Ways to get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods, Part 3


Having dealt with picky eaters, I know how hard it is to get kids to try new foods– especially foods that are good for them!  I failed miserably with my first son (he would agree and laugh), but I now have 3 huge success stories and have learned A LOT along the way.

In my last 2 posts, I talked about ways to teach our children to love healthy food before they are born and during breastfeeding, but many people have children who are older and need ideas to help them enjoy healthier food.  Here is what has worked in my family and in many other families as well. 

Include children in meal preparation.  They are more likely to eat something new if they prepare it themselves!  Don’t be afraid to allow your children to work in the kitchen!  With supervision they will not get hurt!  Obviously, a 4-year-old won’t be given the job of dicing up the carrots, but he would probably love to squeeze the juice out of a lemon or put ingredients into a bowl and stir. 

THIS IS FUN!!!  In our household, each child is assigned a night each week to plan and prepare dinner.  I provide a binder full of delicious, helathy recipes and they get to pick which meal they want to prepare that week.  I assist the youngest (8 years old) at times if she needs a little help, but for the most part, I only provide a little supervision.   My 10 year old very rarely needs help and my 13 year old needs no help or supervision at all. 

The results of their involvement in meal preparation have been amazing!  They have grown an interest in the culinary arts, they are fantastic little gourmet chefs, they eat a wider variety of foods because they don’t want to make the same meals over and over again, and it gives me at least three nights off of kitchen duty each week!  They are always so proud of their accomplishment and love the appreciation and applause they get from Daddy!

Here are a few more pointers:

Make food changes gradually.  Choose one thing to begin with that is likely to be a success– such as switching from white rice to brown rice, for instance.  Having one victory gives parents the confidence to try the next change and is also proof to the child that eating healthy isn’t all that bad afterall.

Parents must practice what they preach!  If we want our children to eat their greens, then we must eat them, too!  It helps to find delicious healthy recipes that can be enjoyed by everyone.  I’ll be posting more really good recipes on this site as time goes by.

If you don’t want your kids to eat it, don’t buy it!  If you want Junior to stop eating so many sugary foods, don’t keep sugary foods in your home!  Instead, stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy foods.  If apples and pecans are all that’s available for an afternoon snack, kids will eventually try it and will most likely find out that they like apples and pecans.

Make food appealing to children’s imaginations!  Be creative!  Kids love using their imaginations, so use that to your advantage at mealtime!  Do this by giving the food funny names (broccoli becomes “trees” and sprouts become “hair”), making up a story about the meal that the child can add to after each bite, making the food fun-looking (cutting veggies into fun shapes and playing name that animal, etc),  allowing the child to arrange the food on the plate creatively and calling it a masterpiece, adding faces to food and allowing the child to give the “people” on his plate funny names, etc.

Serve healthy food that TASTES DELICIOUS!  When I was a child, vegetables were usually tasteless and cooked to a mush.  No wonder I wasn’t interested in eating them!  It is our responsibilty as parents to learn how to prepare healthy foods in delicious ways.  I have already posted some… stay tuned to my blog for more kid-approved healthy recipes!

Grow your own vegetable and herb garden.  Kids enjoy eating the fruit of their labor.  They have fun picking a cucumber they grew themselves and eating it with a homemade dip they made themselves in the blender.  It is also fun to pick fresh basil or dill for their recipes.  A garden provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment!

In my next post, I’ll share even more tried and true ways to help children love the foods that will keep them healthy for life!

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