This post originally appeared in April 2018 at my other blog, A Good Abad. Mateo was then only two (almost three) years old. I made some updates from the original post.
My two-year old loves to eat since he was a baby. Everything with food has been an adventure for him (and me). He welcomed every taste and color. It was also a world of different textures for him since we mainly practiced baby-led weaning.
He definitely was not a picky eater. I had no trouble feeding him. It was (is) actually more difficult to think of what to cook for my husband. Mateo devoured everything, including vegetables. Yes, vegetables.
We had no trouble with vegetables. Until he turned into a little kid who loves to test his boundaries and my patience . He still loves to eat, but not how I would love it.
I have been more lenient with his diet as he grew older. Yet, it doesn’t mean that I will let him have his way not to eat the greens. He must still eat his vegetables. They’re a great source for zinc, which are needed to boost immunity (according to our doctor). So here’s how I deal with it, and it includes both quirky and serious tips.
How I get my kid to eat vegetables
1. Cut the vegetables into small pieces. Mash it if you must.
Mashing vegetables are great for soup dishes. The vegetables (like squash or potato) will simply meld with the soup.
Cutting the vegetables, meanwhile, will make it easier to “hide” it among the other food on his plate. This, obviously, is subject to the child’s preferences.
2. Hide it.
Hide the vegetable piece in every bite. That’s why I first advised to cut the vegetable. Smaller pieces are easier to hide.
How does it work for us? I do not know. Mateo knows when I’m hiding the vegetable behind rice or meat, but he still eats it most of the time. Weird, indeed but also works with my youngest sister, already a teenager who despises anything green. To be clear, she hides it voluntarily.
Of course, you can creatively hide vegetables in smoothies or muffins or other baked goods. I just think it’s better to make the kid realize that vegetables (and fruits) must be part of the regular diet. Or I just like making my life more difficult.
3. Ask him to close his eyes for every bite.
Sometimes, there are just too many small pieces of vegetables to hide. For such cases, I just ask Mateo to close his eyes as he takes his bite. Out of sight, out of mind, into his mouth. It sounds ridiculous because, well, it is ridiculous.
There is no doubt in my mind that countless other tricks exist in this world to make kids eat those green stuff. It just happens that two things working for us (back then) are a bit unusual. This thing doesn’t work anymore at five-year old, but he actually likes greens now (save for a few occasion).
4. Introduce early and be consistent.
Now this one’s important. Those tips above will be difficult to do if the child has deeply ingrained in his mind and tastebuds that he hates vegetables. I’ve tried it with a preschooler who played with Mateo once. It did not work. Although I do not know how we’d fare if I was given the chance to do it longer.
Babies should be given fruits and vegetables early on, and offered to them every meal time. Still, I understand that sometimes it is just more convenient to cook a single meal, like adobo without side dishes. I have done that and was doing fine, until the kid refused the vegetables.
I’ve learned my lesson. It is wiser to simply be consistent in serving a balanced meal. Besides, Reymond and I need that zinc as well.
5. Respect your child.
While I mentioned being consistent in serving vegetables, it is also important to respect your child’s likes and dislikes. Sometimes they will simply refuse it, even the perceived favorites. It’s okay. They are their own person, anyway. They have their own preferences.
Am I contradicting myself? No.
If at a certain mealtime the kid refuses to eat vegetables, and no tricks or pleading can do the job, then just accept it as a no-vegetable time. It is better to avoid the power struggle. Live in harmony, especially at the dinner table.
Then, next time, prepare a meal with a vegetable that will likely be consumed. Task is not yet done, though. After a while, re-introduce the vegetable he/she refused. Just try it again, and repeat the cycle.
I’d like to add here a tip I got from Kids Eat in Color. Just place a tiny amount or slice of vegetable on your child’s plate without forcing them to eat it. I’ve done it with Mateo (after some time of not eating the greens), and now he loves the greens. Although we’ve now come at a point where he removes from his plate food that he dislikes, I don’t worry anymore since he can enjoy a balanced diet on his own and without a struggle (most of the time). Mateo’s even the one to encourage his Tita to eat the vegetables.
Before ending this piece, please take note that you cannot expect kids (even adults!) to like every single vegetable or food that you’d prepare. Mateo hates to eat tomatoes even after my numerous attempts to make him like it. At least he likes how they look. And he still likes soup dishes like sinigang where you cannot identify the tomatoes anymore.
I had it easy, so this list may not suffice for the seriously picky eaters. Try it though, it might surprise you.
Do you have another vegetable eating tip and trick to add?
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