1) Make dippers
“Give fussy eaters simple food that’s fun,” says nutritionist Anita Bean from the Haliborange Shiny School for healthier youngsters. “Vegetable and fruit dippers are perfect.” Make a dip with grated cucumber and yogurt and chop up celery, carrots and cucumber sticks. She’ll love dunking and crunching!
2) Share the prep
“Involve your little one as you prepare fruit and veg for a meal,” suggests Sue Beever, author of Happy Kids Happy You. “Tell her what you’re doing, explain which bits we eat, the bits we cut off and how they grow, as you reinforce the message that fruit and veg are good for our bodies.” By learning more, she’ll want to eat more.
3) Popcorn? A vegetable?
Ditch the crisps and embrace lower-fat popcorn – yes, it really is a vegetable. Pour a 10 pence-sized drizzle of vegetable oil into a saucepan and add a handful of popping kernels, put the lid on and turn on the heat. Make sure you let it cool before dishing it out, and don’t smother it in salt or sugar!
4) Sweet tooth? Try veg cakes
Be inventive – you can add a serving of grated veggies to cake batter, even if it’s not in the recipe. Try courgette or carrot, or our yummy chocolate and beetroot cake recipe.
5) Have a taste adventure
“Enjoy having samples together and exploring new tastes and textures,” suggests Sue. “This was how I discovered my youngest prefers many vegetables raw. It seemed a bit odd to let her have raw broccoli, but it’s healthier that way anyway (as none of the vitamins have been cooked out) and easier to prepare, too!”
6) Be a smoothie
Just because it’s winter, this doesn’t mean you can’t be a smoothie operator. “Kids love throwing different types of fruit in the blender, pressing the button and seeing what shade it comes out,” says Tanith Carey, author of How to be an Amazing Mum When You Just Don’t Have the Time . “Try bananas, pineapples, papayas, mangoes, peaches, nectarines, pears and all the different berries. And throw in some nuts, oat flakes or plain yogurt to make the smoothie more substantial.”
7) Invent new combos
If your little one doesn’t like the standard veggies you’re serving up, think outside the (veg) box. Mashed up sweet potato and butter beans is a tasty combo (and really quick to make), while sweetcorn combined with tinned tomatoes is another fave.
8) Be souper
Soups are perfect for the colder months – warming, cheap and you can get five-a-day into one meal. Use up old vegetables to create your own recipes. It’s really hard to make a bad-tasting soup, so most combinations are fine.
9) Use your loaf
If you’re the lucky owner of a bread maker, make sure you chuck in some extra goodies before you flick that switch. Onions, herbs and garlic make tasty bread for little mouths.
10) Build your own
Let your toddler design her own pizza. Think faces, animals, buildings – with veg toppings. Pineapple, sweetcorn and mushrooms are great options, while you can boost vitamin C by making your own sauce using whatever veg you’ve got – plus tomatoes, of course.
11) Make a game
Apple bobbing isn’t just for Halloween – it’s a great game to play all year, especially if you’ve got more than one little person to entertain. Just be sure to make them gobble down whichever shiny apple they get.
12) Playtime using fruit and your ice cube tray
Not using ice as much now the weather’s turned? Use your ice-cube trays to make mini fruit platters. Number each one and do a bingo-style call out of the different numbers. The rules? Your toddler has to eat the number called.
13) An apple a day…
The humble apple is your best friend when cooking for a toddler, quite simply because it goes with everything and you don’t even need to peel it. Add grated apple to sandwich fillings, coleslaw, breakfast cereals and even home-made burgers to get this yummy fruit into her diet.
14) Add a topping
“I have four mouths to feed, and for breakfast I find that porridge is perfect at this time of year. For variety we add lots of fruit – like blueberries, raisins, chopped apple or pear with cinnamon, or banana and strawberries. It’s a great, economical way to fill everyone up, and the kids love adding the topping themselves.”
Jeanette Sayer, 30, from Warrington, mum to Mathilda, 3 and Theo, 7 months
15) Make some funny faces
“Creating funny faces or animal shapes out of fruit and veg always works a treat with my 3 year old son. We make eyes out of tomato, cucumber or bananas and add a mouth made out of carrot. Jacob loves them and is happy to eat everything up before they walk off his plate – or so we tell him!”
Nicola Spiteri, 33, from Cardiff, mum to Jacob, 3, and 24 weeks pregnant
16) Make a change
“Gemma loves carrots but as they’re the only veg she’ll actually ask for, I was worried she’d go off them completely. I found jazzing them up with a little grated cheese or tomato ketchup works wonders – I swear she thinks cheesy carrots are a cool new vegetable!”
Yvonne Perkins, 28, from Glasgow, mum to Gemma, 3, and Isabelle, 6 months
“When my children sit down to watch a DVD, I take the opportunity to put a bowl of fruit or veg in front of them,” says Tanith Carey. “They’ll absentmindedly eat anything – try carrot sticks, halved grapes, blueberries or raisins. And when they’re waiting for dinner, try keeping them busy with strips of crunchy veggies until their main meal is ready.”
But don’t hide it!
Your toddler is smarter than you think: – If you try to hide peas inside mashed potato (or other foods, come to that) she’ll be on to you in a flash. Instead, go all out by puréeing the peas and then mixing them in with the mashed potato. – If you’ve got time, mould the mash into a fun shape – she’ll be tucking in before you can say ‘greens’.
Did you know…
- Broccoli contains as much calcium, ounce per ounce, as milk.
- Cabbages are 90% water, essential for toddlers’ wellbeing.