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Throughout the year I’ll be sharing our #HowWeFamily stories to celebrate family with TYLENOL as part of an awesome campaign that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s time to kick judgement and comparison to the curb and instead celebrate what makes each of our families so unique. It’s not who you love, but how you love that matters!
By popular request, today we’ll be talking about all things fruit and veggie!
With so many little ones going through the phase of not wanting to eat fruits and veggies, (guys you should see my email inbox, it’s a thing!) the more tricks we’re armed with, the better! Today I’ll be sharing how I’m helping my chickpea not just eat, but love her produce!
As most of you already know, I’m momma to very spirited, super opinionated toddler. (I mean, is there any other kind? hah!) Mealtime for our family has certainly had it’s ups and downs lately!
Though she enthusiastically ate everything in sight as a baby, frequently crawling around with an asparagus spear hanging out of her mouth, toddler transitions included a general distrust of all things green.
But she really did adore them as a babe… I have proof!
I’m determined to find our way back to the glorious fruit and veggie fiesta of 2013 + 2014 when my chickpea still ate her peas!
To all the parents and loved ones going through this phase of life with their kiddos, fret not! It’s 110% normal/common/temporary/survivable. Really! No, seriously! Pinky promise!!! We’ve got this!
Along with a newfound obsession with food spacing, there’s some sort of prehistoric hardwiring that flips a switch, causing a squishy baby who eats everything they’re offered to turn into a sassy 2 year old with more food rules than Michael Pollan.
This newfound pickiness that oh-so-many kiddos experience is actually a hard-wired defense mechanism meant to keep little cave babies from wandering over to a poisonous berry bush and chowing down. These days it translates into a power struggle at mealtime.
Of course not all kids go through this, and if you’re lucky enough to avoid this particular stage in life then we’re super happy for you, but wish you would keep the bragging to a minimum and go eat some broccoli or something. No hard feelings, we’re equal parts jealous and happy for you! Now shush, this is a no bragging zone.
Before my blogging days, I worked as a nutrition educator at WIC with a heavy focus on getting littles to eat their veggies. It wasn’t my main job, per se, but it quickly became my passion. It was actually one of the reasons I started this veggie lovin’ little blog of mine, I wanted to share veggie centric with my clients, my extended family, and my friends from afar. Now my little bubble has grown to include all of you too! Hooray veggies!
So, with a bit of my backstory out of the way, let’s talk about what’s working for us.
How I’m Getting My Family to Eat More Fruit and Veggies this Summer!
Of course since the teeniest tiniest family member is the one we typically have the hardest time getting produce into, she’s the main focus of these tips. Though because the pilot and I are huge believers of leading by example, vegging up the tot is basically resulting in us pounding produce all season long.
With so many little ones going through the phase of not wanting to eat fruits and veggies, the more tricks we’re armed with, the better! Here’s how I’m helping my chickpea. It’s not a miracle method by any means, but the results so far have made an incredible difference for us and I hope that y’all find this useful too!
Goal #1: Making Food Fun!
Our first line of attack was to make fruit and veggies less intimidating. I picked up this realistic-looking set of toy fruit and vegetables and we got to work teaching my mini the names and colors of each. It was a total hit! They’ve actually wound up being one of her favorite toys to play with and she loves making big bowls of “rocket soup” and “rainbow salad” for us in her little kitchen. I pretty much can’t handle the cuteness.
We’ve also been making felt foods and I’m honestly not sure who loves it more, because I am SO loving my craft time with the chickpea!
Another game we’ve started playing involves letting my chickpea help with groceries. Whether we’re hitting up the local farmer’s market or cruising through the supermarket, she’s totally involved in the process. I’ll often enlist her help in bagging produce and ask questions about what I’ve handed her. A few times this has resulted in her chomping down on a zucchini or apple before I can stop her. Hey – at least she’s getting into it! Sometimes we’ll get super adventurous when it’s not busy and I’ll let her walk over and pick out things off the list. I’ll name the veggie and she trots off to find it.
If anything, it turns something that used to be super stressful (grocery shopping with ze kiddo) into a fun experience. Of course that’s not to say I don’t go tearing through the remaining aisles as fast as I can to get out of there in time.
Next up: Fruit and veggie prep!
Letting chicken little help me in the kitchen has also helped tremendously. The chickpea is in charge of rinsing fruit and veggies, sorting and combining prepped produce, arranging snack plates, and enthusiastically pressing the button on the the salad spinner. She’ll frequently take little tastes of each food and will sometimes even go back for additonal bites.
While spiralizing carrots and cucumbers for one of my favorite salads, I basically had to keep my jaw from dropping as she happily snacked on both like they were the most delicious thing she had eaten all day! Little successes act as a not-so-subtle reminder for me to calm down and keep things fun.
So far, with our little make-food-fun endeavor I’ve gotten my nugget back up from eating nothing but guacamole, protein, some fruit, and carbs to eating fresh cucumbers, raw carrots, blanched + sauteed asparagus, guacamole with added veggie salsa, and every fruit ever invented. She will also occasionally munch on raw broccoli and celery with PB. Not all the time, but I keep offering!
I also continue to bake spinach, carrot, zucchini, frozen butternut squash, and canned pumpkin into muffins and pancakes. She’s a big fan of veggies in her carbs so instead of just sneaking them in, I’ve started telling her exactly what she’s eating. I feel like it’s helping and she still gobbles them up!
I also let her help make the veggie-spiked baked goods by pouring and mixing the ingredients, she’s becoming quite the chef! We’ll bake up a double batch together when time permits, freeze half, and have easy heat-and-eat breakfast items all week long.
Berry Picking FTW!
Here in the Florida panhandle we have the awesome option of visiting U-pick berry farms on a regular basis throughout a good portion of the Spring and Summer. This year we’ve already made two trips to the local Blueberry farm with a third scheduled this weekend!
Its always tons of fun to do as a family and oh so tasty!
For scale, I should totally mention we’ve already eaten 11 pounds of blueberries in one month. Though I make a batch or two of scones each time, we eat them mostly fresh and by the fistful! I’m pretty excited about this considering at the start of the season, my tot was convinced she didn’t really like blueberries. Hah! From BLEH to YEAH!? I’ll take it!
Last up is my favorite eat-yo-veggies project:
our veggie garden
This is the ultimate educational experience for the chickpea as she’s learning to nurture her food from seed to plate.
You actually don’t need a big chunk of grass or a yard to grow your own food. As a military family, we move a LOT, and it made way more sense for us to initially plant our veggies in large pots. For the past 4-5 years container gardening was our favorite tradition and we always had plenty of fresh produce to eat all Summer long.
This time around we started our first raised bed garden. We’ve made some goofs along the way and it’s certainly a bit of work, but it’s all worth it every morning when the chickpea tears out the back door to check on her babies.
We’re growing cherry tomatoes, hybrid tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, jalapeños, multi-colored carrots, arugula, two types of basil, dill, chives, cilantro, and parsley.
She loves sniffing the fragrant herbs, pointing out new veggies dangling from their stems, and even gently petting her beloved “baby plants” each day. The veggies have just started popping up and I can’t wait for the day she can actually pluck a tomato or cucumber off the plant and bring it inside to eat.
As I write this post, she’s currently tearing through the garden section of our local hardware store with her daddy picking out plant food for our poor, overwatered crops. Teaching her to press the override button on our timer-operated water hose for the garden was a biiiiiit of a mistake eh? Whoops!
I’ll keep you updated as the shenanigans unfold! Hopefully by the next post I’ll have a basket of produce fresh from the garden to add to a new recipe!
Until then, I’d LOVE to hear about your favorite tips for eating more fruit and veggies — Leave ’em in the comments below!