This is not going to be a post telling you how to sneak fruit and vegetables into your baby or toddler’s meals; rather why you should not do this. This is based on the “Feeding Relationship” principles, which are cornerstone to creating a healthy relationship with food for your child.
Here are the basics: the caregiver chooses what food is offered, where and when. The child chooses how much, or even if they eat. If the parent sneaks foods into the child’s diet, the child really isn’t the one deciding IF they eat the food - you are. This does not allow your child to experience that particular food and learn to like (or dislike) it on their own. At some point, they will also probably figure you out, possibly leading to distrust, a stronger dislike of the offending food and power struggles.
We all know how important these foods are, as highlighted in the new Canadian Food Guidelines. We’ve got your back! There are other ways you can help your babies and toddlers to eat their fruits and veggies:
- Get your child involved. For toddlers, let them pick out a new veggie at the grocery store, grow a garden or help prepare the food.
- Offer the fruit/veggie at a time when your child is hungriest and most likely to eat them. This could be snack time, or as an “appetizer” during the witching hour before dinner.
- Give the fruit or veggie a funny name. A recent study shows that if you give a vegetable a catchy name (like “super-sight carrots”), children are more likely to eat them or eat more of them.
- Be a good role model. Let your child see you eat fruits & veggies. You can also try offering these foods with other children around, as we know kids like to copy each other.
- Serve veggies with a dip or sauce. Everyone has to admit – broccoli tastes better with cheese sauce, celery tastes better with peanut butter and carrots taste better with ranch dip. Sure, you may just get your child licking off the dip…at least it’s a step that they’re putting the vegetable into their mouth!
- Offer the food in different forms. Like sweet potatoes mashed, baked and in fry form. Try veggies raw, lightly cooked or over-cooked.
- Try and try again. Children can have a fear of new things, called “neophobia.” They also have changing tastes. It may take up to 15 tries before your child will choose to eat the food, so offer the food whenever you are eating it. Or maybe they will never choose to eat the food – we all have personal likes and dislikes, so you can expect that your child will too. It’s all about respecting them as individuals.
Jennifer House MSc, RD
Nourished Family Community