Ever wished your toddler would eat more vegetables? Encouraging your kids to eat more healthily can be lots of fun as they explore their sense of taste. I’m Louise from Building Blocks and Acorns and I’d love to share with you a few tips and tricks that are worth giving a go. This healthy tasting station is a great way to get any kids eating more vegetables – even fussy eaters may be more willing to give things a try!
Start with what they know
Setting up a tasting station is so simple. Start with a couple of things that your child likes eating (my two year old, who is known as ‘Darth’ on my blog thanks to my husband’s love of all things Star-Wars,) goes mad for peppers… to the point where he’ll happily munch on them like apples! So that’s where we started.
I sliced some different coloured bell peppers and put just a few slices in one section of a really inexpensive plastic ‘chips and dips’ plate.
It’s important not to overwhelm your little one. I know that ‘Darth’ is quite happy tasting different foods, so giving him this many choices is fine for him, as long as the quantities of each type of food is fairly small. For others, this would be ‘too much’ and could lead them to not knowing where to start. Particularly for ‘fussy eaters,’ start with a vegetable that they like (or would be more inclined to try,) along with just one other type of vegetable. You can always re-visit this activity and introduce different vegetables one at a time.
Fresh is Best
Fresh, or freshly frozen vegetables are much better for little ones to taste than something that’s coming towards the end of its shelf life. The molecular structure of vegetables changes as it ages and this can affect its flavour. The vitamin content is also reduced as fresh fruit and vegetables get older.
I would also strongly recommend organic vegetables and when we’re not growing any on our allotment, we try to buy organic as often as we can. The reason? There are lots of arguments for eating organic, but personally I just prefer knowing that I’m not putting chemicals in my new little person! It’s always worth getting the best quality fresh produce that you can afford, whether you choose organic or not.
Offer Vegetables in Different Ways
I wanted ‘Darth’ to try asparagus, so I kept a couple raw and boiled some for a few minutes to give two different textures. If he hadn’t liked either of them like this, I could have tried slicing them into unrecognisable pieces another time, too.
If there is a baby vegetable (such as baby carrots or baby sweetcorn,) sometimes that can be enough to entice little ones into trying it. As well as giving raw and steamed carrots (steaming preserves almost all of the vitamins and minerals in vegetables,) you could try slicing, cubing or even grating. I never peel our carrots – it’s where a lot of the nutrition is and it adds to the texture and flavour. Just make sure that you always thoroughly wash vegetables, even if they are organic.
Hot or Cold?
Play around with offering vegetables either at a safely hot temperature, room temperature, refrigerated or even frozen! This can affect the flavour of the vegetables, too. Doing this alone could be a great way of exploring their taste buds and investigating the flavours that are released at different temperatures!
Keep it Simple
Try not to disguise the flavours of the vegetables. This is a way for them to enjoy and appreciate different flavours. All too often, it’s tempting to try and ‘hide’ vegetables in meals. But why? Vegetables should have their own place and can certainly be appreciated by children if we don’t give them the impression that they are ‘nasty’ by hiding them or bribing them to eat some before they get something ‘tasty!’
The only flavour I ‘enhanced’ was that of the sweet potato and swede chunks, as they can be fairly bland. I fried them gently in olive oil for a few minutes, adding a sprinkling of Italian herb seasoning which was a huge hit with ‘Darth!’ He wasn’t too sure about the cooked beetroot, though… I think we’ll try it grated, next!
Create your own dips
We whizzed up some lightly steamed spinach with a hand blender. ‘Darth’ loved helping out and seeing the spinach change from individual leaves, to a vibrant green liquid. We poured some into the middle of the tray, and popped half a banana in with the rest of the mixture to create a banana and spinach smoothie! A little splash of fresh orange juice and you don’t even taste the spinach!
Let them Explore
Allow your little one the freedom to try different things without your intervention. Particularly if you have a ‘fussy eater,’ making a fuss can sometimes make the situation worse. Just leave the platter out in a safe and accessible place and let them graze if they want to. If they don’t, then just let them see you grazing and enjoying it (don’t go over the top with saying how good everything is… they can see right through it!) They will soon be over to have a look and try something out.
Grow your Own
All of these vegetables were shop-bought. But in a few months, we’ll have some delicious, incredibly fresh home grown organic vegetables that ‘Darth’ helps us to grow. Getting your kids involved in growing the vegetables gives them that ownership and they will be desperate to taste that 2cm carrot that they grew all by themselves!
Let them Help
Choose activities that your little one can safely do to help you prepare. Could they wash the vegetables? Chop soft vegetables with very close supervision using an appropriate knife? ‘Darth’ even ended up shelling peas last Summer!
Thank you to Louise from Building Blocks and Acorns for sharing their Tasting Station – I wonder if the same method would work on getting my husband to eat vegetables! This guest post is part of our Five Senses Play Challenge, for the sense of taste. Click here for more taste activity inspiration.
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