These Little Tactics Will Help Get Your Kids to Eat Well

Getting kids to eat well is one of the toughest challenges facing a parent. Our kids eat pretty healthy, but like most children, they prefer treats over nutrition, turn their noses at many good foods and sometime show up at the table and refuse to eat the food they liked a day earlier.

Over the years, my wife and I have learned some tricks for getting them to eat well at home and at school.

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1. Keep the junk out – it is really tough to keep all sweets out of the house because part of being a kid is getting to have treats and they are also good “carrots” to use when the kids need coaxing, but if the cupboards are full of chips and cookies, then the kids will want them 24/7. If the kids find only nuts and fruit in the cupboards, they are more likely to eat those things by default.

2. Set a good example. It is hard to get the kids to eat well if the parents don’t. The parents set the example and have an insane influence over the kids. They watch us and want to be like us. My kids often tell me a little junk is ok, but you need to eat healthy if you want to grow up strong. I wonder where they got that from??

3. Camo – Kids will often get it set in their mind that they don’t like something and they simply won’t even try it. To get around this you can puree certain foods or blend them in with others. We make smootihies at home with berries and spinach which our little ladies chug back like its going out of style and the other night I had the girls out for dinner at a Lebanese place and they wouldn’t eat the rice…until I mixed it with hommus! Haha!

4. Dip it! We find our kids love to dip food and there is a better chance they will eat and enjoy a food if there is some sauce to dip it in. Of course, we have to watch our littlest one as she can sometimes be inclined to eat all the dip and none of the food. Hommus, mayo, ketchup, tomato sauce and guacamole all work as dips.

A special challenge is getting kids to eat well at school because every child brings different things in their lunch and you can’t be there in person to keep you child focused on eating what you packed for them. Here are some tricks that work for us:

1. Get the kids to help with the shopping – If I bring the kids to the grocery store with me then direct them to the good stuff and ask them what they want in their lunch, they get to pick their own foods and are more likely to eat what they picked. We always have a fun negotiation as we choose foods.
Them: Can we have these… we love these?
Me: No, there is too much sugar in these.
{Repeat 5 times}
Them: what about these, we love these.
Me: [reading label] Ok, these are fine.

2. Keep it small – Kids like bite size stuff, probably because they have little hands. Whatever if you put things like grapes, bits of cheese, crackers, carrot sticks in little bags, they have a good chance of getting eaten. Yogurt cups and apple sauce are also safe bets.

3. Get them involved – Often when I am preparing my daughter’s lunch for school, I will ask her what she wants and whether she will eat what I put in. I find she is pretty good about eating what she says she will and pretty consistent about not eating the things she tells me not to put in her lunch (I can’t help trying).

4. Clean – Our daughter is a bit picky about keeping clean when she eats, at least when at school. If I give her something gooey like dates in a bag, she tends not to eat them because she can’t pick them out without getting all sticky, whereas if I put them in a little tuperware (that she can open) she tends to eat them.

These are just a few tricks that work and there are a million more. I started a discussion called Kids Eating Well is Swell over at en*theos where there some more great suggestions.

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