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How can I get my toddler to eat veggies?
It's not always easy to get your kids to love eating vegetables early in life, but it's very important. Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and beneficial plant compounds known as phytonutrients. These important nutrients are critical to good health. They'll help boost your son's immune system, so that he's less likely to suffer from allergies and infections. Because they're high in fiber, they'll help ensure that he has regular bowel movements and is less likely to suffer from gastrointestinal problems, including constipation.
When my sons were young, I found that it was always easier to get them to eat their veggies when I made those veggies visually appealing, easy for their little fingers to handle and very tasty. You can do this by cutting the veggies into small, bite-size pieces and arranging them on a colorful plate. Offer several different options, such as a couple of baby carrots, a few broccoli florets and a strip or two of red, green or orange bell pepper, Give your son a small container of dip to go along with the veggies, such as ranch dressing, honey mustard sauce, yogurt or salsa -- whatever he likes best, even if it doesn't sound so great to you! Most kids love to dip their food, and dipping leads to eating.
Make vegetables a part of every meal and most snacks. The veggies can either be raw or cooked; whichever your child prefers. Most kids love corn on the cob. A baked sweet potato with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top is a delicious treat. Most kids can be enticed to eat a few peas or green beans at dinnertime.
Offer variety and fun. While you're at the grocery store, make a big deal of allowing your son t o choose a new vegetable in the produce section or the salad bar, rather than a cookie or a candy bar. He may choose a shiny purple eggplant or a bright green zucchini squash. When you get home, invite your son to join you in the kitchen as you prepare it and serve it. When kids are involved in the process of choosing and preparing food, they're more likely to eat it.
Encourage experimentation. Ask your son to simply try a different type of vegetable on a regular basis. You can ask him to just "lick" the veggie if he's not excited about eating an entire bite. Praise your child for simply trying the vegetable, even if he doesn't want to eat it just yet. Studies show that a child may have to "taste-test" a particular vegetable five or six times before he learns to accept it.
Offer win-win choices. Ask your son if he'd rather have broccoli or green beans, or allow him to choose between baby carrots and cauliflower. Allowing children to make choices gives them a feeling of being in control. If you offer them a choice between two vegetables, you can't go wrong!
Be a good role model. One of the best ways to get your son to eat and enjoy veggies is to eat and enjoy veggies yourself. Sit down with your son at meals and snacks and dig in!
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The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.