Ask the Expert: How can I ensure that my toddler eats enough vegetables?
Q: HOW can I make sure my three-year-old son is eating the right amount and getting all the nutrients he needs, when he's already not keen on vegetables?
A: The British Nutrition Foundation (nutrition.org.uk) nutrition communications manager, Bridget Benelam, says: "It's often difficult to get young children to eat vegetables – in contrast to fruit, they tend to be less sweet and some, especially green vegetables, can be bitter.
"Children have a natural preference for sweet tastes and also like foods they're familiar with, so they may reject vegetables – particularly if they haven't tried that particular type before. The good news is there are lots of things you can try to help young children learn to like vegetables.
"Firstly, it's important to understand that you may have to offer vegetables many times before your child will start to like and accept them – research has found it can take 10 or more times to get children eating new or previously disliked vegetables. In practice, this is hard to do. It can be very disheartening to keep offering a vegetable only for it to be rejected, but it's really worth persevering as it's likely to pay off in the long-term.
"You can also try getting your child familiar with different vegetables by talking about them when you're shopping, getting them involved in preparing food where possible, and letting them see you and others eating and enjoying vegetables. Don't pressure them to eat the vegetables if they really don't want to, but offer lots of praise when they do. You could also try things like sticker charts to reward them when they eat well.
"In terms of eating the right amount, and getting all the nutrients needed to grow and be healthy our new 5532 guide (nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/toddlers/new5532) provides advice on getting this right for young children.
"5532 refers to the number of portions for each of the food groups: five or more portions of fruit and vegetables, five portions of starchy foods, three portions of dairy or alternatives and two portions of protein foods (or three for vegetarian or vegan children). The guide also has advice on portion sizes for a range of food from each of the groups. Following this guidance will help get the balance of foods, as well as the amounts, right."