This article about getting kids to eat healthy food was last updated in 2022.
You don’t have to look far to find a TV programme or Internet article telling us our kids are overweight and generally unhealthy. With technology making the world move faster and our kids move slower, parents seem to be pushing against the tide in our attempts to get our children to eat healthy food.
A starting point is to create new healthy habits at home by getting your children involved with food preparation and allowing them choices in the kitchen. This will make them feel valued and encourage them to try new (healthy) foods. And of course, if there’s an element of fun involved you’ll automatically get their attention.
Here is our list of simple and fun tricks to encourage your children to eat healthy food.
10 Sneaky ways to get your kids to eat healthy food
1. Stick it on a stick
Kids love food if it’s presented on a stick! Cucumber and tomato on its own may not appeal but put it on a cocktail stick and it’s suddenly food from the gods. Skewers are ideal for fruit but don’t stop there. Skewer cooked veggies and tiny cut-up sandwiches and thread them on. Trust me, if it’s on a skewer (especially if they put it there) they’ll eat it. Note: For younger kids you may wish to cut-off the pointed end of the skewer.
2. Shake it up
Give healthy foods, herbs and spices appealing names that makes them sound more fun, then let them shake it onto their food. That shaking action is a dead-set winner. We call oats ‘sprinkles’ in our house, and they are sprinkled over other breakfast cereals as a ‘treat’. This can be done with a variety of foods such us seeds on salads, nuts on desserts and even a shake of ‘magic powder’ (otherwise known as turmeric) over eggs and potatoes. Best way EVER to get your children to eat healthy foods!
3. Serve it up
Children love to be involved with cooking but when time is short, especially at the end of a busy day, their intervention is the last thing you need. Yet don’t underestimate the power of a little involvement to get them interested in what you’re making. Ask them to serve up the dinner, or at least their own plate. Tell them you trust them to be sensible about the amount they serve themselves i.e. plenty of vegetables. Once they have your trust you’ll be amazed how they rise to the challenge. Allow them a little time to make a pattern or a smiley face. When the plate hits the table they’ll be much more willing to eat everything on it. Young kids love being delegated age-appropriate chores, so make the most of it before the teenage years hit.
4. Groovy Smoothie
Smoothies are a sure-fire winner when it comes to getting children to eat healthy food. They are a cheeky way to get fruits, calcium and even spices into children. They taste great and what’s more they’re fun and easy to make. Our NutriBullet is our most loved kitchen gadget. Use frozen fruits as it’s cheaper, fresher and lends itself to the desired smoothie texture. Give your kids the choice of what goes in and let them make it themselves. It truly is my number one trick to get goodness into my little ones.
Stockist: Amazon Australia
MORE SNEAKY WAYS TO GET YOUR CHILDREN TO EAT HEALTHY FOODS (CONT.)
5. Build your own buttie
Children relish the opportunity to make their own sandwiches ‘just like mum’. When lunching at home, instead of making their sandwiches/rolls/wraps for them, put the fillings on a large plate i.e. ham, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and let them ‘build’ their own lunch. In time, their desire to build a bigger and better sandwich will have them adding foods they may not usually eat. This is how I got my daughter to eat tomatoes … and now she loves them.
6. See it, make it, eat it
If you don’t cook with your children, then it’s time to start. You don’t need to do it all the time, even just once every couple of weeks. Get their creative juices flowing by allowing them to choose a recipe book (ideally a kids one to keep it easy) from the library and ask them to pick whatever they want to cook. My daughters drool over pictures of dishes that I wouldn’t have thought they’d like. Then we make it, and they eat it. Magic.
7. Pleasurable pinwheels
When using a simple filling such as vegemite, ham, grated cheese or honey, you can turn the simple sandwich into a stand-out pinwheel. If you’ve not done it, it’s so easy a child could do it! Simply take two pieces of bread (ideally brown), cut off the crusts and line them up so one covers the other by about 3cm. Use a rolling pin to flatten the bread, which will also stick the two pieces together. Then simply pop on the filling, roll it up (starting at a short end) and cut into the desired thickness. Somehow, they even taste better than a normal sandwich … a brilliant trick to get children to eat healthy food.
8. Plan it out to get your children to eat healthy food
As a busy single mum I’m guessing you’re fairly organised with your meals i.e. you plan them ahead of time. Allow your children to have a say in the planning. Choose one or two nights a week when they can decide what is served for dinner, with the proviso that they make a healthy, balanced choice. They will relish the responsibility and at the same time learn what’s acceptable for a nourishing meal. Head to Nourish Interactive for more information and some fabulous print outs about balanced food choices.
9. Turn to technology to get your children to eat healthy food
The reality is that one of the best ways to get information through to our children is via an electronic device. Be it an iPhone, a tablet or a computer, if it’s digital then it’s deemed worthy in their eyes. Leverage this by encouraging them to play games that revolve around healthy food choices. For a computer try Healthy Eating Made Easier or Nourish Interactive. There are also plenty of healthy eating apps for children of all ages, including Veggie Circus Farm and Smash Your Food.
10. Take them to the source
Whenever the opportunity arises show your children how food grows, where it comes from and how it’s produced. Places like fruit fields, dairies and factories are brilliant to not only teach them about the food process but to encourage them to eat it. Sometimes understanding the food can make it more appealing and they’ll be more willing to give it a go. One of my daughters wouldn’t touch a blackberry until we went to the UK where they grow wildly. To pick and eat them was a whole new experience and created a fruity new love affair.