How Can I Get my Baby to Love Veggies?
Read time: 6 minutes
What should I know about getting my child to eat vegetables?
Offer vegetables early and often
Continue to offer vegetables many times to help your little one begin to like them
Learn how to season vegetables with oils, herbs, and spices
Starting solids can be a new – and sometimes intimidating – milestone for parents. For the first 6 months of life your baby has been on a liquid diet of milk, and now you’re faced with the task of not only safely providing nutritious foods, but also exposing your baby to a variety of tastes and textures to encourage a future of healthy eating. No pressure!
One of parents’ most common questions when it comes to starting solids is: How do I get my baby to like vegetables? And with good reason. Many veggies are naturally bitter in flavor, and as humans we’re genetically hardwired to have a preference for sweet foods.1,2
So, when faced with sweet strawberries or bitter broccoli, many babies will clearly show their preference. Fortunately, there are many delicious ways to get your baby interested in vegetables (none of them involve tricking or hiding veggies!).
Learn about: Helping Your Child Learn to Love Healthy Foods
When and how often should I introduce vegetables to my baby?
Vegetables can be introduced right away when starting solids. Some parents question if introducing vegetables as a first food will change baby’s palate to prefer them versus sweet flavors (such as fruit), but that has not been proven.2
The key is to introduce vegetables often and in a variety of ways to increase chances of acceptance. Studies indicate that it can take up to 10 tastes or more for a baby or toddler to begin to accept a food, so the goal is to provide the same vegetables over and over.3 The more your little one eats veggies each day, the more likely they will eat them in the future!4
It has also been shown that the earlier vegetables were introduced in the infant’s diet, the better their acceptance, both in infancy and at a later age in childhood.5
Read more: Introducing Solids: Signs of Readiness
How should I prepare vegetables for my baby?
If you’re introducing vegetables with the traditional pureed food method, you’ll start with spoon feeding purees and progressively advance to lumpy mixtures, soft solids, and soft table foods as your baby shows readiness.6,7
Example of how to progress from purees through to finger foods
A carrot, for example, can be steamed and then pureed with some breast milk or prepared formula to get a smooth texture for a baby first trying vegetables. To progress to a lumpy texture, steam and then fork mash carrots with a few tablespoons of breast milk or prepared formula.
Next your baby might enjoy soft, steamed or roasted, pencil-thin strips of carrot that they can grasp and eat. Or it can be diced, steamed carrot pieces (pea-sized) that they can enjoy while practicing the pincer grip and self-feeding.
Learn about: Introducing Solids: Purees versus Baby Led Weaning
How to season vegetables for your baby
While having your little one get used to the natural taste of vegetables is important, you can also offer veggies (and all foods) with added seasonings! Both the use of fats as well as fresh or dried herbs and spices will help enhance the flavor of the veggies you offer your little one.
Oils and fats can be used in the cooking process or can be added while pureeing or mashing. Try these:
Olive, canola, and avocado oils (good for savory foods, such as broccoli, spinach, and asparagus)
Coconut oil (good for sweeter foods, such as sweet potato and winter squashes)
Butter (can enhance both savory and sweet flavors)
When it comes to seasonings, there are no herbs or spices that you can’t use! With that said, you may want to steer clear of very spicy seasonings such as chili powder or red pepper flakes until your little one is a bit older. Salt should also be minimized.8
If you typically cook with specific flavors for the family meals, it may be good to begin introducing these herbs and spices regularly to your little one. With familiarity of flavors comes eventual acceptance. They’ll be prepared for these tastes when it’s time to enjoy family meals with everyone else!
Read more: How Can I Make My Own Pureed Baby Food?
Learn about: Family Meals: Modeling Healthy Eating Patterns
Ideas for preparing flavorful baby foods
Here are some seasoning ideas to try with your little one.
Note: Always be sure to serve your baby veggies in a texture they are ready for. For example, if baby is not on finger foods yet, puree or mash the vegetables before serving.
Butternut squash with dried thyme and a smidge of butter
Sautéing spinach with olive oil and fresh minced garlic before pureeing or chopping
Roasted sweet potato with coconut oil and nutmeg
Steamed apple (no skin or seeds) or mashed/sliced banana with cinnamon
Steamed carrot sticks with a squeeze of orange or dash of ginger
Roasted cauliflower florets tossed with olive oil and curry
Roasted or steamed broccoli with olive oil and lemon
Baked or roasted broccoli with rosemary and butter
Roasted or steamed green beans with olive oil and lemon
Chickpeas (or other beans) simmered in a small bit of water with garlic powder, cumin, and oregano
Once your baby has accepted single veggies without reactions, you can combine foods. Try a blend of parsnips and peas, or zucchini and sweet potato, to help increase the variety that your baby enjoys.
Choosing other cooking methods can help enhance a food’s flavor as well. For example, roasting vegetables can also bring out their natural caramelization, or sweetness. It’s a great cooking technique to not only get the veggies to a soft texture but also to amplify its natural flavor.
Sautéing is also an option. It will both tenderize the food as well as brown it slightly to help bring out the natural savory tastes. Just make sure the foods you offer your little one are in the right texture for their eating ability.
Read more: Preventing Choking in Infants and Toddlers
Minimize added salt and avoid added sugar
Many babies and children are taking in too much salt, which may have links to them preferring salty foods as well as other health concerns later in life.9,10 It is important to minimize added salt in the foods you make for your little one, as well as look for low sodium snacks.8
Helpful hint: when looking at the Nutrition Fact Panel of a packaged food, look for foods with sodium <10% of Daily Value. As your baby is tasting new flavors for the first time, the natural taste of the veggies enhanced with oils, herbs, and spices is all they need for it to taste delicious!
Your little one is growing and developing at a remarkable rate right now, and there is very little room in their diet for anything other than nutrient-dense foods. For this reason, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no added sugars until your little one is 2 years old.8
Keep offering and don’t force it
Since it can take many tastes for your little one to begin accepting a new food, keep offering that food over and over again.3
And don’t be alarmed by a negative facial reaction to a new food! It doesn’t necessarily mean your little one dislikes the food. Oftentimes they react with strong facial cues in response to any new flavor or texture.1,2
As much as you may want your little one to eat a food, try not to force them to take a bit or to finish what is on their plate.11,12 This may actually backfire and make your little one not want to eat that food in the future.
Try this: You decide which healthy foods to offer, and they decide what and how much of those foods to eat.13 This Division of Responsibility will help them become adventurous eaters in the future and help reduce meal-time stress!
If you’re afraid you started too late with introducing vegetables, don’t worry! Humans can learn to love new flavors at any age, so keep providing delicious opportunities for your little one to love veggies.
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