You know how it goes. You spoon the green beans on the plate, and your child makes a crinkly face.
“But it’s good for you!” you say. “I don’t like it!” the child complains.
Getting kids to eat nutritious foods can be a chore, but it doesn't have to be.
We've got some ideas for how you can get your kids feeling much more positive about healthy eating.
1. Grow Your Own Food
It’s gardening season. Take advantage of this great opportunity to teach your child about growing food.
Enlist your child’s help with planting seeds, nurturing plants, and harvesting to help them feel more connected to the food—and more interested in preparing and eating it.
In one study, forty-six children between 9 and 10 years old took part in a 12-week school-based project to create a garden.
They also took lessons devoted to cooking, plants, and growth. The results showed that those who participated in the gardening project ate 26 percent more fruits and vegetables.
If you don’t have room for an outdoor garden, start with a small herb garden in a few pots on the windowsill, or grow a few tomatoes or strawberries on the porch.
If you do have more space, consider starting with easy-to-grow items like zucchini, tomatoes, and corn.
Then when you harvest the food, involve the kids in making a meal or following a recipe that includes the fresh produce.
2. Shop at a Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s markets are typically fun experiences for everyone, and they often have fresh, healthy foods available.
You can make the outing educational for your kids by involving them in the shopping. Let them pick the produce.
Encourage them to touch, smell, and even taste (if the vendors offer samples) their way through the options.
You can also get your kids to talk to the vendors, particularly those that grow their own food.
How long did it take to grow the item? What challenges did you have to overcome?
Some farmers will even allow community members to come out to their gardens, orchards, or fields to pick fresh produce.
All these activities give your kids a closer connection to the food you buy and may help them feel more open about trying it.
3. Play a Game
Kids love to play games. Today, there are several available that you can use to teach them about healthy eating.
You can start with simple at-home games you can play as a family. Some ideas include:
- Letter of the Week: Choose a letter for the week, and then ask your kids to find different foods that start with that letter. If “A” is the choice, then they can eat apples, applesauce, avocados, apple butter, avocado toast, apricots, apricot jam, asparagus, etc. Make it a contest if you like—who can name and eat the most A foods?
- Food Faces: Let kids play with their food by using several healthy items to make a face. Present an assortment of your choice—or involve the kids in the choices—then let them use them all to make faces before they eat!
- Name That Food: Put some fruits and veggies in a bag, then call your kids to the table. Blindfold each one and ask them to guess what the food is by using their senses: touch, smell, and taste. You’re bound to get them laughing while learning about healthy foods.
There are also several apps available that help kids learn about healthy eating.
If your kids like to use tablets, computers, or phones, they can have fun playing these games while learning more about nutrition.
Here are some to get you started:
4. Make Food Fancy!
Kids love to play dress up and pretend. Take advantage of that natural desire to put on a fancy meal that includes healthy foods.
Let kids help decorate the table by coloring their paper plates, folding the napkins into fun shapes, and creating unique decorations with playdough or painted ceramics.
Don't forget the candles! Then plan the menu carefully. What would healthy, “fancy” people eat?
Let them pitch in with healthy items, and feel free to suggest some ideas of your own. If kids are old enough, let them help with the cooking too.
Ask them for ideas on how you could “dress up” the food. What would make it look fancy?
Maybe some lemon or orange wedges, pieces of parsley, or slices of lettuce?
And for the perfect centerpiece, try a fresh fruit platter or bouquet. Use this Edible Arrangements promo code to save money on something you think the kids would like.
5. Create Your Own Science Experiments
Tap into your kids’ natural sense of curiosity by turning your kitchen into a science lab.
Instead of telling your kids that they’re going to help you “cook,” tell them you’re going to conduct some experiments instead.
You can start simply by teaching kids how to make their own homemade butter.
What happens as you shake up the cream? All of the kids can take turns—it takes effort to make butter, after all!
Then watch the amazement show up on their faces when the butter starts to form. (Check out this post for more help on running a “making butter” experiment.)
The Health Start Foundation also has some good ones that include healthy foods.
Remember, the goal with this one is not to immediately have your kids eat whatever they’re experimenting with but to get them into the habit of learning more about their food.
Stimulating their minds to ask questions will help them grow into adults who want to learn more about whatever they’re putting on their plates.