Do your children push away spinach or refuse to eat broccoli? Do they shun the fresh fruit you offer them for snacks and dessert? If you want to inspire your kids to eat healthier, it helps to make their meals and snacks as appealing as possible. All healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, can be just as tempting as junk food (and ideally more so).
Start by asking your children for a list of their favorite foods (cookies and cake don't count). Then make an effort to incorporate some of their picks into the daily meals that you prepare. You will be surprised at their responses! They might really enjoy a particular fruit or vegetable they have eaten at a friend's home or at school. They just were never offered it at your home. Do your children have a soft spot for mashed potatoes? Introduce them to the recipe which uses cauliflower, like Creamy Mashed Cauliflower. They'll be surprised how good it is!
Do they love after-dinner sweets? Serve them strawberries or banana pieces that they can dip in a little melted dark chocolate. Most importantly, show your kids that you practice what you preach and set a good example by enjoying healthy meals at the dining table along with them. And do make a concerted effort to get any junk food out of the house. Here are more ways to get your kids excited about fruits and vegetables:
- Don't force your children to eat what's on their plate. Provide them with small servings of new foods at first, then reintroduce those foods regularly in various ways. Perseverance will pay off.
- Encourage your children to help with meal preparation and cooking. Studies have shown that children will readily try foods if they have helped to prepare them. Let your younger kids do simple tasks like scrambling eggs, making sandwiches, mixing liquids and sauces, and measuring ingredients. Older children can help toss salads and dressings, cut vegetables and fruits, and stir ingredients in a pan.
- Get dipping: Kids love to dip! Serve raw veggies with a low-sugar prepared ranch dressing or hummus. My grandchildren love my Tuna Dip and Mayo Pick Dip. Both recipes can be found in my cookbook, NOT JUST A COOKBOOK.
- Let your children taste the difference between canned, frozen, or fresh veggies (don't tell them which is which in advance), and let them choose their favorite. In many cases, canned and frozen can be as healthy as fresh.
- Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of melon slices. Kids love experimenting and eating their experiments. They would eat up every piece with the funny shapes they cut out! . I used to give my toddlers a cookie cutter to make shapes out of different varieties of cheeses I offered them. I still do that trick with my grandchildren today!
- One of my all-time favorites to do with children is to teach them how to make a Penguin onSkis out of a hard-boiled egg! I have used this as an activity at some of my children's birthday parties. Most of the children ate the olives in that recipe for the first time---and loved it!
- Help kids make frozen fruit kebabs using orange slices, melon chunks, berries, bananas, grapes, and kiwi.
- Whenever I have a meeting in my home for my business colleagues, everyone loves the Fruit Dip that I prepare along with my usual spread. Many times, I would often find my children sneaking a taste while I prepared it. That's when you know it's a good food choice for your children, too! It is also quite easy to send along as a snack in their cooler lunch bag, with some cut up fruit, in a sealed, airtight, Tupperware container. Enjoy it!