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7 Ways to Entice Kids to Eat Well and Love It.

I’ve heard from a lot of you (and have at times myself wondered) how to get our kids on board to develop good eating habits, to eat what we eat, and to encourage a healthy relationship with food.  Admittedly there are times as a card-carrying foodie when I desperately want my kids to devour my salmon with blackberry jalapeno butter or curried chicken and zucchini couscous. And they just…don’t.

So I’ve put together 7 tips and ways we go about wrangling encouraging our kids in the food department, which I hope will help at your dining room table.

1.  Get them in the kitchen.  Have them cook with you and let the adventure begin!  By giving them a sense of ownership in the kitchen, they may be more apt to give their own recipes a try.

2.  Cook only 1 meal.  Don’t cook a meal for yourself and another for the kids.  Encourage them to eat what you eat, or at least try it.  The rule at our house is the kids have to at least try something, even just 1 bite, at every meal.  That’s it.  My one rule.

3.  Ask them what meals they enjoy most.  When I started including the kids (well, mostly my then-3 year old) in the menu planning I found they were apt to eat more.  Don’t get me wrong – I make the decisions as to what we’re going to eat…but when Emma feels heard because she likes pizza and I make pizza, she’s more likely to eat it.

4.  Don’t force it.  I find (and you may have too) that when you force kids to eat it often backfires.  I try to make meals a no-pressure zone at our house.  I decide what, when and where we will eat, and my kids decide whether or how much they will eat.  Also, besides our try it rule, my kids don’t have to finish their dinner…not even to have dessert.

5.  Give it time.  I introduce new foods slowly to the kids and continue serving new dishes over time.  They used to never eat protein, now it isn’t a thing for them to eat it.

6.  When in doubt, dip.  Don’t hate me…but when all else fails I’ll let the kids dip their food in hummus, peanut butter, ketchup, cottage cheese or yogurt.  But not ranch.  I detest ranch.

7.  Reduce the junk food and snacks.  This encourages kids to eat more at lunch and dinner because they don’t get full between meals.  Also, this way they eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains and dairy.  Though my kids would love to snack all day long, I try to limit them to 2 snacks a day.

Any tips you’ve found that work for you and your family?  Share a comment here or let’s talk on Facebook!

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great list! I make one meal, but it’s often in “parts” that can be assembled, so if my son doesn’t like an ingredient, he won’t shun the entire meal. Things like a pasta bar with toppings, taco bar with toppings, baked potato (with toppings) – I sense a theme here 🙂

    Limiting snacks is a good idea for the little ones, but when you have a teenage boy, forget about it! He eats 24/7…

    May 1, 2012
    • Yes, sometimes we “deconstruct” meals too! Oh boy, I’m sure this list will be changing when my son hits the teenage years.
      Thanks Jennifer!!

      May 1, 2012
  2. If you have a chance or a space to have a little garden sometimes kids will want to eat (or at least try) food they have grown and cooked themselves. We used to raise Swiss chard, scallions and tomatoes at the park and fold them into wontons with cream cheese and feta. The result? Kids scarfing down vegetables.

    May 1, 2012
  3. Great tips! I’m with Jennifer, it’s easiest to make one meal when I make something that everyone can dress up (or not) to suit their own palate. I also find that the kids buy in more if they do get to choose dinner sometimes (and I usually dress the kids’ choices up for the grown-ups, just as I often dress the grown-ups’ meals down for the kids!).

    May 1, 2012

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