HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Foodie trying to get my toddler interested in vegetables...need help!

  • e

Okay, so my husband and I were feeling really smug because, for awhile, our toddler ate everything. Now, he appears to be gravitating toward the typical kid diet of chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and rejecting anything that looks weird. I've read this is part of the I-control-my-life phase common to almost-two-year-olds. But I'm still trying. Anyone been-there-done-that have any great recipes or ideas for how to tempt him away from mac-n-cheese? Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. one suggestion is to take him to the farmer's market (which kids always seem to love) and let him pick some veg. this worked with my kids when they were little...they seemed to have a sense of "ownership" for the stuff they picked out, and while they didn't always adore the end result, they'd at least try it. also, if you let him use the salad spinner, or snap the beans, he'll be invested in trying those too.

    1. also, you can "veg up" that mac-n-cheese with roasted cauliflower, or some shredded carrots, or peas, etc. i don't really subscribe to the "trick them into eating vegetables" thing, but this just seems like mac-n-cheese plus.

      1. Be patient and persistent. If your toddler once liked veggies, I think he will again (by the way, good job on getting going on veggies early - I think many people give up, so if your toddler has been eating them this long, you are ahead of the game).

        My three year old has gone through so many food phases. He'll go through a couple of weeks where he is crazy for veggies, and then be disinterested again for a while. His current favorites are veggies lightly sauteed in olive oil and garlic (esp. broccoli, spinach and green beans). He also likes them mixed into chili (e.g. I'll put some spinach in) or in some sort of 'mash' (my husband makes a cauliflower/tomato/onion/tomato concoction that he also eats).

        I've also used my Jedi mind trick of giving my son a choice (e.g. would you like green beans or spinach tonight?). Or, last night, after I'd already made baby spinach, he insisted on peas. I told him he could only have peas if he had spinach also. For some reason, it worked, and he ate a bunch of mouthfuls of both.

        1. There's a wonderful blog called "The Great Big Vegetable Challenge" in which a mother chronicles her efforts to get her child to accept vegetables: http://www.greatbigvegchallenge.blogs...

          She decided that they would work their way through the alphabet vegetable by vegetable, trying each one in a couple of different recipes and then blogging about it together. Her stories are great and it seems they've been wildly successful.

          Her children are older than toddlers, but you'll probably find some great ideas and recipes that should work for a younger set. it's a great, great blog.

          1. Don't stop giving him veggies...it's such an easy trap to fall into, because we're afraid they won't eat....one idea I like comes from pediatrician Dr. Sears, and it is to put different raw veggies and fruits (Cut appropriately so as not to be a choking hazard) into a muffin tin, and leave it available for snacking. If you don't want snacks to be continually available, just make sure they're what the choice is when it IS snack time, and always a choice at meals.

            I don't have a problem with "hiding" veggies in other foods....I add pureed veggies to tomato sauce, I put squash in cookies, I'll try almost anything to increase the nutritional value and get more F and V into my kids...but I don't lie about it. I tell my son after, so he can see that there's no reason to avoid a certain vegetable. That said, a cookie is still a treat, not a health food, just because it has zucchini in it. I think that's important too. Always involve him when you can...the Farmer's market idea is great, having him help prepare. (anyone can tear lettuce), etc.

            Also involve him in the shopping as much as possible...this will get easier as he gets older. At this age, it's more your talking about being strong and healthy, but as he gets a bit older, he can read lables, and know what ingredients are healthy vs. those that aren't.

            Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: pringle347

              When my boys were young, boy how tricky they were.

              Dinnertime became torturous at times. I had a talk with the pediatrician (many, actually), and we devised a plan.

              Cut up fresh carrots,cukes, celery, blanched broccoli, fresh peas, etc. Put them in a container, and "one hour" before dinner put a platefull on the table. No other snacks allowed, just the fresh veggies. If needed add some spices to fresh yoghourt for dipping. The bonus is, they get to eat extra healthy, and dinner is no stress at dinner. It worked for me and I told them the rule, "one hour" before dinner, nothing but fresh vegetables. Good luck.

            2. Pureed veggies mixed with a little butter or parmesan or cheese or go a sweet route with a little sugar and spices. Eg, butternut squash puree, pureed cauliflower, etc. Also, pureed veggie soups like cream of broccoli (you need only a tiny bit of cream) or cream of tomato.

              "Latkes" made from egg mixed with grated zucchini or yellow squash or or other grated veggie (can add in a little cheese, garlic, or other spices or extras for flavor)

              Sweet potato fries (Alessa makes a delicious premade version in the freezer section).

              Make a homemade tomato sauce with extra grated carrots or other veggies in it, and serve over spaghetti and meatballs or whatever pasta he likes. Or let him use that sauce as a dip for soft bread sticks or as a sauce for pizza (better than sugar added tomato sauce from a jar).

              I would recommend not catering to any demands for mac and cheese and chicken nuggets all the time. Just serve healthy meals for dinner for the family, and if he eats - great... if not - fine, he can eat at the next meal. This isnt to say that you dont try to serve many things he likes within boundaries, but I wouldnt give in to any refusal to eat or demands for junk food.

              1. This might sound harsh (and I don't intend it to be), but why not just not make those foods available? When I was a kid (24 years ago), I ate the same dinner as my parents. No special kids meals showed up in our house. I wasn't forced to eat anything (no "finish your plate" or last night's uneaten broccoli showing up at breakfast, and I was absolutely allowed to avoid things I disliked), but that's what was available- take it or leave it. Even at two. A hungry kid will quickly learn to eat what's in front of her. :) I think that once you start negotiating with a two-year-old, it can be very hard to regain your footing.

                I've also had good experiences with my nephews along the choice lines- i.e "would you like broccoli, peas or carrots?"

                And last but not least, I read an article in the New York Times about picky eaters, and how even adventurous kids often go through a picky stage at around 2 or 3. So hopefully it's just a phase!

                6 Replies
                1. re: sfumato

                  This is just what Ellyn Satter (pediatric nutritionist) recommends, the "take it or leave it" approach. That is what we've used with our 2-year-old. I always assume that if she's hungry enough, she'll eat what's in front of her. Easy for me to say though, because she's always had plenty of meat on her bones, so I don't worry about how much she eats. I would probably stress about it more if she were skinny. I do try to make sure that meals are accessible and appropriate for a young child (no extremely spicy Szechuan, etc.), but beyond that, she gets what she gets. I would recommend Satter's book "Child of Mine" to any parent of a young child.

                  Also, does your kid watch Yo Gabba Gabba? There's a great episode with songs like "Try It, You'll Like It" and "Party in my Tummy". Just today I was singing "Try It, You'll Like It" to my kid and she looked at me, smiled, said "Gabba!" and ate her squash. ;-)

                  1. re: MrsCheese

                    "Try it, you'll like it" is available on YouTube. My daughter watched it for about 6 months before the message had any effect. Now she will take a bite of something new and claim, " I tried it, I like it!".... won't necessarily eat much more, but better than nothing, right?
                    I put finely chopped brocoli in Mac N Cheese (even if you are, horrors, making the boxed version, it is very easy to add the brocoli to the pasta water a few minutes before draining). Also I make carrot and carrot/zuchini muffins.

                    1. re: MrsCheese

                      Another Ellyn Satter fan here! I just don't stress about mealtimes anymore.

                    2. re: sfumato

                      Yes, we had exactly the same set-up growing up, and it always seemed completely straightforward! There was a fixed set of items on the table, everyone was entitled to one serving of each item, and it was completely up to us to choose whether we'd eat a particular item or not. But, of course, you couldn't just have two rolls or double up on rice just because you didn't want brussels sprouts. I don't think thing the issue of refusing to eat things ever really came up!

                      1. re: sfumato

                        I'm all for it. You just eat whats on your plate or you get hungry, and then maybe next meal you'll eat it. I know it does sound harsh, but I think its the best way to deal with this. Obviously some foods are just always going to be unpalatable to some people, so offer more than one veg (or else just let it get tossed). And yeah, pretty much my 2 year old gets what we're eating for dinner, along with little portions of her favorites (weirdly - raita and bean salad).

                        1. re: sfumato

                          This is what my parents did with my brother and I. There was always a meat, a starch, and a veggie on the table. I wasnt a very picky eater, but my brother spent many nights where his dinner was nothing but one of the sides. He has grown up just fine, although I still catch him sneaking his veggies onto his girlfriend's plate on holidays.

                        2. Easy. Don't give him the mac n' cheese or chix nuggets as an option. I had a toddler who refused fresh fruit and veggies. My pediatrician said not to give up and over one summer I just fought the fought. I made him eat what I gave him. Now he is 6 yrs old and eats all fruits and veggies. He still eats mac n' cheese and chix nuggets too, but he doesn't turn up his nose at the good stuff either.

                          Personally, I just think it's a matter of being consistent. We always said that you eat what we give you or you get nothing else. Sounds a bit hard line, but it worked.

                          As for stuff looking weird, it's great to let them help you cook. That way they know what is in a dish and you eliminate the mystery. When my kids would have that look of fear, I always said things like, "you like everything in here, broccoli, chicken, cheese, etc".

                          Good luck!

                          1. The big one at my niece & nephew's house was "dipping sauce." basically crudites with some skim milk thinned-down ranch style dressing (so less would actually cling to the veggies). They loved the dipping. And the thinned dressing was lower fat and didn't hide the veggie flavor too much.

                            1. I second the suggestion of adding vegetables to mac-n-cheese. Bake in onions, broccoli, and/or cauliflower.

                              Also, stir-fried carrots can be very tasty, with a sweetness to them.

                              I got turned on to broccoli relatively late in life (about 30) when a friend make spaghetti sauce with it. Thought it was really weird at the time, but was surprised by how good it tasted. As mentioned by others here, other vegetables can be added as well.

                              There's always celery with peanut butter.

                              Also if you made a potatoes au gratin dish, you could additionally incorporate rutabaga and turnips. These root vegetables look a lot like spuds and their flavors not too strong.

                              Various roasted vegetables on bbq grill are good too. Brush them with butter or oil before cooking.

                              Make soups with finely diced vegetables, or even puree' them.

                              1. Like other posters here, I don't recall having much of a choice at the dinner table, but this never seemed cruel or unfair -- it was just how things were. It did help that my mother is a fantastic chef. I was naturally curious about all the stuff in the kitchen when I was a kid, since I spent a lot of time there (doing homework, etc.) and because of a little reverse psychology. Mom has crazy knife skills and would keep all the frantic chopping, dicing, and mincing for herself; I was left to snap green beans and peel carrots, so I always wanted to do the more 'grown-up' tasks. (This also worked for dishwashing duty. I wasn't 'allowed' to wash the delicate china until she was sure I was old enough! By then, I was dying to wash the dishes...and I actually don't mind doing them today. I've got to remember that trick for when I have kids.)

                                I really like the suggestions that encourage involvement/participation, and I believe those would be most successful. As for actual dishes, sometimes presenting the vegetables very simply is the best way to go (or, at least that's how it worked for me). Most of our family meals included one or two individual dishes of vegetables, i.e., one of steamed broccoli, another of sautéed cauliflower -- prepared so that you could really taste the vegetable, minimal butter or oil involved. I've only recently discovered that other parents have tried 'hiding' vegetables in things, but that seems to have a good success rate even in older kids/adults. I recently made a penne dish with a tomato-cauliflower base, which involved finely chopping the cauliflower and cooking until very tender. My friends couldn't even tell it was cauliflower! It had cooked down so much that it served more to thicken the sauce. They ate every bite...including one person who professes a particular distaste for said vegetable. So, apparently it is possible to change one's mind with a different preparation.

                                Mac 'n cheese, chicken nuggets, and any kind of fast food were never present in my house until I realized all of my elementary school classmates were eating those things. Even then, they were relegated to special-occasion/treat status, and I never felt like I missed much. I guess it really is in how you grow up...kudos and good luck!

                                1. First of all, relax. Most kids do find a few veg that they like on their own and then branch out from there. But I have found that they tend to like things crunchy better than mushy. So under cook things and let them try. Also cut them in sticks so kids can pick them up in their fingers. (Worry about the table manners later.)

                                  Sugar peas (par-boiled) have been a staple at birthday parties because most kids do like them. They were an after-game snack at baseball last week and were snapped up faster than the strawberries.

                                  I too believe in hiding shredded veg in all kinds of things. I put finely shredded turnip in my chicken soup and it looks just like the skinny noodles once it is cooked.

                                  But most of all I take heart in remembering my uber-fussy brother who eventually turned into a vegetarian.

                                  1. I'm picky and didn't want my boys to grow up that way so we've been doing veggies pretty hard core since they started eating solids... here's some tricks I've learned along the way. They prefer most of their veggies cold (I've tried them that way and they have a slightly less bitter taste it seems) so I steam stuff ahead of time and then fridge until needed. We have tried to avoid the whole ketchup on everything phase but do find great "dip" alternatives - sugar free applesauce is actually a surprisingly good pair with broccoli, hummus is great with green beans, etc.

                                    I've found that if I chop up the asparagus into little chunks and then steam super quick (i.e., still on the crunchier side) that goes over pretty good.

                                    BN squash cut up into 1 inch cubes, tossed in a bag with evo and a little cinnamon (& sugar if you'd like) and then put in a roasting pan and roasted on 400 for about 15-30 minutes, stirring around a couple of times is very sweet. I use my mandolin to crinkle cut garnet yams and then toss in olive oil and teensy bit of salt and roast in the over and flip once to create "yam" chips - pretty tasty.

                                    Grilled corn is another very child friendly veggie. If you let them eat it off the cobb they feel grown up.

                                    I have this great recipe (from a cookbook I don't recall so I can't give the proper credit) for yam, carrot, apple soup. My boys love this - we serve it cold so it is easy to make a batch and then use during the week. It basically is roasted yams, carrots and apples (yes they are roasted too - no skin), then cooked for a little while in chicken/veggie stock until carrots are really soft, blend in the blended until smooth.

                                    Spinach pesto is my newest thing. So easy to make - essentially just sub out most (or half if you really want more of a basil taste) of the basil for spinach, include about 10 basil leaves, rest stays essentially the same. Not really spinachy tasting. Put that on some whole wheat pasta.

                                    Good luck.. it is always a challenge with the whole eating thing and definitely constantly a work in progress.

                                    1. I can totally understand what you are going thru! I have a 2 and a half year old son who isn't a great eater to begin with in terms of quantity, and now has become picky. So now I have to worry about him getting enough calories and getting veggies in him. It's easy to say just give him what you eat - but in reality that doesn't always work. A few things my son does like:

                                      -Edamame in the shell he can "pop"
                                      -ABC noodle soup - I make with chix broth and add peas, carrots, corn, etc... along with the ABC noodles
                                      -Corn on the cob - the cob makes it fun for him
                                      -Carrot sticks sometimes - b/c the Easter bunny eats them
                                      -Sliced avacado
                                      -Apple Carrot juice
                                      -Sweet potato Fries
                                      -Spinach or carrots added to tomato sauce

                                      None of these are earth shattering ideas, but he will usually eat them. I also have more success if I let him help me in the kitchen. I end up with a bigger mess, but it's worth it. Also, I took him to the strawberry patch and we picked our own last weekend - and he's been eating them ever since. Don't know where you live, but a visit to the 'pick your own" fields might help! Good luck - let me know if you come up with anything brilliant!

                                      1. What about veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli florets, cucumber, snow peas, bell pepper strips) to dip in hummus or black bean dip, celery with peanut butter, etc. Things your child can eat with his hands. We've (my husband & I) recently been fixing thinly sliced zucchini and red bell peppers topped with pasta sauce or hummus.

                                        Have you seen the Play with Your Food books/calendars?

                                        1. Wow, thank you all SO much for your responses. There are some great ideas in here. FYI, for those who say don't give him the mac-n-cheese or the chicken nuggets....I was totally with you...until we went to the pediatrician and found out our son was in the 7th percentile for weight. The doctor says he's fine and obviously healthy, but having him skip meals because he didn't want something freaked me out at that point, so I began trying everything. Having said that, they've become a crutch and we realize we need to do some more work here. I do have him cook with me, and I think it definitely helps--he's a big egg fan now, because he "helps" me scramble--but I need to do more of this, too. I think it'll get easier as he's a little steadier on his feet and on the stool he needs to reach the counter (right now I still have to keep a hand on him--makes cooking hard). I am going to print out this page, though, and start working through your suggestions. Thanks for giving me so many ideas to try!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: edr

                                            I think that rather than resorting to the things you know he likes, serving the things you eat over and over will help them become a normal habit. As you say, it can become a crutch when you're just tired and desperate. I was reading that it takes 5-10 introductions of something new for it to really click with a kid, and then they'll usually start eating it.

                                            If it helps to know, I was in the 5th percentile for an awfully long time (until I discovered foodie-ism in college :)) and everything was just fine. I even skipped meals because I went through a picky phase, too (according to my mom). The pediatrician said that when I was hungry I would eat, and he was right. A coworker is going through this with her 6th percentile 4-year old, and the pediatrician told her the same thing- he's healthy, and he'll eat when he wants to. Few kids will actually starve themselves, and some kids are just skinny and/or not big eaters.

                                            Good luck!

                                            1. re: sfumato

                                              Remember its more of a concern if he is falling from a high percentile to a low one (ie he used to be in the 50th percentile and he's been sliding down to the 7th). There are plenty of small but healthy children who are in the lower percentiles and move through childhood normally at that level.

                                              Also, these days with obesity a growing problem amoung children and adults, the image of what is "normal" has shifted towards a body image that is larger and weighs more (sidebar: I am not suggesting we should have an anorexic body type as the ideal!). Many pediatricians find parents concerned that their child is too skinny, esp compared to the heavier or even overweight children at school, when in reality the child is thin and totally normal.

                                              I always find it fascinating how what we are served when little really sets our tastes for later in life. Children in India grow up loving spicy curries and that will be what defines "comfort food" for them as an adult.... while a child in America might do the same with mac and cheese.

                                              If you start serving him healthy stuff now, it will become the norm later in life.

                                            2. re: edr

                                              Although I think the idea of "you eat what's provided" was so ingrained into us that skipping things wasn't much of an issue, we were allowed to have as much milk as we wanted. I'm sure that provided us with some of our calories and vitamins!
                                              My mother was trained as a nutritionist, and i think the "no substitutions" attitude was as much about not getting us overloaded on some things as about saving room for others. (Though there was also an budgetary component to it...)

                                              1. re: edr

                                                You may want to introduce him to avocados since they're a source of healthy fat, maybe mild guacamole to dip chips and veggies in...
                                                There's also a great fruit & veg alphabet book
                                                Here's a Play with Your Food Link

                                              2. My son is a bit fussy with foods but if you put his favorite salad dressing on it, he will eat it. Salad, veggies, tacos. It helps that he likes vegetables but he LOVES them with his salad dressing.

                                                1. I think that most children go through a phase between about ages 2-5 when they shy away from vegetables. At that age, they tend to favor crisp textures and sweet flavors. When my son was that age, he ate exactly 3 vegetables: raw carrots, raw red peppers, and steamed pea pods. All 3 were healthy and we just went with the flow. Eventually he emerged from that stage and returned to eating a wider variety of vegetables, including more that were cooked.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: masha

                                                    Having been through the veggie wars with my now 25 year old daughter and 19 year old son, and currently going through it with my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter who lives with us, I agree with the posters who say basically relax. Right now Sara loves corn on the cob and hates most other veggies. She drinks her (watered down) juice, loves oatmeal and cheerios all the time, and loves yogurt and yogurt drinks and we put vitamins in her juice (per the pediatrician). The other day she ate fresh green beans but would not touch them a few days later. She like most proteins, like eggs, hamburger, and roast chicken. She hates chicken nuggets. She loves french fries ( so sue me, she eats them). In a few months she'll change her mind and hate the fries and love the veggies. And then in a few more months reverse that. Just put something from all the food groups in front of her and she will eat something. I learned the hard way if they think you are trying to get them to eat something, they will not eat it. Just put it in front of them, and then let them pick off your plate. They will get the nutrition they need and keep trying different stuff, rotate things around. And don't worry about those grey hairs on your head from worry, that's normal too. :)

                                                    1. re: joan828

                                                      I think joan828 gave great advice. As the mother of a sometimes picky sometimes freakily unpicky 2.5 year old, I'm trying really hard not to stress. My husband is the pickiest person by far I've ever met and I really, really don't want my son to take after him.

                                                      I hope my ace in the hole is good-naturedly continuing to introduce new foods and to not freak if he doesn't touch them. I'm trying to keep everything neutral, while introducing him to a variety of fresh foods. That said, I put something from all the food groups in front of him. But if I know he likes something I also try to use that as a tool to get him to branch out. He loves broccoli so I'm trying to mix some other veggies in there that he resemble "little trees" that he can eat in the same way. I got him to dip broccoli into Ranch dressing and am now using that to be all: dip green beans in there too! It works the same way!

                                                      I also stick fruits and vegetables in his long-time favorites, like oatmeal. I stick canned pumpkin in there now and let him "mix".

                                                      It's easy to say "they eat what you do" and I agree to some extent, but I do ensure there's at least one thing he's okay with on his plate at every meal. He can sample the rest without issue, then.

                                                      1. re: jeanmt

                                                        I planted a garden with my son when he was two (last year). he helped me dig the dirt, plant the seeds, plants, etc. I let him help water and weed. HE LOVED IT. he would go into the garden, rip off a pepper and just eat it, same goes for green beans, snap peas, celery, cucumbers etc. The only veggies he doesn't like that I have found are tomatoes and mushrooms and I think that is because of texture more than taste.

                                                        Now that he is 3 1/2 his daily afternoon snack is carrots, celery, red peppers, cucumbers and veggie dip.

                                                        1. re: jesoda

                                                          Jesoda, I LOVE the garden idea!! That is genius!

                                                        2. re: jeanmt

                                                          Another hint: Fruit. She likes cantaloupe, LOVES bananas, and pineapple. She won't eat fresh strawberries, but she will eat the dried ones, like you find in cereal (Newman's Own has a flakes and strawberries she likes). I don't know why she won't eat fresh strawberries, but I'm not going to argue about it. Trader Joe's has freeze dried strawberries like in the cereals and we buy them for now to put in her cheerios or flakes or whatever. She likes "skettie" too and loves tomatoes even from cans. Also she currently likes scallops, until I make them again, then she'll most likeley say "I can't like them anymore." Still working on preopsitions, adverbs and pronouns. :)

                                                        3. re: joan828

                                                          One other thing that works, is enlisting the child to help cook by peeling the carrots, etc. If they are hungry right before dinner, and are handling the vegetables, they always end up eating some. And, at the table, there is the element of pride in helping prepare the meal, which leads them to eat some.

                                                          1. re: masha

                                                            masha, yes I also did that with my son. I would cut the veggies and slide them over to him so he could put them in a bowl or measuring cup or whatever. Something always ended up in his mouth and he did love to eat what he help make.

                                                            This year one of his preschool projects was making "stone soup", which was vegetable soup. Every kid brought in one vegetable. My son had three helpings, the teachers couldn't get over it.

                                                            1. re: jesoda

                                                              My son attended a Montessori school where, at 3-4 years old, they were peeling and cutting up carrots & apples, and at 5-6 they were making soup every Friday. Agreed that if you can get them into food prep early, they will eat good food.

                                                      2. The best advice I've ever had on this issue was never to battle with toddlers about what goes in to their bodies or what comes out of their bodies-eating and toileting are the only two things they have real control over, and since they are such little control freaks, they'll take full advantage of an opportunity to take you down if they know it's an important issue to you.

                                                        My now-11 year old was a remarkably unpicky little one but then hit elementary school and got peer-pressured into hating things like fish, that she used to love. We use the rule that she has to try everything, every time, even if she didn't like it last time, since she'll never know when she'll start liking something, and that works pretty well.

                                                        My 2 year old is right where your kiddo is, and it's a struggle. She's tiny, too, and did drop a lot in her growth chart-from 70th to below the 1st during her first year of life. She's not as tiny now, but it is something I watch-we ate a lot of cheese and avocado for awhile there.

                                                        She likes peas in the pod (you can get a big bag at Costco when they aren't in season locally). She also likes frozen peas still FROZEN-an idea she got from watching an older boy she idolizes. She likes veggies that are growing-right now, she'll sneak leaves off my lettuce plant and think she's getting away with something (my eldest will only eat spinach raw, plain, off the plant). My eldest loved canned green beans when she was a toddler-I think they're gross, but who cares? Both girls love tomatoes off the vine, but not so much raw and in recipes.

                                                        Quesadillas are a hit right now, and you can sneak all sorts of things in there. Unsweetened applesauce is so easy to make and mix other fruits into, and she loves it. Frozen blueberries are a screaming hit, and they think they are a treat, like a popsicle.

                                                        Which brings me to the most effective thing I've found-toddler peer pressure. She's at daycare with two other 2 year olds, and she eats amazingly well there. I think it's like feeding dogs, who always seem to eat a lot more when other dogs are there competing. If she doesn't want to eat something at home that she ate at daycare, I'll remind her that "Blair likes that" and it will work...sometimes...but that's as good as you can hope for. They also have a couple effective lunch time rules at daycare: no dessert until you eat x amount, and the food all gets put away after a certain time, which stops one kid from sitting at the table playing with food forever.

                                                        I also want to say you know your child, and don't be too quick to jump to super-strict rules about food if it's not something that will work for your kid. Lots of 2 year olds (most?) are too young to really understand that if I don't eat NOW, I might be hungry in 3 hours. That's a really long time between a cause and effect for kids that little. I also have two children that completely fall apart when their blood sugar drops, and it is necessary for everyone's sake to keep that from happening. I think restricting what kind of food is available at meals and what kind is available between meals works better than cutting it off completely outside of meal time.

                                                        That said, I don't make special meals for my kids. As other folks have said, if it's something too spicy or not at all kid friendly, I'll make sure there's some component of it they'll eat, and the oldest can always make herself a PB and J.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: girlwonder88

                                                          Well said... I'd like to add that "eat it or go to bed hungry" can lead to a toddler waking up hungry in the middle of the night, which we don't find contributes much to her (or our!) overall health and happiness. Not only will she not make the connection that she needs to eat dinner to avoid the night waking, she doesn't even realize that it's a bad thing to be bouncing off the walls at 2am.

                                                          1. re: girlwonder88

                                                            When my daughter was a baby, I remember the pediatrician saying the same thing about food -- "don't fight with toddlers over it". It's true and it will not help the situation. My husband was forced into eating lots of things that his parents deemed healthy (his father actually tried to sneak tuna fish into peanut butter sandwiches) and now, at age 38, he would keel over and die before he would eat a salad or 99% of all fruits and vegetables.

                                                            I am lucky, however, in that my daughter (now 3 1/2) eats everything, and I mean everything, and she always did (well, except for eggplant). A few months ago, I asked her if there was any food that she doesn't like and, after thinking for a few moments, she said "worms". Good thing I don't serve worms too often! And at her last day of pre-school last week, there was a class breakfast, and when one of the mothers was giving my daughter a bagel with cream cheese, my daughter said to the other mother "is there any lox?".

                                                            So while I follow this thread, I am always thinking the opposite of everyone who is trying to get their kids to eat more, and that is "how to manage my daughter so that she does not go through life being overweight" (separate topic, I know).

                                                            But also to girlwonder88's point, I do agree that kids often will eat when they are around other kids that are eating. When my daughter is having a friend over for lunch, the other mother will often say "oh, don't worry about her, my kid won't eat this, that or the other thing". Well, let me tell you, maybe they are taking cues from my daughter because at my house, they eat. I don't serve them anything exotic, like I serve my own kids, and it might even be macaroni and cheese, but they eat. And I serve them sliced cucmbers, and they eat. And when the other mother comes back, she is always shocked that the kid ate!

                                                            And lastly, while I don't necessarily agree with sneaking vegetables like spinach into brownies, there is nothing wrong with adding vegetables to most dishes. I often make Martha Stewart's Meatloaf 101, and it calls for diced carrots in the mix. A good and tasty way to get some extra vegetables in the kids. And I will make a lasagna-type thing and add finely shredded carrots and even finely chopped frozen spinach to the tomato sauce. Nobody ever complains (or notices).

                                                          2. My favorite recipe when my children were young is "potage garbage". In other words, garbage soup. Clean out your vegetable bin with such stuff as potatoes, zucchini, onions, yellow squash, etc. Cook with chicken stock and milk. Can be served hot or cold.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Clicquot

                                                              Forgot to add to puree the stuff in a blender or food processer so the kiddies can't see the veggies. Trust me, they'll like it.

                                                            2. I 'm sure it's a non-issue but make sure autism isn't a factor. My grandson, Jack, is 6 years old and won't eat anything except chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, too many baked goods, ice cream and an occasional banana. That's it, no milk, vegies, fruits, anything. He gags if he tries anything else. It's a real problem. He can't even take medicine in any form. He's healthy, teeth are coming in strong and white, but this will certainly be an issue at some time.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: SonyBob

                                                                Hi Bob,
                                                                Your grandson probably has gluten and casein issues since his list consists of those items. One of my nephews has autism. When he was diagnosed my brother and sister-in-law went to some support group meetings and the participants greeted each other by asking which 6 foods the other person's child would eat, before name or age. Consider suggesting Houston enzymes for your grandson. For some it works as well as the gluten-free, casein-free diet. http://www.houstonni.com/ I use HN-Zyme Prime myself, though I also follow a gfcf diet.

                                                              2. I've reared three toddlers into children into teens into adults. All three are adventurous eaters, open to other cultures and extremely healthy. My advice: don't sweat it. Toddlers are finicky. They have little control over their lives but they can refuse food. Give them vitamins and give them time.

                                                                1. Make a "fruit" smoothie in the blender. Throw in any assortment of fruit such as a banana, apple, fresh or frozen berries, pineapple and a one or two handfuls of spinach, a carrot and even half a cucumber. Toss in some ground flax seed. So yummy and good for you.