Struggling to get your baby or toddler to eat enough vegetables? Here are some of the best, easy vegetable preparations for baby-led weaning!
Whether they’re following baby-led weaning or not, one of the pain points I hear about most often from mamas (and dadas!) of little ones is that they can’t get their babes to eat vegetables. Now, there are some behavioral techniques I recommend for keeping your baby or toddler open to trying a variety of different foods, but there is also a lot of technique you can use in preparing vegetables in ways that are exciting (and intriguing!) for less sophisticated palates. That’s what I’m sharing with you today.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
I’ll get into some specific ideas in a second, but before I do I want to go over one of my most favorite aspects of baby-led weaning, and that is continuous introduction with varied preparation techniques.
In a nutshell, what this means is just what my subtitle said: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Now, if your child refuses to eat steamed broccoli one night at dinner, I am NOT telling you to just continue forcing them to eat steamed broccoli every day for eternity.
Instead, wait a couple of days, then re-introduce the broccoli, but prepared in a completely different way. Your little one didn’t like the steamed broccoli? How about roasting it with some different herbs and spices? Or sautéing it in a little butter?
Getting slightly off topic here, but I think this is why most of us grew up hating Brussels sprouts. I would not touch those things for YEARS because I grew up eating those bland bulbs simply steamed and MAYBE seasoned with some salt and pepper if I was lucky. I’m not blaming my parents – I think it was a fad of their generation to serve vegetables this way – but, man, gimme crispy roasted Brussels with bacon and shallots today? I’ll eat the whole batch. Not even kidding.
So your kid’s not digging the mashed sweet potatoes? Try roasting sweet potato spears and calling them “fries” (a winner in any child’s book). Even better, serve them with hummus, tzatziki or some other fun “dip.” Your little one will not be able to stop.
It’s important to keep introducing our kids to a variety of flavors and to not fall into a trap of serving them whatever we “know” they’ll eat on any given day (grilled cheese and chicken fingers – I’m looking at you). If you’re concerned they won’t be getting enough to eat, take a look at my Ultimate Guide to Healthy Meal Prep for Your Littles and also my post on How to Implement a Baby or Toddler Meal Plan for more encouragement and guidance.
If you’re looking for inspiration when it comes to different ways to season or “spice up” your veggies, I highly recommend you get your hands on this book ASAP [*affiliate link]. It has so many great ideas for herbs, spices and other ingredients that will liven up any food you’re trying to get your little one to eat!
Let’s Talk Vegetables!
Okay, now that we got the logistics out of the way, I want to give you all of the inspiration you need to work some veggies into your little one’s diet today.
To start, here is a list of all of the vegetables my little one has tried and/or eats on a regular basis:
- Zucchini (I know, it’s a squash, but she loves it so much it deserves a mention of its own)
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Bell peppers
We don’t eat all of these every week, but she’s at least been introduced to them and, although she doesn’t always eat her entire serving whenever we include it in a meal, she’s eaten a healthy serving of all of these at some point or another.
Ideas for Preparing Vegetables
So, I think you can probably tell from my musings earlier in this post that I’m not a huge fan of steamed vegetables. I just personally think sautéing or roasting vegetables give them so much more character and flavor.
BUT, that’s not to say I haven’t steamed vegetables for my little one before, especially since she didn’t get her first tooth until after she was one. When she was younger, she loved broccoli steamed with a little bit of lemon juice and garlic, or green beans prepared the same way.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR STEAMING…
Place a steamer basket [*affiliate link] in an appropriately-sized saucepan, then fill the saucepan with a small layer of water, just enough so that you can see it swish up the holes in the bottom of the steamer when you slosh the pan around.
Place your washed and trimmed vegetables in a single layer over the bottom of the steamer basket, then season as desired. Put the pan on the stove over medium heat and cover with an appropriately sized lid, leaving it slightly askew with a small opening off to the side so you can see the steam escaping.
Start by setting the timer for 10 minutes, then check on your veggies and continue to steam until they reach the desired doneness.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SAUTEING…
Place a medium skillet over medium heat and melt some sort of oil or butter on it (high-quality butter, olive oil or coconut oil are all great ideas). Once the pan is heated, add whatever vegetables you’re cooking (you’ll want them already cut in whatever manner you’re going to be serving them).
Add desired seasoning and saute until vegetables reach their desired doneness.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ROASTING…
Although temperatures and timing may vary based on whatever vegetable you’re roasting, I typically roast my veggies at an oven temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit and starting at somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.
For softer vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms or asparagus, you’ll need closer to the 10-15 minute mark for roasting.
For harder vegetables like butternut squash, beets or carrots, you’ll need closer to 20-25 minutes.
Other Ways to Work in Vegetables for Baby-Led Weaning
The ideas above are fantastic for prepping a big batch of vegetables in their true form at once. However, I am completely aware of the fact that sometimes you just need to work veggies into the diet elsewhere so that they’re not quite as obvious.
Here are some of my favorite ways to sneak vegetables into other food preparations:
- Blend them into a smoothie – you can also then freeze these smoothies into popsicles [*affiliate link]
- Puree them into a muffin, pancake, waffle or baked donut batter
- Bake them into a healthy version of macaroni and cheese
- Hide them on pizza (you can even work some veggies into the crust!)
- Dice them up and mix them with ground meat for sliders (mushrooms work especially well for this)
- Scatter them into baked oatmeal, along with similarly colored fruits (i.e. diced beets and raspberries)
As you can see, as long as you’re willing to get a little bit creative, you’re bound to find a way to sneak some vegetables into your baby or toddler’s diet.
My best advice? Don’t fall into a rut, be willing to get creative, and share your joy of healthy foods with your little ones!
What ways have you successfully been able to prepare vegetables for your baby or toddler? I’d love to hear in the comments below!