One of the most effective strategies you can use to radically shape how your toddler eat is this:
Serve a fruit or a vegetable at every meal and every snack every day.
Of course, you’ll never attain that goal, but it doesn’t matter. Just by setting the intention you will drastically increase your toddler’s consumption of fruit and vegs.
You could also strive to serve a fruit AND a vegetable at every meal and every snack every day.
That would be even better.
If you have a child who barely touches a fruit (forget about the vegetables), you’re probably laughing at me right now.
That’s OK. I can take it. And I’ll get to you guys in a moment.
For the rest of you, those parents among us whose kids haven’t totally fallen off the deep end yet, think about this: Most parents feed their infants a fruit-and-vegetable-dominated diet.
In other words, I am not really suggesting anything too radical. I’m merely proposing that as your infants turn into toddlers that you keep up the good work.
Yes, I know that it is a lot easier to feed infants fruits and vegetables than it can be to convince a trepidatious toddler to open up at the sight of spinach, but stick with me here.
One reason infants are so accommodating in the Fruits-and-Vegetable department is that they don’t know any better.
It’s not just that most infants haven’t yet been introduced to all the wonders of the world—sweets, treats and chicken nuggets—that makes them so accommodating. It’s that eating fruits and vegetables is their custom, their routine, their norm. Fruits and vegetables are their primary go-to-foods.
Most parents I know, inadvertently move their toddlers away from this way of eating by relying on rusks, cookies, puffs, crackers, and other toddler stuff more than they actually need to.
10 reasons to serve fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack every darned day.
1) Kids can’t eat what isn’t being served. Every time you don’t serve a fruit and vegetable is another time when your child won’t eat a fruit or vegetable.
2) Eating is a matter of math: The more frequently you expose your kids to fruits and vegetables the more normal these foods will seem.
3) Putting fruits and vegetables into your feeding structure stops most of the conflict: When it comes to eating everyone will know exactly what to expect.
4) Fruits and vegetables will displace some of the other snack stuff you normally serve thereby upgrading your toddler’s diet.
5) By changing the ratio of fruits and vegetables to other tasty items you’ll point your kid’s taste buds in the right direction.
6) Fruits and vegetables will become a go-to food, not an once-a-day opportunity to fight.
7) You’ll introduce more fruit and vegetable variety because peas, broccoli and string beans will only take you so far.
8) You’ll be content to serve smaller portions: A few bites really add up.
9) Your previously sane self will return becuase you will no longer have to be the food police.
10) It’s the right habit.
To you naysayers out there—“That will never work with my kid.”—I say this:
Do it anyway. (Waiting for your children to grow into eating more fruits and vegetables is like waiting for Godot. It might never happen.)
Here's a four-point plan to get you started.
1) Set your sights on small steps.
- Serve extremely small portions. Read When Less is More.
- Ask your child to take extremely small tastes. Read Nix the Negativity.
- Never ask your child to eat even one more bite. Read The Happy Bite and A New Approach to Teaching Tots to Try New Foods.
2) Talk to your children about your strategy.
- Say “Fruit and/or vegetable at every meal” more times than you would like to, and remember to tell your child why. ("We eat healthier foods more often than other foods.")
- Give your child choices within the structure. Read Curbing Your Kid’s Craving for Control.
3) Applaud small successes. Each and every one of them. Each and every time.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~