“Doctor, how can I make my baby like vegetables?”
This is a question I am often asked at my parenting consultations.
And I am eager to help parents find the answer to that question, because I believe that vegetables are amazing packages of goodness. And no child must grow up deprived of their magic.
But before we plunge into what you can do to make your baby like vegetables, let us think about why babies universally dislike vegetables.
Why do babies not like vegetables?
- Vegetables are not calorie rich. They do not provide the energy babies need to play and grow.
- Vegetables are fiber rich and require to be chewed a good bit. Babies with their weak jaws are not good at chewing.
- Many vegetables are bitter or pungent. Babies are programmed to avoid bitter and pungent tastes to keep them safe from ingesting poisonous foods.
- Parents are so anxious to feed their babies vegetables that they often resort to force feeding vegetables. The power struggles that follow the force feeding make babies hate vegetables because of the negative emotions associated with the memory of eating vegetables.
How to make your baby love vegetables?
- Eat vegetables when you breastfeed.
Eat a variety of vegetables while you are breastfeeding so that your baby gets used to the taste of vegetables through breastmilk.
2. Mash and blend
Mash and blend vegetables into the food you serve your baby so that your baby is not discouraged by the fibrous texture of the vegetables. Follow the recipes of Dal Sabji Mini Paratha, Fun Vegetable Khichdi and Power Packed Cutlet.
3. Serve vegetables at snack time.
Babies are very hungry at mealtimes and want to eat only high calorie foods at that time. That is why they refuse vegetables at meals. To get past this – offer vegetables at snack times as cucumber sticks, steamed carrots etc. with hummus.
4. Prefer sweeter vegetables.
Peas and carrots are usually accepted by babies more easily than more pungent vegetables like cauliflower. Begin with those first.
5. Fruits are okay too.
Your baby will get the same vitamins and minerals from fruits as they will from vegetables. Vegetables are fruits. So, fruits can be thought of as vegetables too.
6. Do not force feed vegetables.
It is important to allow babies to build a positive and happy relationship with vegetables. Force feeding will make them hate vegetables because they will begin to associate vegetables with the memory of feeling powerless and will stop eating them.
7. Do not threaten or bribe.
Do not say “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you won’t get ice cream”. Also, do not say “If you eat your vegetables, I will give you ice cream.” In both cases your baby will begin to hate vegetables because it seems like a punishment that keeps them away from their reward.
8. Sit and eat with your baby.
If you sit at the table and eat with your baby, your baby will watch you eat the vegetables and want to taste them. If you allow them to taste your vegetables without insisting that they eat a certain quantity, they will begin to love vegetables soon.
Be relaxed about feeding your baby vegetables. But make sure you are persistent too. When vegetables are always around, and nobody is forcing your baby to eat them – your baby will soon want to eat them.
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a practicing doctor, a parenting consultant, and the founder of WPA whatparentsask.com She conducts online and offline workshops on parenting for schools and corporate organisations. She also conducts online and offline prenatal and infant care classes. She is a well-known thought-leader in parenting and expert on play and learning. Her books on parenting are published by Juggernaut Books and she is frequently quoted in national and international publications of repute. She is renowned for her empathetic and compassionate approach to parenting and her application of physiology and brain science to parenting.