How I Got My Picky Son to Eat Vegetables
There was a time when my son only ate beige food. We even sang about it years ago. (Also, look how teeny tiny my babies were! Lola is now 5 inches taller than me.)
Our son had massive reflux issues as a baby. We had to take him for daily weight checks until he was about 6 weeks old. Anything and everything we fed him came right back up. I switched to exclusively pumping (the actual worst) and took out every potential allergen from my diet (also terrible). Once he started eating solid foods he (slowly) gained some weight. I fed him all the homemade fruit and veggie purees I fed his older sister and most of them…would just dribble down his chin. But, he would gobble down oatmeal, mashed potatoes, anything beige. I indulged him because…well, because HE WAS ACTUALLY ACCEPTING CALORIES INTO HIS BODY.
By the time we were singing in this silly video it was a real problem. He rejected all fruits, vegetables, and anything with a hint of nutrition. What kid doesn’t like bananas? We saw a nutritionist and a feeding specialist. It was determined he lacked some muscle tone in his jaw that made his eating unpleasant and likely had some sensitivity to the textures of these different foods. (He actually puked when we forced him to eat a strawberry. Lesson. Learned.) His case didn’t need a massive intervention, but I needed him to be able to eat something besides french fries.
It took years, (yes, YEARS) to get to where we are now. My plan was pretty simple. There would always be something on his plate he would eat, but he had to try two bites of the “new” something. Did he protest? Yes. But when he saw we weren’t giving up, he caved and slowly started taking bigger bites. Does he still prefer pizza to broccoli? Of course! Don’t we all?
- Limit Snacks to Fruits and Veggies: His biggest argument against eating his vegetables was, “I’m not hungry.” We knew he was a healthy weight, and wouldn’t starve. So when he asked for a snack we offered cut fruit or sliced vegetables. I’ll be honest, most times he opted NOT to eat the snack but it left him hungrier for dinner.
- Don’t Hide the Vegetables: I know it works for some families, but I didn’t want to puree cauliflower and hide it in his mac and cheese. I wanted him to know what he was eating and grow to appreciate it. Also, he would have sniffed out a hidden veggie and refuse to eat the only thing he really enjoyed. I didn’t want to waste the pasta.
- No Celebrating: I know making reward charts and giving massive praise works for a lot of kids. Our kid is wired differently. The more attention we heaped on the act of eating, the less he wanted to do it. If we saw him eating his spinach, we didn’t throw a party. If we did, he would dig in and claim it was terrible. If we didn’t focus on what he was eating, it allowed it to become “normal.”
- One Vegetable At A Time, For A Long Time: We introduced a new vegetable at a time, and worked to find a way he would tolerate it. That means we ate broccoli every night for two weeks. We steamed it, served it raw, roasted it, covered it in cheese, sauteed it with bacon. We tried every recipe we could find until there was one he liked. (He likes it roasted then dipped in ranch dressing.) Then we tried carrots. (He prefers them raw). Next we tried cauliflower, then spinach, and brussel sprouts. In the beginning, once we found a way he would tolerate the new food, we stuck with it. Now he will eat most vegetables in any form. Except cucumbers. He hates cucumbers. And tomatoes. He’d rather go without food than eat a sliced tomato.
- Smother It: Even as an adult, I love to add a sauce or dressing to my veggies. We experimented with different dips and dressings along the way. We found out he loves carrots and hummus, but hates broccoli and cheese. And, we learned he would eat just about any vegetable if it was served with ranch dressing. Now he loves my veggies in my chimichurri sauce or dipping anything in this peanut sauce. But in the beginning, he went through so much ranch dressing, I started making my own.
PC’s Ranch Dressing
- ½ avocado oil mayonnaise
- ½ cup full fat canned coconut milk (Blend the solid part and save the rest for smoothies or coffee drinks.)
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 TBSP fresh Parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 TBSP fresh Dill
- 1 TBSP fresh chive, chopped
- ½ tsp salt
Mix in a blender for about 10 seconds. Store leftovers in the fridge.
*You can use dry herbs, but you won’t need as much. If you chop ingredients well, you can mix by hand. I’m just really lazy and use a blender. You do you.
Do you have a similar issue at home? How do you get your kids to eat their veggies? Share in the comments!