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October 8th, 2012

If you are like most parents, getting your toddler to eat a healthy balanced diet can be hard. Sometimes it seems like the dinner table is a battle ground. But getting your child to eat his vegetables is important, so try some of these tips for your child to be healthy and for you to be less-stressed.

1. Work With Hunger. Obviously, kids eat better when they're hungry. So instead of presenting vegetables as part of a meal, present them as an appetizer. A small plate of cut up vegetables before the main meal is more likely to be eaten by a hungry child.

2. Be Patient. Research shows that toddlers need to taste something five or six times before they like it. So if he will take a bite, or even just lick something, you're on the right track.

3. Give Him Control. Like all of us, children like to be in control of their lives, so let him make the decisions in the supermarket. Allowing him to choose one vegetable for dinner will make him more invested in the process.

4. Limit His Choices. Don't offer everything in the pantry for dinner, but do give him a choice. The choice between sweet corn and cauliflower is a choice between two healthy things that gives him the illusion of control, whilst still giving him a healthy diet.

5. Disguise Things. Broccoli covered in cheese is still broccoli. Some kids won't fall for this, but you'd be surprised how many do. If things get desperate, you can pack an awful lot of pureed vegetables into a soup, and most children won't even know that it's made of veggies.

6. Don't Encourage Negativity. If your child takes one bite, that's enough. Don't force-feed him, you'll only give him negative associations with eating. After a suitable wait, take his plate away, there's always next time. Just make sure that he's not filling up on sweets or snacks if he's not eating his dinner.

7. Veggies Should Be Accessible. Keeping a small container of cut up vegetables on a low shelf in the fridge makes them an easy option for kids looking for a snack. Small servings of dips and salad dressings (similar to those which are found in fast food restaurants) make eating vegetables more fun, so keep a few in the fridge too.

8. Let Them Cook. Just as with shopping, kids like to be a part of the process. If your toddler is too young for real cooking lessons, try instead a "build your own" meal, either making small salads or tacos or burritos, where kids can choose what they put inside at the dinner table.
9. Be a Role Model. If you're not eating your veggies, then why should your child? Make sure you're eating plenty of vegetables and salads, so that your child will want to share in grown-up food too.

10. Be Creative. Meal times can be boring for toddlers, when they're expected to sit still for such a long time. Make them fun instead buy giving vegetables cute names is a good start, or explaining their super-powers (carrots make you see in the dark, right?). You can even be creative with food by letting your child use vegetables to make a face on his pizza is a great way to make food fun.

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