Monday, February 20, 2012

How to get kids to eat healthy

I try really hard make sure that my kids eat healthy.
I doesn't always work, but we make conscious effort.
Here are some ideas that work for us.
I know they won't work for every kid, (they don't always work for mine either) but it's worth a try get your used to healthy eating habits.
 (Dalton eating a bell pepper)
1.  Make sure to feed your kids a wide variety of food from the time they are little.  
From the time my kids can eat solid food, I feed them a wide variety of flavors.  I always try to incorporate international options into my menu.  We eat Brazilian beans and rice and talk about life in Brazil.  We Thai food, Indian food, Italian food, Mexican food, seafood, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.  We usually feed the baby the same thing that we are eating and get him used to new flavors.  We love exotic fruits and fresh berries.
 (Saxon's lunch)
2.  Make healthy options the norm.
We have always had whole grain bread and we always try to avoid "instant" and processed foods.  Of course, we always make exceptions, but for the most part my kids are used to eating healthy.  They are never surprised to find raw fruits and veggies on their plate, and they don't even know what white bread is.
 (The apples that Bridger picked from the orchard)
3.  Grow your own.
There is something exciting about growing your own food.  We plant a garden every spring, and my kids have to walk down every day to help me take care of it.  Once everything starts to grow, I let them sample different flavors and textures straight from the garden.  Dalton loved to eat cherry tomatoes right out of the garden, Bridger always picked the cucumbers, and Saxon likes to pick different herbs and taste and smell them.  My kids seem to feel an ownership over the things that they grow and it makes them more willing to try. 
Even if you can't grow your own, try to go to local farms or farmer's markets.  Bridger and I went to a local orchard and picked our own apples.  We had to pay for them, but it was fairly cheap and worth it for the fun experience.
4.  Rename it.
Big food companies are famous for this!  My kids will eat anything as long as it has a Star Wars character on it.  I took my kids to get smoothies the other day and I picked a green smoothie for them called "Iron Strong."  They were skeptical that it was green and asked me what flavor it was.  I accidentally said "Iron Man" instead of "Iron Strong" and they were sold on it.  Now, when we make green smoothies at home, we make sure to call them "Iron Man Smoothies."
We also cut sandwiches and quesadillas with cookie cutters into fun shapes so that they can have star shaped sandwiches or pac-man shaped quesadillas.
5.  Make it sound like a treat.
Bridger loves broccoli.  When we go to the store, I tell him that if he's really good, I'll let him pick out a head of broccoli.  Then we make a special dinner with broccoli.  We try to find lots of reasons to reward Bridger with broccoli :)  Dalton loves broccoli, but not Saxon.  Saxon loves carrots.
 6.  Make it a game.
My boys favorite game is to pretend that the veggies instantly make them stronger.  They want Nate and I to watch as they chew, and as soon as they swallow, we pretend to be stunned by how big their muscles are!  Dalton likes the traditional "Here comes the airplane!" game.  Sometimes we race too.  The first one to finish their veggies wins!

7.  Let them help.
My kids all have their own aprons and cooking utensils and like to help.  When they help prepare a meal, they are more likely to try it.   Sometimes I will even let them go through a recipe book and choose.  Then they get to help make the meal.  It's a win-win situation for everyone because the kids learn something new, they get to spend one on one time with me, and they are more likely to eat healthy foods if they chose to.

8.  Disguise it.
I'm actually not very inventive with this one, but I there are several popular books out there with ideas about how to disguise healthy foods into your everyday meals.  A few of my favorites are adding shredded carrots or steamed spinach to meals.  They cook down really well and become soft and undetectable.  They also have mild flavors so they don't ruin a dish by including it.

9.  Dip it.
I really think my kids will eat anything as long as they can dip in in ranch.  I can give them a bowl of raw spinach to eat as long as it has ranch.  They will eat most raw veggies, or even veggie quesadillas.   They love dipping apples and celery in peanut butter and fruit in yogurt.

10. Choose the healthier option.
Almost everything has a healthier option.  If you need sour cream, choose light.  If you need cereal, choose low sugar with whole grain.  Don't be fooled though.  A lot of things make claims that are deceiving.  Read the labels.  For example, Bridger was begging for chips the other day.  I agreed, but wanted to pick the best option.  The low-fat version had 8 grams of fat per serving as opposed to the 14 in the full fat version.  However, the multi-grain version (that did not say low-fat) also had only 8 grams of fat.  So we picked mulitgrain because it had less fat and whole grains.  I know that chips aren't healthy, but we're talking about choosing the healthier option. 
I also try to cook from scratch a lot so that I know exactly what is going into our food.  It's a little scary to read the ingredients label and not recognize anything in it other than "spices" or "artificial flavors".  What is that anyway?

Most of all, have fun and experiment!!
Our quest to eat healthy has been really fun for our family.  We've tried new things and learned a lot.  Not everything always works.  Sometimes something works once and not the next time, or the other way around.  All kids are different so you need to find what works for your children and your family.


  1. Thank you for this post! I have a 10 month old little boy who has just started with table food last month, and I'm afraid he's already going to be a picky eater. He loved all of his baby food veggies (except peas!) but will not touch any type of veggie I try to give him now. He loves his fruit though, especially peaches and oranges, and whole wheat bread, cheese, and crackers. I know he is just beginning with regular food, so I'm hoping as he gets older he will try and like more things. These are some great ideas to keep in mind and try as he grows! :)

  2. These are all good tips for getting kids to eat more healthily, but one thing that cannot be overlooked is the importance of breastfeeding. Lost of people simple aren't aware of the connection between food and breastmilk.

    A baby is exposed to different flavors in mother's milk. If the mom eats a varied diet with many flavor profiles, the baby is being exposed to these, and it becomes more easy to introduce the baby to different food because everything tastes familiar.

    My oldest kid was bottle fed because I simply didn't know any better. I was a young mom with no really decent role models. My daughter came along 15 years later, and I nursed her until she was 22 months old.

    My son? PICKIEST EATER EVER! OMG. This kid... It's a wonder he's alive today! hahaha My daughter, on the other hand, will sit and eat spinach leaves the way most people eat potato chips! She can't get enough. She eats tomatoes the way people eat apples. Whatever I put in front of her--she will eat it. She's becoming a bit more choosy, but for the most part, she will eat whatever I fix.

    So---another point for breastfeeding! It helps kids eat more healthfully once they start on solid foods. :)

  3. Great tips! I agree with dip! My kids will eat anything if they have something to dip it in. Also, we have a small garden and my kids think it is such a treat to pick peas off the vine and eat them!