If you’re tired of cleaning food off the floor, here are a nutritionist’s top tips on how to get your toddler to eat more vegetables
If you’re a parent of a young child, you have probably made up songs, whizzed a veggie-laden spoon around like an aeroplane, and still had to clean splattered butternut and discarded broccoli off the floor.
Once a toddler starts feeding him or herself, it seems as though family meals can turn into a war zone between pleading parents and food-flinging kids. This battle is played at dinner tables around the world and, as the mom of a veggie-tossing toddler, I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with parents in the dinnertime trenches.
Someone who can empathise is Tammy Fry, a qualified nutritionist, mom of two boys and marketing director of the Fry Family Food Co.
All4Women had an exclusive interview with her to find out how to call a truce. Moms, if you want peaceful mealtimes and healthy kids, you need to read Fry’s top tried-and-tested tips are for getting kids, particularly toddlers, to eat vegetables.
How much veg should a child eat?
How many servings of vegetables should children eat, according to their age, and what is considered a serving size for a toddler and child?
Fry: I keep it as simple as possible. Girls and boys have very similar requirements when it comes to fruit and vegetable intake until the age of around eight, when boys may need more.
A rough guideline is around one cup of fruit and one cup of vegetables per day for ages two to four, increasing to one and a half cups fruit, and one and a half cups veg for ages five to eight.
Children older than eight may need more vegetables but the fruit intake can remain as is.
Remember to vary the fruit and vegetables – variety is key – and bear in mind that each child is unique, so individual requirements may need to be determined by a dietitian.
Making eating veg fun (for kids and parents)
What are some tricks for getting toddlers and children to eat their veg – rather than throwing them on the floor or feeding them to the dog?
Fry: Get creative in the kitchen – try some food art with your children. For inspiration, you can check out the free Fry’s Family Kids Cookbook: Superfood for Superkids where you and your kids can make anything from rainbow shapes with veggies on a wrap to a game of noughts where the winner eats all.
Another way I trick my kids to eat a bit more greens is I hide ‘em – make your own pasta sauce and add plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables – puree well! Soups are also a great way to get them to eat all the veg they need.
Tell stories to change their relationship with veggies. My kids grew up calling broccoli “fairy trees,” beans “Jack and the beanstalk,” etc. Make vegetables part of a fantasy world. With this challenge in mind, we’ve gone ahead and created stories for you in our Superfoods for Superkids cookbook, such as the Secret Garden Guacamole recipe where you can sneak extra broccoli greens into your guac and your kids can watch as flowers magically grow veggies before their very eyes, ready for them to eat!
For those kids who enjoy an honour system, star charts and rewards can work – give it a go.
Above all, make sure that you set an example by showing gratitude before each meal – gratitude trumps fussiness!
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