How to get your child to eat more vegetables

Want your toddler to eat his greens (and reds, and oranges)? Follow our guide to boosting his daily veggie quota

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Cook veg differently

Instead of chopping carrots, cut them into ‘ribbons’ with a potato peeler. Cook them until soft, then fry briefly with honey to sweeten. Or re-invent Brussels sprouts by blending them with cooked turnip and potato, seasoning, and serving as a veggie mash. Aubergines, when sliced thinly and baked, make the perfect base for mini veggie pizzas, topped with tomato sauce, cheese and your child’s favourite extras.  Want more ideas?  Try these 25 tricks to tempt fussy eaters.

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Hide and disguise

Pack toddler meals with hidden vitamins.  Make a tomato-based sauce, and blend in something that’s good for your child. Roasted peppers, garlic, onions and even spinach are all packed with nutrients and will disappear in a tasty pasta sauce, shepherd’s pie or soup.

Chips are up

Kids love chips – so take advantage and make them part of your toddler meal planner! Turn potato wedges into a multicoloured feast by adding ‘chips’ of roasted red and yellow peppers, sweet potato or boiled carrot batons. Serve them all mixed together in a big bowl. 

Shop till you drop

Let your child be involved in choosing the vegetables for the weekly shop. Take him to the supermarket and talk to him about the colourful array of veggies on the shelves. Get him to choose a new vegetable to try, and when you get home, let him help you to prepare it. Make it your mission to get him to choose, and have at least a taste of, one new veg a week.  Here are a few more tips to help beat fussy eating.

Time for tins

Don’t forget that tinned vegetables count towards your toddler’s five a day, and often go down well even with veggie-phobic children. A lunch of baked beans on toast, or a serving of spaghetti hoops in tomato sauce alongside fish fingers and wedges, will, surprisingly, count towards his daily vegetable quota.

Eat soup

Homemade vegetable soup is tasty for children of all ages, and because the veggies can be blended in, your child won’t notice they’re there. For babies, add a sweet potato for vitamins and sweetness; for toddler recipes, throw in a can of tomatoes and butter beans, puree and serve in a toddler cup with a handle. Serve with fresh bread or toast for a messy dunking experience.

How does your garden grow?

One of the best ways to get children interested in vegetables is to grow your own. Devote a corner of your garden or a window box to planting a few easy crops like carrots or salad leaves, arm him with a mini watering can and encourage him to look after his vegetable plot. Chances are he’ll be so proud of his handiwork that he’ll be inspired to give his veggies a try.

Say cheese

A cheesy sauce can make all the difference to boring veg. Bake a homemade cauliflower cheese or veggie bake with broccoli, potatoes and courgettes, pour over the tasty sauce, top with grated cheese and grill lightly.

A little sweetener

For young babies who won’t eat their greens, mixing a savoury vegetable puree with some fruit can help them get used to the taste of veggies. Baby-friendly combos include carrot and apple, avocado and banana and sweet potato and orange. You can also add fruit to meat and veg casseroles for older toddlers: try throwing a handful of raisins or apricots into a mild chicken and vegetable curry.

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Just rewards

Toddlers respond better to praise than criticism, so try to keep calm at the dinner table. Introducing age-appropriate rewards can encourage your child to eat – or at least taste – new vegetables. Using pudding as a reward isn’t a good idea, but you could try a star chart instead.  For young babies, a big cheer and a round of applause when they eat a bit of carrot will suffice; for older toddlers, try some gentle bribery, for example, promising an extra bedtime story if they’ll have three bites of broccoli.

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