You’ve the heard stories of the kid who will only eat French fries and chicken nuggets and won’t even look at a green veggie, never mind taste one. Don’t let that be your kid! Fostering a love of good, nutritious food works best when you start early. Try out these tried and true tips for getting babies and toddlers to eat their vegetables, and they’ll be on a path to eating healthy for life. Be sure to follow safety guidelines of when and how to introduce solids to baby, being aware of the potential for food allergies.

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Photo: Bradley Gordon via Flickr

1. Budding Tastes

Taste buds begin to develop in the womb. If you eat a lot of vegetables while pregnant, baby will be exposed to those flavors. Nursing babies also experience the flavors of what Mom eats. Not big on veggies yourself or not breastfeeding? No worries! That’s just one way to start. Once your little one is on the path of eating solids, that’s when the veggie loving really begins.

2. Low Expectations

You’ve prepared a nice lunch spread for your little eater, complete with a serving of pureed peas. She takes one taste of it, seems to like it, and then fuses her mouth shut when you try to put the spoon in for a second bite. Bring out the praise and don’t force the issue. She tried it, and that’s what’s important. Forcing her to eat more will likely backfire and discourage her from eating it in the future.

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Photo: Ben Klocek via Flickr

3. Funny Face

Babies and toddlers can make all kinds of weird faces when trying new foods. Don’t let that scare you away from giving it to them a second, third, or fourth time. A scrunched up face, wrinkling of the nose, or refusing to eat more does not equal disliking a food.

4. Try, Try Again

As in many aspects of raising a child, you simply have to out-stubborn them. It may take 10-20 exposures before baby will accept a new food. No exaggeration! So keep at it. Serve a veggie every day regardless of how little gets eaten. Don’t give up on a vegetable just because it’s rejected a few (or many) times.

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Photo: Susan Haebler via Flickr

5. The Right Blend

For little ones experiencing new tastes, texture can be an obstacle to accepting a food. Moving on to finger foods is an exciting milestone, but don’t be too quick to ditch the purees. Some veggies, like sweet potatoes, lend themselves well to blending. If your toddler gobbles up an entire jar of pureed spinach, by all means keep giving it to them, despite the “baby” food label.

6. Mix It Up

Baby’s sensitive palate can be overwhelmed by the strong flavors of some vegetables. If he’s showing resistance to a veggie on its own, try a pureed version and mix it with a milder or sweeter option. Some great combos are peas and baby cereal, squash and applesauce, or green beans with potato puree.

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Photo: thedabblist via Flickr

7. Tis the Season

Though babies tend to have more sensitive taste buds, that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from seasoning. Given a baby’s system has reacted positively to solids, 8 months is a good age to test out herbs and spices. Add a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg to sweet potato, pumpkin, or squash. A pinch of garlic powder goes a long way with green beans or peas. Try a hint of dill and butter with baby’s carrots.

Baby Vegetable Shopping

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

8. Make it an Experience

Many toddlers and babies thrive when exposed to new, low-key experiences. Make loving vegetables about more than just eating them. Take them to the grocery store or farmer’s market and let them pick out a veggie. Show them the veggies while they cook and with proper supervision, have them add an ingredient or two. Show them how much you like your veggies, even if you have to fake it!

Stick to these tips, and before you know it, your little gobbler will be reaching past the sweet options for the vegetables on the plate.

Does your kiddo like veggies? Dish in a comment.

–Katie L. Carroll