and grape tomatoes. I offered them to him since he was 10 months old and he still doesn’t like them as a 3 year old. And that’s okay!
If your toddler hates a certain vegetable, no matter how much you introduce it or cook it different ways. There are other ways of getting in all those same vitamins and minerals in other fruits and veggies.
9. Make it a slow transition.
If your toddler will only eat Mac n cheese, grilled cheeses, or chicken nuggets for lunch, switch one meal a week out with something healthier like rolled up turkey lunch meat, a string cheese, and carrots with ranch.
Then the next week, add another healthy lunch and so on until they have adjusted. If they are throwing fits during meal time with the change up, take it a little slower.
If your toddler is a super picky eater just know that it is likely just a phase. Their taste buds are still growing and developing. I used all of the tips above to get my toddler to eat healthier foods and more vegetables.
Let me know in the comments below if something worked particularly well for you and your toddler!