Incorporating more greens in your young child’s diet can pose great challenges. Foreign foods can seem terrifying to little taste buds. What’s a parent to do when all your kid craves are chicken nuggets and mac and cheese? The key is patience and repetition when introducing healthier foods to young ones.

Starting small

Look at adding more greens as a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all about baby steps. Hide small greens in their favorite foods. For instance, try finely chopping cooked broccoli and adding it to a quesadilla. The cheese will mask some of the flavor and covered by a tortilla, your tot might not even notice the healthy addition. Get creative, moms and dads—chop, mince or even puree all types of veggies into your everyday dinners. Sauces are a great way to hide veggies, too. A dark red spaghetti sauce can act as a great camouflage, making it tough to differentiate the ingredients used to make it.

Don’t forget, repetition is imperative. Even if your child swears off a vegetable, keep adding it to his or her meals. It might take a dozen times before they want to eat what’s put in front of them, but that’s okay.

The right amount

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends toddlers get 2 to 3 servings of vegetables a day, or approximately one tablespoon for each year of age. The organization also offers these resourceful ideas to make fruits and vegetables more of a habit at mealtime.

  • Serve salads more often. Teach your child what an appropriate amount of salad dressing is.
  • Include one leafy green or yellow vegetable for vitamin A such as spinach, broccoli, winter squash, greens or carrots.
  • Include one vitamin C–rich fruit, vegetable, or juice, such as citrus juices, orange, grapefruit, strawberries, melon, tomato and broccoli.
  • Include a fruit or vegetable as part of every meal or snack.

 

Be the example

The most important part of introducing new foods is setting the example and making them fun. You and the rest of your family should be eating the vegetables that you put in front of your toddler. If young children see their siblings and role models demonstrating healthy eating, they will be more inclined to accommodate new dinner ideas.

Introducing new vegetables can be a challenge; but keep it creative, fun and consistent so dinnertime doesn’t have to be a battle.