What to do When Your Toddler Can Spot a Carrot at 100 Paces

girl binoculars{Guest post on the Love Child Organics blog: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/} Catherine asked the following question on the Love Child Organics Facebook page: “Toddlers and vegetables... What do you do when your toddler can spot a carrot at 100 paces?!”

Catherine, you’re not alone in having this conundrum. In fact, this is probably the most frequent question that I’m asked!

Vegetables are the most common food group that toddlers don’t like to eat. Research suggests that it’s because young taste buds are more sensitive to the bitter flavour compounds naturally present in many vegetables.

But, this doesn’t mean that you need to throw up your hands and never serve your child another vegetable until they’re 21!

Before I share successful strategies, I want to let you know two really important points: 1. Fruits and vegetables are in the same food group in Canada’s Food Guide. If your child eats fruit, they’re getting many of the nutrients found in vegetables. 2. As a parent it’s not your job to make your child eat specific foods. Bribing, forcing, and other tactics may get your child to eat that bite of broccoli today, but it doesn’t teach him/her to like vegetables. And, it will likely make it more difficult to get him/her to eat that same bite of broccoli tomorrow. Instead, it’s adults’ role to provide the opportunity to eat a variety of foods. And, it’s a child’s role to choose what and how much to eat from what’s been provided to him/her. The more you overstep your role, even when you do so with the best of intentions, the less likely it is that your child will eat vegetables.

Here are strategies that do work to encourage kids to eat vegetables (including carrots): • Repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s difficult to have the patience needed when your little one refuses to eat a food that you’d really like them to eat. But studies do show that the more times you present a food, the more likely your child will be to eat it. • Allow touching, smelling, licking, and spitting out. For many kids, putting a food in their mouths is a very intimate action. All of these activities let a child get to know the food. Encourage them to explore the food this way as a part of working themselves up to eating it. • Present the vegetable in various ways. For example, just because your child hasn’t liked steamed carrots it doesn’t mean that they won’t like them raw, or in a stir-fry, or in a casserole, or pureed, etc. • Use dip. A recent study found what many parents already know – that kids will be more likely to try, and will eat more of, a vegetable if they’re served with dip. • Give small servings. One tiny piece of carrot is much less intimidating than a large serving. If your child does eat it, they can always ask for more. If they don’t eat it, then you’re minimizing food waste. • Be a carrot-eating role model. I always say that the number one way to guarantee that your kids won’t eat vegetables is by not eating vegetables yourself. Role modeling is especially important for parents who are the same sex as their kids. For example, little boys pick up very quickly that ‘boys don’t eat vegetables’ if their Mom eats veggies but their Dad doesn’t. Serving the food and role modeling eating it sends the message loud and clear that you want your child to eat the food – you don’t need to say anything more.

The most important thing is to never give up. You never know when the magical day will come that your child will try, and like, carrots. It might be today, or next week, or perhaps your child will grow up and never be a fan of carrots. This is okay too. Afterall, one can be healthy even if they don’t eat carrots (as long as they eat a wide variety of other vegetables). You can even become a dietitian and not like Brussels sprouts (I know this first-hand – and yes, every winter I do try them again).

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