Baby eating vegetables

What is vegetable-led weaning?

Leading expert in infant and toddler nutrition, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, discusses vegetable-led weaning. She also answers parent's questions about how to feed their children a healthy and balanced diet.

Ensuring that your child is receiving adequate nutrition can sometimes feel like a daunting task – especially with things like allergies, intolerances and fussy eating to consider.

Advertisement

Registered nutritionist and a leading expert in infant and toddler nutrition, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, has made a career out of giving parents confidence in feeding their children – from weaning, fussy eating and beyond. Below, she answers some of our staffers most burning questions…

What is vegetable-led weaning?

Vegetable-led weaning is essentially where you kick off your baby’s weaning journey with vegetables, instead of the more traditional baby rice or fruits. Starting weaning with veggies can help babies to be more accepting of the savoury and bitter tastes you might get from vegetables earlier on. Babies are born with a preference for sweeter foods, so it’s good to get them familiar with, and accepting, a variety of different tastes from the start of weaning. I normally recommend 10 days or so of single veggies before combining with other foods, and offering more of a variety alongside plenty of savoury veggies.

Why do toddlers have such changeable eating habits? My little boy suddenly goes off something he used to love!

Toddlers appetites are affected by so much and so easily. Being overtired, teething, feeling unwell, being distracted (all common things for toddlers) will likely affect your little one’s appetite for food. Additionally, children are naturally a little ‘picky’ about what they eat and sometimes refuse certain foods for attention or simply because they don’t feel like eating it that day. The important thing is to keep offering foods, even rejected ones, regularly so they stay familiar with them. Mealtime routines can help too as children tend to like structure and can be more receptive to foods if they know it’s coming.

If you have a serious veg dodger on your hands, what five healthy ingredients should you really persevere with?

‘Eating well’ is all about balance, so I wouldn’t say there are five specific foods that will work miracles and cover all of the food groups for your toddler. If they dodge veg however, these things are important:

  1. Keep offering it. If you take it away it’ll possibly lead to more frequent and longer rejection.
  2. Offer a wide variety of other food groups – starchy foods, fruits, proteins and dairy/alternatives so they are getting variety and plenty of nutrients elsewhere.
  3. Role model eating it yourself – they’ll often pick up from watching you eat.
  4. Don’t sweat it too much – the human body is very resourceful and will make the most of any foods/nutrients it is given. Just be sure to offer a variety and keep trying with the veg often!

How many times should you offer a food to a toddler before giving up? i.e. can pushing children too hard to eat too many new things backfire?

Yes absolutely, pushing too hard and putting pressure to ‘eat up’ or eat certain foods is likely to backfire and leave children more determined than ever not to eat the said food. However, there is research that shows that ‘repeat exposures’ (offering rejected foods multiple times) can lead to more acceptance. Ultimately, keep trying with foods, especially rejected ones, but not in a pressured way. Offer the food without comment, eat it yourself, talk about it and have it as a regular part of your and your family’s diet. Familiarity doesn’t have to start with eating it, just seeing it and seeing others eating it is often enough.

Parent and baby at the table eating

Is hiding veg in meals a bad thing or a good way to get extra nutrients in?

It’s not ideal if you’re only hiding it. In other words, if you’re hiding some veggies to help add nutrients to the meal, try to also have some of the same veggies on show, so your little one can see and become familiar with them.

My baby has a milk allergy. How do I ensure they’re getting enough calcium when I stop breastfeeding?

Speak to your health visitor or GP about this, as it depends on lots of circumstances.

Any tips for weaning on the go?

Get some good storage containers that are light and close properly with no leaks. Take ice packs with you to keep food cool. I used to take a banana, a dollop of peanut butter and a fork in the early days of weaning my child Raffy – great on the go and a good boost of nutrients, too.

What is your go-to healthy meal for toddlers when your cupboards are bare?

Scrambled egg on toast with leftover veggies mixed into the egg. Or an omelette with frozen veg and potatoes. Always a winner!

What storecupboard and frozen foods help kids get their 5-a-day?

Tins of beans and lentils in water count as one of a child’s five-a-day, and are easy to add into meals. Frozen veggies are also a staple in our house – it’s easy to steam two handfuls or add them to another dish. Lastly, frozen fruits are a really common feature in our breakfasts or puddings. I add them to porridge/cereals in the morning, offer them as a snack with some yogurt or bake them into a crumble. Frozen and tinned fruits, as well as vegetables and beans can be just as nutritious as fresh ones.

Should I give my kids a supplement?

Yes. The Government recommend that babies who are breastfed should have vitamin D drops every day from birth (8.5-10mcg), and from around 6 months-4 years, should have vitamin A and vitamin C supplements too. Formula-fed babies don’t need these supplements until they are having less than 500ml of formula milk, as the formula milk is already fortified with them.

Charlotte Stirling Reed will be sharing her expert tips and advice (she also worked with Joe Wicks on Wean in 15) in a virtual weaning workshop. This event is free and will be on December 8th at 8pm-9pm. Register here, and you will be sent the zoom invite closer to the event.

What do you think about veg-lead weaning? We’d love to hear below…

Enjoyed this? Now read…

When is my baby ready for weaning?
The best high chairs for babies and toddlers
What can my baby eat when?
Weaning recipes
More about weaning
NHS guide to healthy weaning


This page was published on 1 December 2020

Charlotte has a first-class degree in Nutrition and Human Biology and a Postgraduate Degree from Bristol University in Nutrition and Public Health. Registered with the Association for Nutrition, the Nutrition Society, SENSE Nutritionists and the Guild of Health Writers, Charlotte works as a Nutrition Consultant on a variety of projects and areas of nutrition. Her specialist areas are Maternal, Infant and Child Nutrition, Nutrition Communications and the Media.

Advertisement

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.