It was noon on Super Bowl Sunday. My husband’s phone “dinged” signaling a new text message. After glancing down at his phone, he looked at me and asked what appetizer we should bring to share at our friend’s Super Bowl party that was just a few hours from now. We originally decided to bring jalapeno poppers, but the new text message was from the party host, informing us that someone else decided to bring the same thing. We decided to abandon our plan and bring something different instead. Enter The Vegetable Party Platter!
We chopped up some raw broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots, and arranged it on a beautiful, white platter. Positioned in the center was a bowl of creamy Ranch dressing. I’m aware that there is absolutely nothing novel about this idea. We’ve all seen and eaten this at parties. Grocery stores even sell these prepackaged! My biggest surprise came from witnessing my 1 ½ year-old son ogling the vegetables at the party and asking to eat them, even amongst the many bowls of chips, dips, and desserts. Honestly, I think it was the presentation and blocks of beautiful colors that enticed him.
I’d tried serving my son raw vegetables before without much luck. Sometimes he’d eat them; sometimes he’d return them to me like I was a waitress at a restaurant serving sub-par food. His change of tune at the Super Bowl party was a great lesson for me. It reminded me that sometimes I can get trapped into incorrect, preconceived notions that my toddler doesn’t like a certain type of food. I maybe tried a particular food once or a few times a while ago, and he didn’t care for it. But try that same food again tomorrow, in a few weeks, or in a few months, and I’m always amazed to discover that often times, he’s changed his tune and will eat the food or at least try it. Studies show that it can take 12-16 times for a toddler to try a new food, eat it, and enjoy it. That’s a heck of a lot of tries, but a good reminder that we shouldn’t give up or get discouraged too early if they indicate they don’t like a particular food. They might just need a little time to warm up to it, or they might like it prepared slightly differently: baked instead of sautéed, for example, or raw instead of roasted.
After the Super Bowl party, I started serving my son The Vegetable Party Platter for lunch pretty often. It’s especially useful when I don’t have time to cook or when I’m just too tired! Here’s how to assemble it:
- Chop some raw broccoli, cauliflower, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces that are small enough and safe for your toddler. If your toddler favors other vegetables instead, try those! Consider celery, cucumber, tomatoes, and black olives. Brightly colored foods are often super foods. Serving your child a variety of different colored foods ensures well-rounded nutrition, so mix up the colors! I like to chop the vegetables and assemble his meal in front of him, because watching me prepare his meal excites him!
- Serve them with your toddler’s favorite dipping sauce. The dipping sauce is key with The Vegetable Party Platter. Toddlers love to dip! My first picks are hummus, yogurt, peanut butter, or almond butter because they add good nutrition and protein to the meal. Other options are Ranch dressing or cream cheese. Dipping allows toddlers to exercise their independence, touch and feel their food, and heck—it’s just a fun, interactive eating experience—so let them dip away!
- Food presentation matters. Adults aren’t the only ones who eat with their eyes first…so does your child! Arrange the food on your child’s plate attractively, grouping them into bright color blocks. Place their favorite dipping sauce in the middle and show them how to take a vegetable and dip it in the sauce.
- Be a food role model for your child. How can we expect our kids to be great eaters if we don’t model good eating habits ourselves? How can I be eating fast food in front of my son for lunch while I try to serve him The Vegetable Party Platter? I don’t know how well that would work. It helps immensely if they see you eating and enjoying the food too. As Landon and I sat down for lunch together today, I made sure that along with my sandwich, I served myself baby carrots and raw broccoli on the side. I made a special point to make sure he saw me eating them so he knows we’re in this together. I can’t remember the last time I ate raw vegetables like that for lunch. I normally don’t enjoy raw vegetables, so I found that I surprised myself too! I actually enjoyed the way they tasted, and it made for a wonderful, crunchy compliment to my sandwich. It also gave me the opportunity to eat more vegetables in the middle of the day…something I find a little more difficult to do.
I’ve got to say, this new lunch idea has been a win-win for my son and me, and a huge time-saver! What are your favorite toddler lunch ideas? Tell us in the comments section. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you free baby, toddler, and family-friendly recipes via e-mail!
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