Why do healthy foods make kids want to turn tail and run? Fresh vegetables and fruits never seem to compare to the rows of processed cereal, though they’re just as colorful. Grilled chicken breasts don’t go over as well as a hot dog drenched in ketchup.
Even kids who aren’t picky eaters often turn their noses up at healthy food, turning to less favorable options. The question becomes how to make healthy eating fun. These tips will help you ditch the nightly nutrition battle.
1. Start a Garden
Produce from a store is never as delicious as something you’ve grown at home. Starting a garden with your kids will give them pride and ownership over their crops. Watching plants grow from seeds to sprouts to mature fruits, vegetables and herbs builds excitement. When it comes time to eat your home-grown foods, the kids will be bursting with anticipation.
While planting, weeding and watering can be hard work, it’s more fun than pulling it from a bin at the store. You don’t even need a large space to grow your food. Many plants thrive in pots and are easy to grow inside or out.
2. Make Room for More Chefs
If you want to make healthy eating for kids fun, you need to accept more chefs in the kitchen. Yes, things will get messier and amateur cooks will take longer to cook even basic meals. However, you get to teach them how to make healthy eating fun.
When your children work with you in the kitchen, you pass on valuable life skills so they can make nutritious choices and put food on the table as adults. Find a kid-friendly cookbook you can work your way through together. Teach kitchen safety and learn new techniques. Everyone will grow, learn and get excited about healthy foods.
3. Use Fun Shapes
Little kids love interestingly shaped food — looking at you, you dinosaur nugget fiends. You can apply this phenomenon to previously rejected foods or things you worry your child might not like. The added layer of whimsy is often enough to get your children to at least try a bite.
Regular roasted sweet potato cubes are a no-go, but cutting them into star shapes makes them an instant crowd-pleaser. Have delicious tuna on whole wheat bread you’re dying for the kids to try? Use a cookie cutter to make it in the shape of a fish. You’ll be surprised at how quickly these nutritious foods disappear.
4. Have a Rainbow Day
Healthy eating for kids becomes easy when you make a game of it, so present your children with the Eat the Rainbow challenge.
Make it your goal as a family to eat one fruit or vegetable of every color before bedtime. Early in the morning, head to the store to shop for your hues. Let everyone help pick the produce. Now spend the rest of the day finding fun ways to eat your selections. You never know, you might find a few new favorites.
Either way, your kids will gain exposure to new fruits and vegetables and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Getting through each hue in a day also naturally increases your produce intake.
5. Let Them Pack Their Own Lunch
Packing your children’s lunch boxes is a sweet gesture but leaves room for complaining. Unfortunately, a lot of healthy packed lunches end up in the trash. Packing only junk food isn’t an option, either.
To make healthy eating fun for kids and something they’ll adopt as a lifestyle, they need to have some control. Set up room in your kitchen and fridge for packed-lunch-approved items. Teach your kids the types of foods they should include every day — aiming for a balance of nutrients rather than a sack full of granola bars. Once they understand the basics and your boundaries, they’re free to choose what they want to pack.
6. Curate Themed Food Nights
Themes make everything more fun and are an opportunity to introduce your kids to new nutritious ingredients. Aim to have a themed food night at least once a month. Make it a very special occasion — create a basic menu of the meal, set up some decor and plan a matching movie or game to go along with the food. Your kids will be so focused on the night’s excitement, they won’t have time to think about rejecting the new tastes.
Serve your kids the colorful and delicious ratatouille, followed by watching the movie of the same name. Breakfast for dinner is a good way to get your kids to eat eggs, and you can follow it up by watching Chicken Run. Get creative and customize these nights to your interests.
Healthy Eating for Kids Can Be Fun
With some planning and patience, you can learn how to make healthy eating fun for your whole family. Relieve some of the pressure and adopt an all-foods-fit mentality. Instead of banning “bad” foods, focus on making trying new foods an exciting experience.
Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to nutrition, healthy living, and anything food-related. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness trends and recipes.