When you have a picky eater, which is SO SO common in toddlerhood, you likely have a child who refuses to eat fruits or vegetables. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard:
“My child only eats mac & cheese and pizza.”
“My child won’t eat anything green.”
“She liked bananas last week, but now she refuses to eat them.”
I promise you, mama, you are not alone. Every parent has dealt with picky eating. This can be frustrating because as mamas we want the best for our children. We want them to eat healthy and nutritious meals to fuel them and help them grow!
Below I have included 5 tips for you to try with your child who refuses to eat fruits and vegetables!
#1: Get Your Child Involved – Shopping and Cooking
When you have a child who refuses to eat fruits or vegetables you can help by increasing their interest in produce through involving them in grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen.
Getting your child involved in shopping for produce will pique their interest in learning about different fruits and vegetables. Letting them pick out their own produce at the store will often make them more likely to eat (or try) the produce. Encourage them to pick a produce item they like and one they would like to try.
Also, include them in preparing and cooking the produce they picked or whatever fruit or vegetable you may be cooking for a meal or snack. When children participate in preparing or cooking produce (or any food) they are more likely to try it.
#2: Be a Role Model for Your Child Who Refuses to Eat Fruit and Vegetables
As a parent, you cannot expect your child to behave a certain way or do things that you don’t. We always hear that children, especially babies and toddlers, are sponges and will absorb what we show/ teach them. Being a great role model, eating your fruits and vegetables, is a key step in getting your child to also eat theirs.
During meal time and snacks offer the same foods for the whole family, including yourself. Don’t make different meals for everyone or for your picky eater. By making a separate meal you are enabling your child to continue refusing food and continue their picky habits.
Try new foods with your child. While trying the new food talk to your child about it – how does it taste? Smell? What is the texture like? Create a positive experience for your child when trying new foods.
Don’t talk to your child about the foods you don’t like. If your child hears you say you don’t like a particular food, then they may choose to not like it either.
#3: Create a Fruit and Vegetable “Free” Snack Basket
Snacking on fruits and vegetables is a great way to incorporate produce into your child’s diet. This can be hard if you have a child who refuses to eat fruits or vegetables. Here is a great idea to help increase produce snacks and break your child’s habit of snacking on sweets or junk food.
All junk foods and sweets should be kept in an area that is hard for your child to access. They either have to ask or earn the junk food or sweet item that they wish to have.
Your child is more likely to snack on the food item that is readily available to them when they find they are a bit hungry in between meals. This will also teach your child that junk food and sweets should be an every now and again food rather than a daily (or multiple times a day snack).
#4: Make Food Fun!
Like I mentioned before, getting your child interested in the food they are going to eat will often help with picky eating. Get creative in the way you prepare and serve fruits and vegetables to your child. Below are some fun ideas that you can try at home with your kiddos.
- Cut produce into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Obviously, not all fruits and vegetables can be cut into shapes – like raspberries. Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes are all easy to cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
- Make fruit kabobs. These are a super fun summer snack to make for your kiddos. My favorite fruit kabobs are made with strawberries, bananas, and blueberries. You can get creative and add whatever fruits you or your child wants.
- Serve fruit and vegetables with fun dips or dressings. You can serve vegetables with low-fat ranch dressing, salsa, or hummus. Fruit, like strawberries, can occasionally be served with a fruit dip. Fruit dips tend to be high in sugar, and so is fruit, so try to keep this as an occasional fun treat.
- Name a food your child helps create. Make a big deal of the meal they prepared, such as “Maverick’s Salas” or “Julia’s Sweet Potatoes.” This helps build their confidence in the kitchen and they are more likely to want to eat what they prepared (or at least try)!
#5. Try New Foods
When you have a child who refuses to eat fruits and vegetables, or who is a picky eater, it is often hard for them to try new foods. Trying new foods helps them find fruits or vegetables they may actually eat. Here are some tips for getting your child to take a bite of something new.
- Serve a small portion of the new food your child is trying. Just a bite is okay. It may take some time for your child to come around to new tastes or textures. Don’t force new foods on your child.
- Offer one new food at a time. Make sure you serve foods you know your child will like with the new food to try. Offering more than one new food at a time can be overwhelming to your child.
- Try new foods with your child.
- Offer new foods at the beginning of the meal. Your child is hungrier at the start of the meal and more likely to try that new food item.
- Offer new foods more than once.
Like I said liking new foods often takes time. Just because your child may diss a fruit or vegetable now doesn’t mean you should never offer that food again. Try preparing it a new way and offer it to your child at a later time.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Remember that when you have a child who refuses to eat fruits and vegetables it is only temporary. Picky eating is common during toddlerhood and the phase will soon pass. Try to create positive associations with food and meal time.
As long as your child is healthy, growing properly, and has energy to get through their day they are receiving the nutrients that they need. If you are concerned about your child’s eating pattern or behaviors reach out to your pediatrician.
Download the 20 Superfoods for Babies + Toddlers PDF Guide for ideas on how you can hide nutrient-packed fruits + veggies into your toddler’s meals + snacks.