I've got a problem that I think almost all parents have had to deal with: my kid just won't eat vegetables! My finicky four-year-old comes from a family of health-conscious vegetarians, and all of our meals are pretty healthy and balanced. Yet this picky kid still somehow figured out a way to entirely boycott all vegetables!
It all started when she was two and a half. My tiny toddler looked at me with an expression of utter disgust after seeing a salad on her plate, and announced, "I'm not eating leaves again. Ever. I don't eat leaves." And, to this day-- now two years down the road-- she has held to her word. Not another leaf has entered her mouth. Other vegetables-- carrots, squash, broccoli, tomatoes-- only make it past her lips with a lot of bribery, negotiation, and even outright coercion on my part!
I've tried all those little tricks to get my kid to eat more veggies-- baked sweet potato fries instead of french fries, pastas and pizza made with lots of tomato sauce, fruit juice/veggie juice blends, sneaking little bits of veggies into snacks when I think she's not looking. But she still gets (at most!) a single serving of vegetables a day.
So many parents have told me that I need to just forbid my daughter to anything else to eat until she eats her veggies, but this has never worked. I've watched my kid go ten hours-- ten!!-- without any food at all because she was so insistent about not eating a bowl of gnocchi with pesto (because the pesto was loaded with basil leaves, and my daughter is still determined to never eat a leaf).
If she had a whole lot of extra pudge on that cute little belly of hers, I'd be willing to accept these food strikes, even when they lead to those awful hunger-tantrums and sleeplessness. But my tiny kiddo is borderline-underweight and has had problem with anemia in the past, so she can't afford to just go without food. I always end up giving her something else to eat (usually a healthy snack like applesauce and whole-wheat crackers) because I can't just let my kid go without food for hours and hours.
Little negotiations don't work so well, either. I eventually talked her into agreeing to eat two bites of a vegetable at every meal before she's allowed to leave the dinner table... but in these cases, she'll sit at the table for literally hours, still steadfast in her determination not to touch one of those forbidden "leaves," until our entire family is feeling groggy and irritated and we're running behind-schedule on our bedtime ritual. She'd camp out at the table for days if I let her, still absolutely resolved to keep those vegetables on the plate and out of her belly!
I don't want to raise a kid who can't eat vegetables at all! I love my child and want her to be both happy and healthy. What can I do to get her to overcome this insane fear of vegetables-- and, specifically, leafy greens?
Have you got a picky kid who you've managed to talk into eating veggies? How did you do it? Share your answers here!
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer and Shine Parenting Guru. When she's not busy keeping up with her wonderfully eccentric four-year-old daughter, she writes about a diverse array of topics including health, pets, parenting, and activism.