Vegetables are an important part of daily nutrition, especially for little ones.  And if you ever raised a picky eater, you would know how difficult it can be to get them to eat all their veggies!  By the time toddlers are two and three years old, they have become more independent, have gained clarity on their own personal preferences, and they adapt their behaviours on how to get more of what it is they want.  This could be why so many people refer to these years’ in a childs’ life as the terrible twos and threes; because they have no problem with throwing a tantrum in order to get what they want (not to mention that they often have no regard as to whether said tantrum is thrown in the privacy of your home or in the middle of a crowded super market).

Knowing this much about toddlers, it can be easier for parents to work with their children instead of against them, especially when broccoli and carrots are involved!  My child was a picky eater, and now that she is seven, not much has changed.  However, I was able to start her on vegetables early enough that she has acquired a taste for them, but it wasn’t easy convincing her to eat her greens from the get-go.  Nope.  This required tactical planning, strategising and critical thinking skills on our part as a parent!  Here are some of the things we did to get our daughter to eat her vegetables:


  • Start small and use small servings

Whenever starting a child in something new, it could be wise to start small and ease them into it.  Also, keep in mind that children have smaller tummies than adults; they don’t need to eat a whole large Caesar salad to get the nutritional value they need.  A few carrot and cucumber sticks ought to do the trick!


  • Juice it

If your child isn’t getting into the whole veggie-vibe, sometimes making veggie juice or a smoothie can help them get into the swing of it.  Not all juices have to use fruits, and not all smoothies have to be made with milk.  There are so many different variations you can try, and the fun colours often get the kids excited about it!


  • Smorgasbord it

Children often like variety, so cutting up a mini veggie tray with varying colours can make things more appetizing for them! Creativity usually wins the game here; think up fun unique ways of presenting these new fun finger-foods and find what works best for your tot!


  • Have them choose what they want/offer them a choice

One of the things that worked really well for my daughter was to have her choose which veggies she wanted to eat.  Of course the selection of veggies was filtered by yours truly, but seeing as my daughter was fiercely independent, I wanted to provide her the illusion that she was choosing what she wanted while satisfying her nutritional needs at the same time.

Instead of making her eat whatever vegetables I prepared, I would ask her if she wanted carrots, cucumbers or capsicum.  She would think about it for a minute and then choose.  I highly recommend this tip as it supported us out tremendously!


  • Dip it!!

Kids love having fun, and fun with food is no exception!  If you can find yummy things for your child to dip their vegetables in, such as ranch dressing, mayonnaise or yogurt, then you have gotten them to eat their veggies for life!


  • Keep them on an eating schedule

By and far one of the things I swear by as a parent is keeping the children on a schedule.  I know some Asian parents are far more laid back than I (including my daughter’s father), but for me, keeping the kids on a schedule sets everyone up for success.  My child is happier because she knows what to expect and I can line up my itinerary around mealtimes, playtimes and naptimes.  Surprisingly, you can also schedule a veggie time before the mealtime.  Again, creativity wins so the more fun and creative the veggie time, the more the children will look forward to it!


  • Have a friend come over, about the same age or slightly older, that knows how to eat veggies

Never underestimate the power of mimicry.  Children love to mimic bigger kids and their behaviours.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what behaviours they pick up!  But when it comes to eating vegetables, having a slightly older child who loves their greens and encourages the younger child to give it a try may work for some kids.
I remember bumping into my friend and her young daughter at a chicken rice stand in Petaling Jaya.  At the time, her daughter despised vegetables and wanted nothing to do with them….until she saw my daughter eat all the cucumbers on her plate.  In fact, we had to order extra because my daughter really loves cucumbers.  As the next plate o’ greens came, my friend’s daughter eagerly grabbed one of the cucumbers and started munching away.  Sometimes the old tricks are the best tricks in the book!


In summary, there are many things you can do to get your children to eat their veggies.  The above are a few tips that supported me personally as well as some of the children at Little Human Scholars playschool and preschool in Petaling Jaya.  What tips have you tried, and have they worked?  Let us know in the comment section below!

Wishing you endless fun with your toddler and their veggies!


Jana Moreno