My 6-year-old daughter is pretty good about eating her veggies, but it took a little trial and error to get to this point. Here are some things we've done to encourage her to make healthy choices. They just may work for you too!
1. Give kids something to dip food into (cream cheese, ketchup, BBQ sauce, nut or seed butter, ranch dressing).
2. Offer food in the order you want it eaten (e.g., protein and veggies first, followed by carbs, fruits, and treats last).
3. Dress it up!
- Make a fun shape ... or a whole scene.
- Add a gimmick. Our Stoplight Frozen Pops are nothing more than blended fruit — kiwis for the green light, pineapple for the yellow light, and strawberries for the red light!
- Create a rainbow and try to find a food of every color ! For last St. Patrick's Day, we served a Fruit Rainbow with a Pot o' Gold at the end of it. Or make a veggie rainbow using tomatoes, tri-color peppers, and snap peas.
- Keep everything the same color!
- Use special dishes and utensils. Sometimes my daughter likes to use her baby brother's spoon to eat applesauce ... I say, whatever gets the job done!
- Put a face on it. For Talk Like a Pirate Day, I simply drew a pirate face on a banana and the kids at school thought it was the funniest thing.
4. Let your child try something even if you don't think they're going to like it (and keep that thought to yourself so you don't let your opinions affect theirs). My daughter eats raw onions by the handful and I never would have guessed she would like mussels!
5. Prepare food in different ways. It may be the preparation, not the food, that they dislike. My daughter hates raw broccoli but loves it cooked. Meanwhile, my husband doesn’t like it mushy, so I lightly steam it to make both of them happy. She also likes her carrots raw and her peas still frozen!
6. Offer choices of two or three vegetables and let them choose the one they want... peas, cucumber, or carrot today?
7. Have your child help pick the food — literally! Visit Ferrara's Happy Apple Farm in Penrose (south of Colorado Springs) for summer berry-picking or apples, pears, and pumpkins in the fall. Berry Patch Farms in Brighton (north of Denver) has a variety of Pick-Your-Own items and a farm market too. Until summer comes, choosing something at a Farmers' Market or the produce section of the grocery store can lead to success!
8. Let your child prepare their own food. I recently let my daughter start making her own sandwiches and they have been the best sandwiches she has ever eaten ... or so she says! You can also find kid-safe knives so they can help cut things up.
9. Write a "recipe" or "menu" with your child for lunch or snack. This might be a list of ingredients to use for the recipe or the list of foods to put on their plate for the menu. Here are some ideas for food that are simple to write a “recipe” for and also simple enough for some kids to prepare on their own:
- Sandwiches (PB'n'J, cheese, turkey/ham, etc.)
- Pancake sandwiches (see below for our recipe)
- Ants on a log
- Sliced apples with peanut butter
Get creative and try new things! That might mean that mom and dad eat something new that they thought they didn't like too!