When it comes to food, one of the biggest challenges parents have is getting babies to eat more vegetables.
That cute little button face turns to the side, lips tightly squeezed together and then that dreaded word… ‘NO’ (if they can even say that word yet).
We all know vegetables are good for our kids. They come in a rainbow of naturally, brilliant colours each one with its own amazing characteristics and taste. They supply their little bodies with a wealth of nutrients needed to grow, stay healthy and when cooked right, they taste pretty delicious too. The WHO recommends we eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day and with the wide range of produce available to us in Ireland there is so much opportunity to develop our children’s’ taste buds into future, little, veggie loving, foodies.
A good start.
If your baby has reached 6 months and you are starting weaning, then this is the most exciting time for you. Allowing your baby to feed them self opens up a world of possibilities of textures, tastes and smells. Start off with soft nutritious vegetables like roasted butternut squash or sweet potato spears which are really easy for your little one to pick up and eat. If it can be squished between your thumb and forefinger then a baby’s gums can manage it no problem.
There is nothing nicer than watching them demolish food all on their own (even though you may hold your breath for the first while).
Encouraging healthy eating habits.
Babies are inquisitive, they see everything that goes on and learns to copy what you do so it’s important to set a good example when it comes to food.
- Eat as a family – This is one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years. Besides the chats and laughter, it sets a great example for your little one.
- Eat what they are eating – Babies always want what is on your plate and if they see you eating up your broccoli chances are they will at least try it as well.
- Cook a wide variety of vegetables – we’d all go off carrots or peas if we had them every day so change it up a little and cook different vegetables. Try introducing dark, leafy greens, they are a great source of iron which every weaning baby needs.
- Limit snacking between regular mealtimes – children need 3 meals a day and 1-2 snacks. If they have eaten sugary yoghurts or biscuits before lunch or dinner the chances are they are not going to be hungry.
- Don’t give up – babies are clever, like really, really clever and if you offer alternatives to eating their vegetables they will expect that every time. It’s the toughest thing as a parent to do but stay strong!
- Don’t force your baby to finish his/her plate. Babies naturally self-regulate when they are full. If they don’t want it when you’re having your meal then reheat for later when they are hungrier.
- Make eating veggies fun – for older fussier babies it sometimes takes turning a floret of broccoli into a tree or telling them that eating carrots makes you super strong to hop like a bunny (yes we all have to do that sometimes). It helps when the baby can relate healthy vegetables to something he/she loves and creates a fun and positive experience around food from an early age.
Ways to include vegetables in your babies diet.
Soups are a great way of getting the most out of vegetables. They can be made from whatever you have on hand and are so warming and nutritious especially for these long winter months.
For babies soak a few bite-sized squares of homemade brown bread in soup until it soaks up the liquid, then let your baby get to work. Another way is to serve in a baby sippy cup.
Pizzas can be healthy too, especially if you make them yourself at home. Good vegetable toppings for babies include; chopped spinach, chopped roasted peppers, mushrooms, onions and roasted aubergine. Get older babies involved by letting them to pick 3-4 vegetables and decorating their own mini pizzas.
Pasta Sauces are a great way of getting babies to eat vegetables too and also a brilliant way to introduce new tastes. Try blending a pepper or courgette into a tomato sauce to add nutritional value to it then pour over pasta. Another great way is to serve the pasta sauce over vegetable spaghetti. You can use a spiralizer if you have one or alternatively buy a julienne peeler for under a fiver in most home stores. It’s then a matter of turning a simple courgette into spaghetti strips.
Loaded Veggie Muffins
Loaded Veggie Muffins are the most popular recipe I ever made with both the baby and the entire family. Packed with spinach, kale or whatever vegetables I have on hand they are a great snack, easy to freeze and amazing way of getting children to eat veggies.
‘Super Baby’ Teething Pops
‘Super Baby’ Teething Pops make healthy and super nutritious teething aids for those painful gums. Make a smoothie using kale or spinach, milk of your choice and a banana. Then blend until smooth and freeze into teething pops.
NOTE: Hard or raw vegetables should not be given to babies as there is a choking hazard and never leave your baby eating alone.