When you see a toddler savoring pieces of broccoli, do you ever wonder how his parents got him to eat vegetables? For most parents, it's a constant struggle. Vegetables aren’t laced with sugar, and they certainly aren't glamorous. Plus since a child doesn't really know or understand what flavor means during those critical years of introducing solids, they’re not going to tell you to add salt, seasoning or herbs to give their steamed vegetables some pizazz.
So how does one achieve this arduous task? Here's 6 ways to introduce vegetables to your baby.
- Cook It Yourself. The first introductions to vegetables are extremely important. When you are prepping and cooking the food yourself, you’re not only doing it with love but you’re also aware of what the product tastes like as well as what texture is most appropriate. While it’s not a guarantee that your child will absolutely love this and embrace it, the chances are MUCH higher than if you bought it home in a jar or packet. Most commercial shelf-stable brands offer pureed vegetables but they aren’t always fresh, they don’t taste good and their colors are unappetizing (even by our standards).
- Offer Multiple Times. Do you remember the first time you ate something and it didn’t sit well? Maybe you didn’t like the taste. Maybe you didn’t like the texture. Just because it didn’t hit home on the first try, it doesn’t mean it’s forever a lost cause. Some kids like mashed potatoes, some kids like French fries, some kids like baked potatoes and a whole bunch of kids like all kinds of potatoes. Your goal should be try one veggie at least 3 times to get your child exposed to it and then offer it multiple ways to them throughout their toddlerhood.
- Stick To Your Season. The best part about seasonality is that the climate controls what produce grow optimally during each season. Initially, it’s good to follow a guide such as this one from Wholesome Baby Food, but when you’ve surpasses that initial stage, focus on seasonal fruits and vegetables. When you buy seasonal produce, you’re limiting your carbon footprint as well as decreasing pesticide exposure. Within the seasonality, choosing organic is important as well.
- Hands on. When you feel your baby could grasp the concept of a vegetable, let them play with it. While a mushy avocado may cause a mess, it’s a good way to spark their curiosity and encourage consumption. Tactile methods are a good way to teach them – while they aren’t responding immediately – the information is being processed and it’ll come back in different communication methods later. They’ll also slowly start to form a connection with food, and hopefully a healthful one.
- Introduce combination meals. As adults, a healthy meal includes a protein, a carbohydrate and a vegetable. For babies and toddlers, it’s the same format. Since they’re little and their stomachs (& patience!) are little, the best way to achieve this combination meal is by making soups such as minestrone or chicken noodle. It’s your freedom to modify the recipe to whatever you have on hand and of course, blend it or puree it to the desired texture of your little one. Even basic vegetable soups with 4-5 vegetables are a great way to start. The nutrition will be top notch!
- Invest in a reliable brand. While it's always best to cook your own food, if you aren't able to -- the next best thing is to invest into brands who replicate the same process. For example, a brand like Yummy Spoonfuls offers organic and fresh baby food pouches without any preservatives. It's a frozen concept that requires thawing. It's the same process if you were to make and freeze it yourself.
As a dietitian and mom, I’ve found that everything is trial and error. The above suggestions are a good starting point but only you know how to build upon in order to best cater to your little one. Just go with their flow!