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What to do if Your Toddler hates Vegetables

Updated on June 22, 2013
GIRL EATING CORN by Dimistudio Litle girl eating corn on the cob
GIRL EATING CORN by Dimistudio Litle girl eating corn on the cob | Source

Handling children's hatred of vegetables

Parents know that a healthy balanced diet should include vegetables. British health authorities advise that everyone should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. However, trying to ensure that everyone in the family eats their five portions can prove exhausting, especially when a toddler stubbornly refuses anything resembling a plant. You can alleviate the problem in many ways, thus persuading your toddler that vegetables are good to eat and will not actually poison him or her.

What many adults do not understand is that toddlers’ do not perceive flavours in the same way that adults do. An evolutionary protective mechanism causes toddlers to reject bitter tastes. This protected prehistoric toddlers from eating poisonous things. Children’s taste buds change as they get older. Think back, there are certainly foods that you did not eat as a child but eat now quite happily, and other foods you loved in childhood but do not eat now. Perhaps that some vegetable flavours are just too strong for your toddler. A mother recently complained, on a television programme, that her five year old refused to eat aubergine (eggplant). Aubergine has a strong, bitter flavour, too strong for many adult palates, so to expect a child to like it is ridiculous.

Trying to force feed your toddler vegetables, is counter-productive, if his parents do not eat them. A good household rule is that everyone, including adults, must eat a dessertspoonful of each vegetable.

Many parents in their anxiety to ensure that their children eat properly pile up their plates with food. Tiny portions are not as frightening and off-putting as mountains of food. A toddler can always ask for more.

Toddlers may dislike certain vegetables, not because of their flavour, but because they do not like their texture. Try raw vegetables, cut a selection of vegetables into fingers and serve them to your toddler perhaps with a dip or even alone. Very few children enjoy lettuce or cucumber because they find both texture and flavour unpalatable. Parents wanting to introduce their toddlers to salad might like to try making home made coleslaw.

Concentrate on the vegetables that your toddler does like, most children prefer sweeter vegetables, for example sweet corn or carrots, and take the disputed vegetables off the menu. Then you can reintroduce other vegetables slowly over time.

Be sneaky and hide vegetables, liquidize or blend them into “green sauce”. Most children will eat vegetables on a pizza. Roll vegetables in a pancake and cover them with tomato or cheese sauce. Hide mashed cauliflower in mashed potato with cheese.

Make vegetables less frightening. Calling broccoli trees, or Brussel sprouts fairy cabbages makes them fun, and something that is fun is less scary. Children’s books about vegetables abound, from stories about vegetables to children’s gardening and cookery books. Buy a safe peeler and let your toddler help to prepare vegetables for cooking. Growing vegetables with your little one can help, the small gardener will certainly want to taste the crop he, or she, has helped to grow.

When weaning, introduce vegetables slowly to babies. Many people try to give babies too many flavours too quickly, without allowing baby to get used to one flavour, before introducing others.

Some toddlers love vegetables and cannot get enough, others hate them. Understanding the, very good, reasons why some toddlers hate vegetables is part-way to solving the problem. Your toddler will eventually eat vegetables, providing that you do not panic or make food a battle of wills between you. Concentrate on whatever your toddler will eat and relax.


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  • Mercia Collins profile image

    Mercia Collins 5 years ago from United Kingdom

    thank-you for your kind comment, Maddie. I think this is a problem that many parents worry terribly over.

  • Maddie Ruud profile image

    Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

    Great advice! I was a picky eater as a child, but I didn't have too much trouble with vegetables. Go figure.