When Amalia was a baby and purées were her thing, veggies were easy. Then she started eating finger foods and they still weren’t a problem. She would eat fish with basil and kale pesto, roasted carrots and sweet potatoes, and let me put spinach in her eggs. I was naive and thought I had a great little eater and I was the best mom ever for guiding her on a healthy and delicious culinary journey in life… lol good one, Julia.
Then she had her first birthday and something changed. All of a sudden she became a picky eater and would throw pretty much any vegetable or anything green, sometimes literally, in my face. We’ve gotten over stressful meal times through major dedication and will (more on that soon) but she’s still not the biggest fan of eating her vegetables.
My pediatrician said something to me that made me feel a lot less worried about the nutrients she consumes in a day. She said that babies aren’t like adults when it comes to nutrition. They don’t need a protein, carb, fruit, veg, and dairy every meal or even every day. As long as they get what they need each week, they’re good to go. Learning that felt like a weight lifting off of my shoulders and has totally changed how I feed my daughter.
Instead of stressing about each and every thing she eats, I try hard to give her balanced meals, and if she doesn’t eat everything on her plate, I don’t sweat it. I just try again the next day with a different green or protein, depending on what she skipped.
On a protein note, she also isn’t a big meat eater but I never was either as a kid (and I’m still not), so for some reason that doesn’t phase me as much. She gets her protein from eggs, hummus, nut butters, cheese, and the few meat dishes she does eat.
But whenever I see a picture of kids meals, there is broccoli or carrots or some veggie on the plate… Per the stock image above. Full disclosure, I completely forgot to take a photo for this post. Are the kids who will ultimately eating those meals really eating everything on their plates??
Last weekend we were out to lunch and the dad at the table next to us ordered a side of steamed broccoli for his 10 month old. We left before seeing if she actually ate it but Anel and I felt like such failures in that moment. Then we got home and realized we have an amazing kid who sleeps well, listens to us (mostly)… and doesn’t love eating vegetables. We’ll take it!
There is no mention here about how I get her to eat fruit because my daughter is a true fruit-aholic. The second she walks into the kitchen, it’s all nanas (bananas), bobos (blueberries), and ahahs (apples). She prefers fruit over cookies, no joke!
So here are the ways that I get Amalia to eat her vegetables. On top of these tricks, I always put a side of cooked veg (string beans with salt and butter, butternut squash spears roasted with garlic, etc) on her plate and sometimes she’ll take a bite or two but mostly she’ll skip it. And that’s ok! I will not give up.
And even on weeks when she doesn’t feel like eating any of the things below, I know she’ll be ok. And that’s a good reminder for all the moms out there who have picky toddlers!
I should also note that I have started the Feedling Littles toddlers course and have also downloaded my friend Ali’s e-cookbook for kiddos and both are great resources. We didn’t do Baby Led Weaning but I love their concepts even if I don’t follow all of them to a T.
Cooking them into meat: I shared a link to this meatball recipe last week and I can say after a few days now that it is Amalia’s favorite way to eat meat. She’s had them for multiple meals and always asks for seconds. The girl inhales them!
Egg scrambles: Amalia doesn’t like omelettes but loves scrambled eggs, of course. We have them usually 2-3 times a week for breakfast. They’re also a really easy place to add spinach. Before her toddler food strike commenced, I used to put spinach into her eggs on the reg but one day she decided she wouldn’t eat them if there were chunks of spinach in them. So now I have to basically mince the spinach and not put too much. It’s a fine balance, but I know where it is now!
Baked goods: I make these veggie-packed toddler muffins pretty often and have been playing around with other recipes too. The OG muffins are her favorite though, so I keep going back to them. I have tried these spinach and banana donuts as muffins but the consistency isn’t right so I think I’m going to try donut tins to get them right because I love the idea of them. I just added some salt and cinnamon! I’ve also been making a lot pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread lately. I realize that pumpkin is technically a fruit but I’m, still counting it haha.
Smoothies: One of the easiest ways to get her kale or spinach is to put it in a smoothie. My go-to recipe for us to share is a base of half nut milk (I like cashew or macadamia) and half coconut water. Then I add almond butter, blueberries, a frozen banana, chia seeds, collagen peptides for extra protein and no weird taste (Our ped confirmed it’s ok to give her these but ask yours first obviously), and spinach or kale.
Pouches: You know what? Sometimes I’m busy and she hasn’t eaten veggie in days and I give my baby a pouch. I know there is controversy around pouches (thanks a lot NYT!) but as a mom who doesn’t always have a ton of time, I use them. Although after a friend sent me that article, I have to say that I give them to her a lot less. Our rule for pouches lately is that we can give them to Amalia for dessert or use them as back up or on the go when she’s hungry. We never offer them to her in place of a meal or if she refuses to eat other food.
So tell me wise mamas, how do you get your picky toddlers to eat veggies?
You should check out Feeding Littles, run by an RD. They are toddler eating experts. For example, they talk about how kids are supposed to play with their food to learn about it and you should never force them to eat something or put your food anxieties on them. Pediatricians are not nutrition experts.
Yes! I’m in the middle of the Feeding Littles Toddler course and love it. I didn’t do baby led weaning but I love the toddler concepts and figure it’s not too late to start 🙂 Agreed that peds aren’t nutrition experts, but mine is a mom of three and we happen to share most of the same parenting beliefs so I do trust her on most things. That said, I realize that not every ped will be that way for sure.
Thank you for this post, my son is a very picky eater and I’ll try some of your tricks!
I hope they help! Keep me posted, Laura 🙂
I make “superhero” pancakes. I adapted the recipe below by swapping 1/4c of the oats for whole wheat flour (better texture, IMO), adding as much spinach as possible (usually about half of a 5oz bag), and adding extras like nut butter, chia seeds, or ground flax for a protein boost. My daughter goes nuts for them (and has also eaten regular pancakes).
I’ve also found that she prefers raw veggies to cooked – which I realize is much easier if you have an eater with a full set of teeth. Raw veggies are my go-to snack between nap and dinner (most of the time) – and I find that lots of times if I offer them on the go (like when we’re walking the dog), they’ll all disappear.
Dipping is magic and I’m not (too) ashamed that my toddler occasionally dips her vegetables into peanut butter/ketchup/maple syrup, etc.
Like you, I also follow the rule of I provide the food and she decides what she will eat and how much. I try not to sweat it if veggies don’t happen for a day or two.
Awesome! I’m going to try your superhero pancakes tomorrow. Amalia LOVES pancakes so I think this will be a hit in our house too.
I have tried raw veggies and she always spits them out but I’ll keep trying! Good idea to dip them. When I’ve tried in the past, she’ll literally lick off all of the hummus or peanut butter and want to re-dip LOL 🙂
Great tips! My kids are 10,6 & 4 and I still sneak in their veggies. I load them in soups or puree them and put them in a sauce when I can. With mine as long as they don’t see them they’re happy!