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.
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.
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.
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.
5 Tips for Introducing New (Healthy) Foods
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.
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
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. 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!