Veggie Gardening + How I’m Getting My Family to Eat More Fruit and Veggies this Summer!

By popular request, today we’ll be talking about all things fruit and veggie including Veggie Gardening and How I’m Getting My Family to Eat More Fruit and Veggies this Summer!

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!

Asparagus Baby!

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!

Tot School: Fun with Play Foods!

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.

#priorities

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.

Family Fun: Blueberry Picking!

Family Fun: Blueberry Picking!

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:

Peas and Crayons Summer Veggie Garden 2016

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.

Peas and Crayons: Summer Veggie Garden 2016

Peas and Crayons: Summer Veggie Garden 2016

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!

I have received information about #HowWeFamily from the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is sponsored post.

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!

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Comments

  • Sandra

    Such a wonderful and useful post! Thank you for sharing!!! So many great ideas to keep in mind for the future.

  • So many great tips! I had one boy who loved veggies and one who did not. I had to trick him to get him to eat his veggies.

    • It’s crazy how siblings can be polar opposites, huh?! My siblings and I were all really varied on what veggies we’d let near our faces as kids! One refused anything green get near his plate or he would straight up walk away!

  • Kat

    Completely off topic but I love that you’re able to respond to just about every comment with a personal response! Awesome, keep it up. …and of course I love reading your blog!

    thanks!

    • THANK YOU Kat! I love chatting with everyone so it’s probably one of my most favorite parts of blogging! Come chat it up any time! 🙂

  • Jen

    Thanks for the ideas! That cutie is so adorable!

    • Thanks Jen! I suppose I’ll keep her around 😉

  • Oh, I love all of these ideas! 🙂 We haven’t planted a full-on garden in a couple of years, but we do have a couple of potted cherry tomato plants and are growing fresh basil and parsley on our back deck. It is really important to get the little ones involved when trying to get them to try and eat more fruits & veggies. I always say you have to make them think it is their idea, lol. 😉

    • Haha great point Carrie! <3 Things do go super smoothly when it's their idea for sure 🙂

  • My oldest was my pickiest eater, and when she was a toddler, I did all sorts of things to make eating fun — broccoli trees, etc. Now, she’s the best eater of the bunch, so they do grow out of it. They know they have to try everything on the plate, but they don’t have to finish it, and eventually, they usually grow to like stuff. 🙂

    • Long live broccoli trees! That was me as a kid, great then terrible, then back to great – totally a thing 🙂

  • My favorite quote, maybe ever: 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 is so true. I have found too the getting my daughter in the garden and helping in the kitchen makes her a bit (and only a bit) less picky.

    • Haha thanks Michelle! If we can turn these little munchkins into veggie lovers (ya know, at some point before they’re thirty) then we’ve done our job! 😉 Love that you’re fellow veg gardeners!

  • Such a fun post! My son is like a rollercoaster on his opinions for veggies. He loves them, he hates them. Right now he LOVES broccoli (mini trees) and I’m taking full advantage!

    • Haha work that broccoli phase for all it’s worth! Mine is on a carrot and cucumber kick these past few days and I’m loving it too — it doesn’t take much to make us happy, eh? 😉

  • you’ve got some great tips on how to get kids to eat their veg! I’m a proponent of not hiding the vegetables in food. I don’t want to pull a fast one, I want them to love vegetables, ya know? Involving them in the process of buying (or picking), cleaning and prepping makes it much more accessible. Mine is 20 now and she eats all forms of veg!

    • I’m completely with you on that! I do mix them in things but I’ve made a habit of letting my tot make the veggie muffins and pestos with me so she know’s exactly what’s going on haha! A great point, Lisa! <3 Way to go on raising a veggie lover!

  • Jagruti

    what a great a way to introducing greens to kids..happy mum 🙂

  • Great tips and good to know what worked for you! I hope my kids love veggies as much as I do!

  • safira adam

    Great ideas here! Cant wait to try some of these with my kids

  • Such great ideas!
    Really want to get into this with my kids. Recently got an allotment plot WOO!

    • Whoohoo! Thanks Safira — have fun with it! <3

  • Amanda

    What great ideas for getting kids excited about their veggies! I remember my mom always used to involve me in the shopping process (way longer ago than I’d care to admit! haha) and it really did help to spark an appreciation in me for delicious, healthy food. Such an adorable little one you have, too! 🙂

    • Thanks so much Amanda! Love hearing about what worked for y’all! <3 Hooray for healthy eats + bonding time! 🙂

  • Sabrina

    This is such a great learning tool for kids! Getting to see veggies grow and then eat them is a great experience!

  • Great tips! We’re growing a ton of veggies this year, too, and it’s been really fun to get our kids involved. We’ve been hoping that with helping us plant and grow the veggies they’d be more inclined to actually EAT them….we’ll see how that goes 😉

    • Fingers crossed! We just had a cucumber quadruple in size and I’m basically fighting my kiddo off from diving in after it too soon haha! Sending veggie mojo your way, Kimberly! 🙂

  • Des @ Life's Ambrosia

    These are such great tips! I take my little guys grocery shopping with me and they help. When they ask questions about a certain new fruit or vegetable I tell them about it and then I buy it so that we can try it together. It has really helped them explore fruits and veggies more 🙂

    • Such a great idea Des, I love that! Rock on mama!

  • Love these ideas! And, oh my goodness, she is absolutely adorable!

  • Great tips. I can’t wait to start incorporating them with Ave in a couple of years.

    • You’ll have a blast Meghan! I just got the nugget to eat a handful of raw carrots today and did a major victory lap around the kitchen! It’s a challenge at times but an adventure! <3

  • Your little ones are absolutely precious. We used to have a garden too, but lately the drought is so bad, we decided not to have one this year.

    • Aw thanks Sandi! Hopefully the drought is a non-issue sooner rather than later! I’ll do a rain dance for you! <3

  • Great tips! I need some ideas for getting my teens to eat more veggies!

    • Bribery? Haha! I kid, I kid! I know when I was that age I was a super boring eater but once I took my first college nutrition class it was veggie ALL THE THINGS! Fret not momma, you’ve got this! 🙂

  • So many great ideas! I had a veggie loving baby that grew into a veggie hating toddler too so I feel your pain! Luckily as he’s finishing the preschool years he is finally starting to eat fruits and veggies again, yay!!

    • It’s always the BEST feeling when they get back to their veggie loving ways, right?! It’s for sure an adventure! 😉

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