My Kids Won’t Eat That

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I can’t tell you how often I hear, “my kids wont eat that” from friends and strangers alike. They hear that my kids eat raw spinach, beans, hummus, or any other “healthy” food and balk at the idea. Allow me to let you in on a little secret, my 4 year old was king of the drive-thru less than 2 years ago. He and I would eat fast food almost everyday; chicken nuggets, cheese burgers, and fries were just a part of our typical day, and let’s not forget pizza and tacos that made weekly visits to our table. 5 tips for introducing new (healthy) foods

Fast forward 18 months and you find a completely different situation. We still get fast food, but now it’s bean burritos and apple slices and it is not as often; we even have the occasional veggie pizza.

Most of meals are made by me in our kitchen. As you can see from my weekly Meal Plans they are simple, easy, and most of them are kid friendly. My 4 year old still doesn’t like broccoli, or so he says, but he eats a great variety of whole, plant foods. My 2 year old is a veggie eating machine.

My Kids Won’t Eat That

So if you say, “My Kids Won’t Eat That!” then you are right. They will eat what you provide. If they are used to highly processed food it will take a period of transition, but the effort you put in now will benefit them for years to come. Even if they grow up and choose to eat a poor diet, I think they will still eat better than others who grew up without opportunities to eat healthy food.

What Works Best For You

There are different approaches parents take at dinner time. Some parents don’t let their kids leave the table until they finish their food, others make their kids a separate meal, and I’m sure you know of even more approaches that may or may not work. Ultimately I feel like only the parent (or other caregiver) can decide what will work best for their child based on that child’s disposition, developmental stage, preferences, etc.

Our Transition

When we first began our transition to a plant-based diet our boys were 10 months and just under 3 years old. The 10 month old had not been exposed to junk food; he was mostly breastfed but ate fruit and veggies. We would have our kids try what we were eating, unless it was too spicy, then we would allow them to eat a banana or other healthy option. They were very young at the time so they snacked a lot and didn’t need a lot of food at dinner. I was more concerned with them eating enough than eating the same thing we had. Smoothie Time

How We Do It

Here are a few examples of how I navigated food choices with my kids. The oldest wouldn’t eat whole beans but he would eat them puréed so I often ran them through the food processor. Now a year and a half later he still doesn’t like whole beans but we serve him a small amount and tell him he has to eat them; I still puree them sometimes. Our younger son has always loved whole beans and will eat them plain. Both of our sons have developed a love for spinach, lettuce, and other greens. We allowed them to use a dip or salad dressing in the beginning but now they will eat greens without accompaniment. Before the younger son could effectively chew the leaves I would make smoothies to give him a good dose of greens.

Eating his leaves.

Eating his leaves.

5 Tips for Introducing New (Healthy) Foods

Husband and son sharing salad

1. Let Them See You Eat

My kids always want what I’m eating. We are an example for our kids, either a good one or a bad one. Our boys didn’t want to have anything to do with walnuts when we first introduced them, but my husband would eat them so my kids began to eat them too. Now they have walnuts at least 5 days a week.

2. When in Doubt, Add a Sauce or Dip

Kids love to dip! Dipping keep their hands busy, it gives them a job, and keeps their attention. I’m not opposed to ketchup but we spring for “better” ketchup’s that aren’t loaded with tons of unnecessary ingredients. Also try mustard, salad dressing, nut or seed butters, or homemade sauces made with puréed steamed veggies and nutritional yeast, like this All Purpose Green Sauce. I have small condiment cups that my boys love. If I want them to eat something they wouldn’t normally eat I’ll put it in those condiment cups, I don’t do it often so it maintains the mystique.

3. Purée

If your child has an aversion to big chunks of veggies I think puréeing them is a great idea. My kids developed a taste for those veggies and eat them well (sometimes). I would prepare broccoli, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. and puree them to serve over pasta or on pizza

4. Keep on Swimming Trying

You’ve all heard that it takes many, many attempts for an infant to accept a new food. Don’t expect your bigger kids to be any easier. Just keep trying, they may not like everything but it’s likely they will accept many of the new foods you offer.

5. Location, Location, Location

We normally eat at the table but if I get a bowl of food and walk to the couch my kids think it is something really special and want what I have. You don’t have to eat on the couch but try offering it to your kid in a different location, maybe outside or make a fort and say this food is for your adventure. sharing What was your experience transitioning your children to a plant-based diet? Do you have tips to share? Check out my post 5 Simple Trick to get YOUR Kids to Eat Their Veggies!

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  1. No matter what I do I can’t get my kids to eat ANY vegetables. They LOVE fruit but steer clear of anything that I prepare for dinner. I am at wits end.

  2. Reblogged this on allaboutmanners and commented:
    You both look very happy! So cute.

  3. I was once one of those kids who will not touch any vegetables that are not sweet, until I was tricked into it. Haha…

  4. So true! Growing up, not trying something was never an option and “I don’t like that,” were practically cuss words. I see my friends with their children throwing fits over veggies and only wanting junk, and I’m thankful I was raised different. Great post!

    • Thanks Dani! I know what you mean. I try to inspire rather than “force” but my kids are at an age where they aren’t always given an option. We had stir fry last night which my 4 year old HATES. I gave him 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup and told him he could have pineapple and a peanut butter sandwich after he ate the stir fry and he finished it then moved on to the food he liked.

  5. Awesome post! Great advice and inspiration.

  6. We were doing really well until they became teenagers. Now it’s all gone south. Anyone have tips for getting teens to make healthy choices?

  7. homeinsomis says:

    We did really well until my kids became teenagers. Anyone have any tips for getting teens to make healthy choices? I provide all kinds of healthy options for them but apparently they would rather not eat than touch them.

    • We run into that problem when our teens visit. Our daughter is much more receptive than our two teen sons. We made them watch Forks Over Knives but they were not receptive, they said they would wait until they were old to eat healthy. :/
      Our situation is different since our kids no longer live with us full time but maybe you can adapt some of our ideas. We allowed them to buy whatever they wanted if they ate it outside of the house. We didn’t want them to be a bad influence on our little kids. Also, when we ate out as a family they could have whatever they wanted. At home I expected them to eat or at least try what I made. If they ate it and weren’t satisfied they could have a peanut butter sandwich or something like that. Some of our friends had their teens watch Veducated and other documentaries. Still others taught their kids about the health benefits, including fitness and healthier skin. I didn’t try to replace their favorites. They weren’t falling for faux mac and cheese but they were pretty good about the plant-based nachos and pureed veggies in the pasta.

  8. We are still in the middle of the transition. My 2.5 year old really only wants starches. She won’t touch any dinners I make, so I make green smoothies and freeze them into fun “otterpops” so she is at least getting some avocado, spinach, or kale. I think once I get a Vitamix that makes smoother smoothies she might get better about drinking smoothies. One victory I had was having her stand ona chair while I chopped veggies for a salad- she kept asking for bits a pieces 🙂 My 14 month old will eat just about anything.

    with my bigger kids it is hit or miss. I’m trying to fill the house with healthy food so that even when they don’t eat much of a meal, the snack they grab is fruit, nuts, or a healthy leftover.

    It’s rough. Sometimes very discouraging, and EXTREMELY discouraging when the kids are offered junk all day at school. But I know we are eating MUCH healthier than we were 6 months ago, so I’m trusting that there will be lasting health benefits.

    • Hi Lindsay! My son was about that age when we switched. Some days I wondered if they would live on sandwiches and fruit. Tonight he asked for three servings of salad. He still had mashed potatoes on his plate and he chose salad! You will get there! It takes time.
      Next time you get discouraged send me an email, I’ll do my best to cheer you up! 🙂

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