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get toddlers to eat veggies

A Stupid-Simple Way to Get Toddlers to Eat Veggies

You know how some children just won’t eat what they’re given? Or, how difficult it can be to get toddlers to eat veggies?

Maybe they’re strong willed.


Want to be in control.

Or, maybe they’re just super picky eaters.

Related Post: 18 Healthy Recipes with Hidden Veggies for Kids

You know that the food you’re giving is good for them and will help them grow, maybe even avoid nutritional deficiencies down the road.

And, maybe you’re starting to give up and giving them the more appealing veggies, like sweet potatoes with maple syrup, and they still won’t eat it. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore how much you try to get them to eat what you want; they just won’t eat it.

Whatever the reason, there are quite a few; there seems to always be one way that always seems to work to get kids to eat, or at least try the food on their plate.

It’s reverse psychology.

And, although I don’t recommend to use this technique often, because it doesn’t actually help with getting your child to listen to you; it’s still a valuable parenting tool when trying to get kids to try new foods, or simply eat something. You may have even used it to get your kids to do something else.

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How to get toddlers to eat veggies with reverse psychology

So, how do you get toddlers to eat veggies using reverse psychology?

Well, there’s a few ways you can do this, with many different phrases you can use.

With my own two little girls, the following phrase works every single time:

“Don’t you dare eat your veggies!” or “Don’t you dare eat that!”

It’s pretty simple.

I do it in a daring tone, as if I’m actually daring them to eat their veggies and don’t think they can.

My 5 year old knows that when I use this tone and say either of the phrases, it means that I actually want her to eat what’s on my plate. But, she eats it regardless.

I’m not sure if my 2 year old has caught on quite yet.

And, I’m sure there’s other phrases you can say to get toddlers to eat veggies, or other food on their plate. Those phrases work best for my kids.

Other suggestions:

  • “That’s ok if you don’t eat it, I’ll eat your food for you.”
  • “Well, if you don’t want it, we can give it to your sister.”
  • “Can I eat that?” – Point to the food on their plate that you want them to eat.

The last scenario may not work every time, especially if your toddler likes to share. It’s a hit or miss with my toddler depending on her mood.

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Why it works so well to get toddlers to eat veggies

Now that you know how to make it work, maybe you’re wondering why it works so well; or, why you didn’t think of using this technique with getting your kids to eat their veggies before.

And, there’s a few reasons why this works so well.

The first reason is because toddlers like showing their independence. They are learning new things all the time, and as you probably have noticed, they want to do things themselves.

They want to get dressed themselves, pick out their clothes themselves, brush their own hair and teeth, feed themselves, and sometimes even get their own food themselves. So, when you start telling them what they have to eat; they’re going to refuse.

But, tell them they can’t have something, and they immediately want it.

They also like to feel in control of their environments. They want to choose what they eat. Sometimes they even want to choose when they eat. They want to feel like they are in control of their own body and what they do and what they put into it.

Related Post: Why I’m NOT a Bad Mom (even though my 5 year old drank my coffee)

get toddlers to eat veggies

Use it sparingly

And, although this technique may work really well, especially if they understand what you are doing, why you’re doing it, and still do what you initially want them to; you shouldn’t use this technique all the time.

Using reverse psychology on your children is basically manipulating them to do what you want them to.

In an ideal world, we don’t want to have to manipulate our children to do what we want them to, or to do what is good for them. We want them to simply listen to us and do what we say; at least until they are enough to understand the consequences to their behavior and can make those decisions without us.

But, before they can make those decisions alone, yes even for what they eat, we need to guide them and encourage them to do what they should and eat what is good for them. Whether it’s asking them to ‘pretty please’ eat what’s on their plates, or playing the ‘don’t you dare eat it’ game.

Don’t Forget: You’re Their Example

Whatever you choose to do to get your toddler to eat their veggies, make sure to remember that you are their biggest role model.

Children copy everything they hear and see, and they don’t tend to differentiate between good and bad and only choose the good. They think of all actions equal; they don’t know any better. It’s up to us to show and teach them.

When it comes to eating veggies, I know some adults who will think they’re gross and let their children see their reactions to the mention of veggies. How are you supposed to get your kids to eat things that you won’t even give a chance?

Whether you like a food or not, you should stay positive and still encourage your children to try it (without making grossed out faces while making it, serving it, or while they are trying it).

Even better if you can try the veggies with your children in different ways to see if you both can find a way that you like it.

If you and your toddler don’t like it fresh, maybe you’ll like it in a smoothie, in a soup, roasted, or some other way!

Go on Pinterest and search for different ways to make a certain veggie or to get toddlers to eat veggies. I’m sure you’ll be able to find quite a few recipes. Make them. (Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest, too!) Maybe even include your child in the cooking process. What toddler doesn’t like sitting on the counter helping their mom make food?

You Know Your Child Best

If you have tried all of the above suggestions and are still not able to get your toddler to eat veggies, I apologize; not all children are the same.

And, I understand how hard it can be on us moms when we make these healthy, pinterest worthy (ok, maybe not pinterest worthy) meals for our children and they outright tell us that they aren’t going to eat it. Whether it’s a daily struggle (like with my 5 year old) or a struggle once in awhile, I know how it feels.

But, you know your child better than I do. I can give you all the suggestions I can think of and they still may not work for your child.

My advice is to simply keep trying. Have them keep trying veggies in different ways. Try different recipes, try hiding the veggies in their food so they can’t see them. Do what you need to do to get those nutrients in your child. Even if it’s giving them baby food, as ridiculous as that may sound, but that’s basically what a smoothie is, just thicker. See if they’ll drink it with a straw instead of eating it off a spoon and slowly make it thinner and into a smoothie for them.

get toddlers to eat veggies

Don’t give up

Keep changing things up, until you feel that you may have found something that works. Take their lead, keep doing what works and move on when something doesn’t work.

And, if they completely refuse to eat their dinner, or other healthy meal; stay positive (as hard as it may be) and just let them know they can have a bigger meal at next meal time, even if that’s not til morning.

Our job as parents isn’t to force food down their throats, it’s to help them develop healthy eating habits that will stick with them through out their entire lives.

Find what they like, find what works for them, and encourage good eating habits. Eventually, they may even thank you for trying so hard to get them to eat their veggies as a toddler.

P.s. While writing this I asked my 5 year old what I could do to get her to eat more veggies, since she’s the pickier eater of my two girls; she said to bribe her with chocolate. Just in case you wanted a childs point of view on this topic.

Make sure to share this with other parents who are having trouble to get toddlers to eat veggies!

If you still need help, check out some of the tools I use in the kitchen to help me make meals that I can sometimes actually get my kids to eat!

get toddlers to eat veggies

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