I had this problem with my 4-year-old when she was about 2Â½. I served the veggies first. Then, if she finished them—or at least gave it a good effort—I'd give her some chicken strips. And I always made sure to praise her.
I hide veggies in a casserole or put them on a frozen pizza—that's something my kids love! Or I disguise them with a little melted cheese or butter; if you just use a taste, it won't be too fattening and they will still get the nutrition from the veggies.
Have you tried pasta? Most kids love the various shapes. Try sneaking some minced veggies (carrots, spinach, peas) into some mini meatballs or pasta sauces. This is the way my two kids eat vegetables!
I had this problem with my 3Â½-year-old with macaroni & cheese; that's all he ever wanted to eat! I finally told him that he eats what we eat. And if he doesn't like what we're having, then he can be hungry. I know it sounds harsh, but he responded to it eventually.
Make eating fun so he won't even notice that he's eating something nutritious. For example, try making a smiling face with his vegetables, using the corn for teeth, etc. This way, he'll be entertained and fed!
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, M.D., M.P.H.
It's common for 2- to 3-year-olds to go through a phase where they like the same things every day because they find it comforting. For now, give him a daily multivitamin and gently encourage him to broaden his diet. Here are some tips:
Make sure he sees you and the rest of the family enjoying vegetables and fruit.
Tell him that eating fruits and vegetables will make him strong. After he eats a bite, check his muscles and say, "Wow, I can feel them growing!"
Have him help you prepare some colorful, nutritious snacks – he's more likely to eat the fruits of his own labor.
He may find it fun to eat his hot dogs and chicken tenders with a healthy dip, or even eating sliced fruits and vegetables with dip. Try guacamole (mashed avocado), tomato salsa, fruit yogurt, peanut sauce, hummus (pureed chickpeas), tahini (sesame butter), or ranch dressing.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.