If your child is a “picky eater” and not willing to eat his veggies or veggie soup, then you are most likely a very frustrated parent!
How did this happen? Research shows that when infants and toddlers are introduced to refined or processed foods like cereals, breads, boxed snack foods, cookies, cupcakes, and sugar, it’s almost inevitable that they will at become picky eaters and refuse “real” whole natural foods. Why? Between the ages of 1-3, there is a critical period during which their taste buds are developing, and are easily influenced in favor of simple, refined, sugary foods made of simple carbohydrates. Exposing your child to these foods is risky business as they can have dramatic affects on their taste preferences, making them violently opposed to foods of different colors, textures, or (lack of) flavors.
The key is prevention!
1) don’t introduce your infant to processed or refined foods for as long as possible – ideally the first 3 years. It’s very “doable” if they aren’t in school and in your care. If they’re in daycare or under the care of someone else, it’s a little harder, but still very possible if you pack their lunch with delicious yet healthy foods. If the care takers don’t respect your wishes to not feed your child junk, you may need to resort to telling them your child is “allergic” to gluten (if they avoid gluten, they will pretty much avoid getting any junky processed foods).
2) Expose them regularly to different natural foods with varied flavors starting at 10+ months: sour, salty, spicy flavor, bitter, sweet, tangy, etc.
I watched my daughter Kira get used to the taste of the very tart and spicy fresh veggie juice that my husband and I make every morning with the juicer. It’s made of veggies like celery, kale, chard, lime, ginger, parsley, cilantro, microgreens, spinach, etc. We’ll throw in an apple or carrot as well to sweeten it up, but it tastes very tart and spicy from the ginger and arugula or mustard greens.
For months, Kira saw us drinking it every day, and one day at age 2.3, she said “I want some!!”. So I poured a little in her water cup (diluted – about 1/4 juice 3/4 water) and she slowly sipped it and then made a funny face with her nose all scrunched up. We asked her “Did you like it?” and she loudly answered “YES!” and smiled despite the obvious shock it was to her taste palate.
The next few times she asked for some of our spicy veggie juice, we placed some in her water cup again and she always made the same face, but drank more and more down each time, until one day, she insisted she wanted it straight from our cup (undiluted), took a large gulp and swallowed it down without a problem. There was no more funny face. (Mind you, I still make a funny face myself when I drink it!). It then became clear to me that she had acquired the taste of this flavorful spicy juice quite quickly because it was introduced to her early (before age 3) and with multiple exposures, so she started loving it!
When it’s Too Late for Prevention
I recommend you make a different variety of veggie soups/sauces by pureeing 1-4 veggies together, and add these them to foods that they like such as pasta or rice. (I recommend rice pasta and brown rice for kids – limited to no refined white rice or wheat pasta).
First, cook the veggies very lightly at low temperature using good cookware such as Carico (avoid non-stick or aluminum since they leach chemicals into your child’s food). Good quality cookware used at low temperature will allow you to preserve the enzymes and vitamins. Steaming is another option, but less practical. Use a VitaMix Blender, food processor, or mini blender to puree the lightly cooked veggies into soup consistency.
Making Veggie Soup or “Secret Sauce”
- Make the puree as liquid as possible so it can easily be “disguised” in their food as a sauce. Or chunkier if your child likes chunky better.
- Make a batch large enough to last for 3-4 days. Keep it in the refrigerator for 3 days, freeze the rest in glass containers. Avoid plastic containers for storage and reheating due to chemicals that go into the food.
- Make a green “sauce” with broccoli, asparagus, chard, kale, onion, leeks, spinach, zucchini. This sauce can easily be added to brown rice pasta or hidden in other foods if they object to the color or texture.
- Make a red sauce with sweet potato, carrots or squash.
- Mix these sauces with food at least 2 times a day. You can make a “sauce” or soup using just one veggie if desired.
- Put food in sectioned food trays, one section red sauce, one section green sauce, one section protein (chicken, lamb, fish, soft boiled egg, etc), one section avocado or fruit, and one section raw sour cream. They can either eat each one separately or mix them together for different taste combinations.
- Add Good Fat: For flavor, improved digestion, and as a source of fat-soluble vitamins, always add a source of healthy fat into their veggie soup, as well as a tiny pinch of sea salt. Good fats include:
- Organic butter (from cows that ate grass) which is rich in Vitamins A, D, and K, all critical for growth of nervous system, development of organs and immune system.
- Raw sour cream
- Virgin Coconut oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Meal Time Tips
- Some toddlers don’t want to sit still for more than 1 minute to eat their food. You can use a special child infant/toddler seat with a seat-belt. If it’s more of a fight than a help, then don’t use it, but it sometimes helps a lot.
- If child will not stay still, meal time can be a lot smoother to have a toy or book to keep their focus while you feed them. They always like to be touching something. You can try playing an educational DVD while you feed them.
- Toddler may take 30 minutes or more to eat a meal. Be patient and actively assist in feeding your child.
- Mixing with other foods is good. Feed with a spoon, put green or red puree on first part, with small piece of protein in middle, and small piece avocado on far end.
- Parent or caregiver needs to be PRESENT when feeding to assist. Parent(s) eating at the same time helps.
- Never force a toddler to eat a food, this can create food aversions. Children need to be introduced to a new food 12-16 times in order for them to become familiar enough to accept a new food. Introducing a new food, if they don’t accept it, it doesn’t mean they won’t like eventually develop a taste for it. Try the same food again and again, but don’t force!
Paleogreens are great for children! You can introduce it at age 12 months. We like them because they are made with primarily organic ingredients, in fact it is Certified organic by: Quality Certification Services. And they do not contain alfalfa (often found in other greens formulations), which has been linked to the development of some autoimmune diseases. Designs for Health (DFH) also does have high standards for their ingredient suppliers, additionally, they do 3rd party testing of their products to make sure they meet minimum levels of toxins and test for some nutrients as well.
PaleoReds are another great option. They are made of fruits and two veggies (beets & carrots). Toddlers like this one a lot and it can be introduced at 9 months. The PaleoReds powder gives water and milk and great and natural red/pink color!