Our dinners have been laced with drama ever since my son was born. The first few months were spent mastering the fine art of eating while nursing. Those days are gone, replaced by new dinner battles — trying to get our underweight son to sample his supper.
When he does eat, our son prefers to eat one type of food, usually the meat. Beef, chicken and fish are full of proteins and nutrients, but he needs vegetables in his daily diet. My challenge has been convincing him of that need.
After several months of triil and error, I have found some methods of helping my son chow down on his vegetables.
1. Establish regular snack times. We have five times where my son is fed – breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. When it’s time to eat, my son is hungry and willing to accept what I offer. I know when he will eat and prepare ahead so that he has a more healthy meal – not just carbohydrates.
I make exceptions are for events that require an extraordinary amount of my toddler’s patience. Snacks like Cheerios and dried fruit are absolutely necessary for visits to the doctor and church services. Food entertains him longer than toys in these situations.
2. Give him vegetables before dinner. This is my major veggie revelation. When I cooked supper, my son used to whine, wrap himself around my legs and desperately plea for food. It posed a conundrum to me. Should I allow him to have food now and hope he still eats his supper? (Fat chance.) Should I tell him to wait in an effort to teach him patience? When I did, he became so upset he later refused to eat. (It doesn’t make sense to me either.)
Then I realized that I could give him his vegetables during that half hour before dinner. As vegetables are not filling, he would still be willing to eat later. His complaining ceased, because he had some food to satisfy the immediate yearning.
Another benefit to feeding him vegetables before dinner was that I no longer had to cajole him into eating those green things things instead of enjoying my own meal. I didn’t mind if he only ate roast beef at the table, because I knew he had already had some vegetables.
3. Make vegetables interesting. My son likes to drink his peas from a cup. He loves his broccoli because his dad told him that they were trees.
4. Eat your own vegetables. Our toddler watches and imitates our every action. If we eat and relish our vegetables, he will too. Rarely does he enjoy something that we do not.
5. Select ripe, fresh vegetables and cook them well. I don’t like overcooked, mushy green beans, and tomatoes out of season always look more flavorful than they taste. If I don’t love the food, I can’t expect my child to enjoy it. Vegetables can be so much more than a side dish. Their range of flavors and colors allows them to vie with meat as the main event of the meal.
6. Add vegetables to everything. Add finely chopped broccoli and carrots to scrambled eggs. Toss them in your pasta, your rice, your soups and meat dishes. Eventually your child will have to eat them.
7. If all else fails, make a smoothie. My son relishes spinach when its blended with yogurt, bananas and blueberries. It’s a fail-safe way of getting him to eat many things he would not.