I’ll admit, I’ve fallen back on the old school strategies for getting my toddlers to eat new foods. I’ve threatened:

“If you don’t finish your peas, no ice cream!”

I’ve been sneaky:

“No, I promise I did not just grate an apple into the cookie batter!”

I’ve bribed:

“If you just taste it I will play Candyland with you.”

I’ve sounded really convincing:

“mmm these brussel sprouts are amazing!”

But I decided to change my game plan the other night.

I was determined to get our children to eat new foods without manipulating them.

Vegetables were the only food I cooked.  I didn’t mash them or hide them in anything.  I grabbed all the produce in my fridge and pantry.

toddlers new food breastfeeding world
carrots, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, fennel, onion, and garlic


I chopped it all in big chunks, threw all the pieces on an oven tray lined with waxed paper, and drizzled it with olive oil (the good kind), oregano, and salt.

breastfeeding world toddlers new food
chopped, seasoned, and ready to go in the oven

I also had two eggplants so I figured that they could go in the oven, too.

breastfeeding world toddler new food
eggplant, garlic, pink salt, oregano, and honey on a spoon.

I sliced the eggplants in half, ran a knife through them a few times, and topped them with oregano, lemon juice, chopped garlic, and honey (toddlers love honey).

toddler new food breastfeeding world
ready to join the vegetables in the oven

While the veggies baked, I threw anything that seemed like salad into a bowl.

toddlers new food breastfeeding world
Lettuce, avocado, corn from a can, lemon juice, and olive oil (the good kind)

When the vegetables were soft (after about 30 minutes on a medium high temperature), the end result was very colorful.

toddler new foods breastfeeding world
dinner is served


My toddlers did not eat everything on their plates (I’m not superwoman or magic, after all), but that’s not the point.

The point is that SEEING new food is the first step to EATING new food. All the pieces on this plate are recognizable, so even if they didn’t eat everything, they saw what each vegetable looked like and will remember them next time.  So much of picky toddler eating is about them not wanting to take risks.  They’ve got to make friends with the food first, then they’ll go out on a limb and maybe pick it up.

The other great thing about this dinner is that my toddlers could practice cutting the potato, carrot, or avocado because they were nice and soft.  Sometimes, even after saying, “Yuck I don’t want that,” my kids will help me cut my food, then accidentally get a taste somehow. Sometimes they even change their minds completely and decide they want to try it, as long as I do a really good job of acting like I don’t care (which usually requires that I actually not care.)

In the end, four-year-old Gianina ate only sweet potato.  She picked out every piece of sweet potato and mashed it with her fork, saying that she is a baby so she has to eat mashed foods.

toddler new foods breastfeeding world
“Only sweet potato please”

Maybe next time she’ll pick out all of the pieces of corn from the salad.  It doesn’t really matter to me, as long as she is trying new foods because she wants to explore and be brave.  I know that she is smart enough not to go hungry.

It’s my job to present a wide variety healthy food in a tasty way.  It’s their job to decide what to eat.

What about you? How do you get your toddlers to try new foods?

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Anne Kathryn Rice

Anne Kathryn Rice

Anne Kathryn Rice is an American mother of two strong willed children living on the Italian Riviera. She writes about motherhood and listening to your inner voice, even when cultural expectations, baby books, and impromptu advice seem to challenge your instincts.You can read more about her personal experiences on her blog.
Anne Kathryn Rice

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