We all want our kids to grow up eating a healthy diet — and it’s hard to think of a healthier food than vegetables. Full of complex carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, veggies are a dietary building block of wellness, even for very young children.
But the question always follows: Can you actually get your kid to like vegetables? The battle over a plate of veggies is a classic parent-child power struggle.
Here’s how to not only choose the best veggies for your baby, but prepare them in ways that will help your kiddo become a veggie lover for life.
For babies just starting to eat solids (around 6 months or so), try these six softer, blendable veggies.
Bugs Bunny’s fave orange veggies are a baby food staple for good reason. Once cooked, carrots puree beautifully and offer a not-too-piquant flavor for baby’s sensitive palate.
Plus, they contain plenty of fiber to promote healthy digestion, as well as beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A to boost vision and immune function.
Speaking of cartoon characters’ favorite vegetables, remember Popeye’s love for spinach? This leafy green deserves its cartoon reputation for being rich in iron — a nutrient babies especially need for energy and development.
Cooked, pureed spinach is best for younger infants. Add a sprinkle of salt to enhance taste.
Pumpkin may bring to mind chilly temperatures and falling leaves, but with canned varieties, your child can enjoy the gourds any time of year. Pureed pumpkin’s smooth texture is ideal as one of baby’s first foods, and high amounts of A and C round out its nutrient profile.
Avocados are the heroes of healthy monounsaturated fats. These important macronutrients help develop baby’s brain and nervous system, as well as increase absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Meanwhile, each serving of avocado comes with a sizable dose of fiber and folate.
Keep in mind that a little bit of high fat avocado goes a long way. Start with a serving of about 1 tablespoon, mashed.
Mashed cooked sweet potatoes not only make for easy-peasy serving to your little one, they’re loaded with nutrients, too! Like carrots and pumpkin, sweet potatoes burst with immune- and vision-supporting vitamin A, plus plenty of fiber, manganese, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
When serving sweet potato to your baby, be sure to mash well and remove the skin.
To serve, simply steam frozen peas and blend until pureed. You can even add a bit of breast milk for a thinner consistency.
As your baby becomes more of a solid food pro, try introducing these six veggies.
Turn your baby on to this cruciferous superfood by serving steamed or roasted broccoli by itself, or add it to pasta dishes, cheesy baked potatoes, or soups cooled to room temperature.
Has your little eater cut a few teeth? Now’s the time to try cooked cauliflower! The chunky texture of this veggie in a puree (or roasted and roughly mashed) offers just the right level of challenge for new chewers.
When the summer months roll around, take advantage of a bumper crop of zucchini by feeding some to baby. Green and yellow summer squash offer mild flavor and nutrients like manganese, potassium, and vitamin A.
Try serving your baby zucchini prepared as cooked, spiralized “zoodles” with a tomato sauce or thin-sliced and pan-sautéed with a bit of olive oil.
Before long, your kiddo will likely be chowing down on all sorts of tomato-based foods like pizza and spaghetti with marinara. For now, get them started on the fresh, whole version by serving tomatoes in finely chopped pieces.
Ample water content for hydration plus vitamins C and A add to tomatoes’ value as a healthy first veggie.
Because of their pungency, you might shy away from feeding your child onions. But these aromatic alliums can be a great way to add flavor to baby’s diet without sodium or anything artificial. Try cooked onions in casseroles or mixed in with other vegetables.
We’ll be honest: Beets are an acquired taste. That said, you can make them more tempting for baby by pureeing cooked beets with fruits like blueberries or cherries.
The pigments in these colorful blends might leave baby with a red beet “mustache,” but beets’ high content of folate, manganese, and fiber are well worth it.
You can help your child take the lead in the weaning process by providing them plenty of self-feeding opportunities. Incorporate these four bite-sized, easily grasped veggies in baby-led weaning (BLW).
When first starting with baby-led weaning, opt for softer foods. They’re easier for baby to gnaw, which may allay your concerns about choking. (Still, carefully supervise your baby during mealtimes.)
With their tender texture and sweet taste, pieces of cooked butternut squash are an excellent first round of BLW. Dust cooked pieces with cinnamon for even more flavor.
Give baby’s health a leg up by letting them self-feed diced bell peppers. If the peppers’ strong flavor gets a negative reaction, try serving them with cheese or hummus.
There’s nothing quite so refreshing as a cool, crunchy cucumber. These veggies’ cooling sensation can be especially soothing for babies’ teething gums. To reduce the risk of choking, peel the skin off of cucumbers and dice them into small pieces as part of baby-led weaning.
Everyone knows that popping edamame beans out of their shells is half the fun of eating these tender legumes. However, for baby-led weaning, start by placing shelled, slightly mashed edamame on the high chair tray. Their high protein content will fuel baby’s playtime, as well as build muscle tissue.
Vegetables are among the healthiest foods on the planet. Could anything go wrong with feeding them to your baby?
For very young children, there are some safety concerns about nitrates — compounds certain vegetables absorb from soil.
When babies consume excessive amounts of nitrates, it can lead to a condition called methemoglobinemia. Babies with this condition may develop a blue tinge on their hands, feet, and mouth, and may have fatigue and difficulty breathing.
If your baby has any of these symptoms — especially shortness of breath — seek medical attention immediately.
Root vegetables like beets and carrots and leafy greens (especially spinach) do contain relatively high levels of nitrates. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed these healthy veggies to your baby when they start solids.
Older research from 2005 shows that high amounts of nitrates from vegetables are primarily harmful to babies 3 months of age and younger — but since it’s not recommended to introduce solid foods until around 6 months, this is likely to be a nonissue.
- Baby carrots. “Baby” may be in their name, but baby carrots are not a good choice for infants. Their size and hardness make them a choking hazard.
- Raw celery. The stringy fibers of raw celery can easily lodge in a baby’s throat. If you choose to serve your baby celery, be sure it’s cooked thoroughly and cut into small pieces.
- Corn. Creamed or pureed corn is fine for infants, but avoid serving the small, chewy kernels by themselves.
- Any hard, raw vegetables. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, chunks of raw vegetables remain a choking hazard until children reach the age of 4 years.
As with any food group, you may run into snags when introducing your child to the wide and colorful world of veggies. Although allergies to vegetables are rare and no vegetable is among the top eight food allergens, it’s always possible for a child to have an allergic reaction to any food.
If your baby has symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, hives, or a rash after eating a particular vegetable, talk to your pediatrician about the possibility of an allergy or food sensitivity.
Contrary to the stereotypes, getting your kid to eat their vegetables doesn’t have to be an epic battle of the wills. By introducing a wide variety of veggies and preparations from a young age, you’ll give your little one the best chance of developing a veggie-loving palate.
Even if your high chair gourmand spurns spinach or turns up a nose at turnips, don’t despair! Keep at it. The more you expose your child to any food, the more likely they are to eventually accept (and even enjoy) it.