What’s a parent gotta do to get their toddler to eat a vegetable around here?! If you have a picky eater on your hands, it can be a miserable experience trying to get them to eat a vegetable. Any vegetable. Just one bite. JUST EAT THE DANG BROCCOLI!
It can feel so frustrating when you prepare a nice, balanced meal, and your toddler consistently turns up their nose at the veggies. (Or throws them on the floor, or feeds them to the dog…) Trust me, as a picky-eater-mom and Registered Dietitian, I am DEEPLY familiar with this struggle.
This post gives you some options for kid-friendly vegetables for picky eaters, and walks you through how to serve them so that they might ACTUALLY get eaten!
The Veggie-Feeding Struggle Is Real
You know deep in your soul that veggies are healthy. You’ve heard it your entire life. “Eat your vegetables! They’re good for you!” Right? And, in some ways, it can feel like you’re not doing your parenting duty if your toddler doesn’t eat veggies willingly.
It’s like we do this mental calculation: the more veggies they eat, the healthier they are. If they aren’t eating veggies, they’re not going to be healthy. So, it can feel like you’re not doing a good job feeding them without getting those healthy veggies into their growing bodies.
But then when you DO try to get them to eat veggies, they flat out refuse, have a meltdown, throw the food, tell you they hate you… I’ve heard of all these reactions and more from the parents I work with one on one.
What’s a well-intentioned parent to do?!
Avoid The Vegetable Battlefield
If you’re in a veggie tug-of-war with your picky eater, the most important thing for you to do is to refrain from using pressuring tactics to get them to eat. They always backfire, either in the short-term, long-term, or both.
Things To Avoid
- Making them clean their plate
- Making them eat their veggies so they can get dessert
- Hiding veggies in different foods and lying about them being there
- Bribing your child to eat veggies
- Begging your child to eat veggies
I find that for some reason, dads more often have the tendency to want to force picky eaters into eating their veggies somehow. But, this typically results in more tension at mealtime and can be damaging to the parent-child relationship. One study asked adults whether they eat foods now that they were forced to eat as a child, and 72% said that they won’t! So, even if you get them to eat those foods in the moment, chances are they won’t be enjoying it now or in the future.
How To Get Vegetables Into Picky Eaters
Take that expectation bar and lower it! Many picky eaters need to see a vegetable at a meal MANY times before they’re ready to try. That’s okay! Breathe, let them go at their own pace, and reality-check those expectations.
Offer A Teeny Tiny Taste
Start with a grain-of-rice-sized portion of a new veggie at a meal. They can always have more if they (miraculously) eat and like it!
Offer Kid-Friendly Vegetables for Picky Eaters
Which ones you ask? Don’t worry, I’ve got you. My list of 8 veggies picky eaters are more likely to try is below.
Get Their Help With Cooking
Some toddlers will happily put anything in their mouth as long as it’s something you happen to be preparing before mealtime. Give it a try! They usually will at least touch the veggie if you ask for their help to prepare it– and that’s a win, too.
Offer A Dip They Like
There’s nothing a little ranch or ketchup can’t fix! (Okay, there are some things.) I am a big fan of condiments– yes, even ketchup and mayo– if they’re helping a picky eater try new vegetables.
Serve Vegetables Earlier
Dinner can be a tough time for trying new things, because kids are often already tired and not as hungry as they were earlier in the day. If your picky eater always passes on veggies at dinnertime, don’t wait until dinnertime to serve veggies! Serve them earlier in the day, either at lunch, with breakfast, or as part of a snack.
Download The Picky Eater Starter Guide
My free (!!) Picky Eater Starter Guide will be your new go-to resource on picky eating. It’ll walk you through 4 easy steps you can take to make mealtimes a little happier. Pair it with this blog post on where to start with a picky eater, and you’ll be well on your way.
Kid-Friendly Vegetables for Picky Eaters
In my experience, picky eaters are most likely to enjoy these 8 veggies because of their mild flavours, slight sweetness, and crunchy textures.
The natural sweetness and crunch of carrots are often very appealing to young children. To make raw carrots easier to handle for a toddler, shred them or serve in matchsticks. You can also steam them and serve with butter and honey (but only serve honey for ages 1+). I’m all for adding some sweetness to veggies if it makes them more appealing when kids are learning to like them!
Cucumbers have such a mild flavor, which is relatively easy to like. Though they’re technically a fruit, in the culinary world cucumber is treated like a veggie, so I’m counting it! Slice in thin sticks for a toddler.
#3 Crunchy Lettuce Shred
Crunchy lettuces, like romaine, are another example of a mild-tasting veggie. They’re perfect to serve with your toddler’s favorite dip.
#4 Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are much sweeter than their green counterparts, and orange and yellow are great options, too! Slice them very thinly for your toddler if you’re serving them raw.
Pro tip for peas: serve them still frozen! Frozen foods taste and smell less strong, so they’re easier to introduce to resistant toddlers.
The sweetness usually hooks toddlers in, but they have to want to try it, first! Offer just 1 kernel of corn so it’s not overwhelming, and tell them it’s sweet and crunchy. Let them take it from there.
Mix spinach into smoothies and homemade popsicles for an easy way to introduce your picky eater to it, without the flavor being overpowering.
Like spinach, cauliflower is a great mix-in. I love to add frozen cauliflower to smoothies (it adds creaminess without any noticeable flavor), and to pasta sauces. Try this toddler-approved cauliflower pasta recipe if your little one likes pasta!
Which veggies will your picky eater will entertain?
A few? One? None? Let me know how it’s going in the comments!