Ten Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy in the New Year

By Laura Miller, publisher of Macaroni Kid, Appleton, Wisc. January 2, 2019

While adults are looking to the new year to begin new habits that most often include losing weight and/or eating healthier, it’s also a good time to look at what your kids are eating too.

My 6-year-old daughter is pretty good about eating her veggies, but it took a while to get to this point -- and took a little trial and error. Here are some things we’ve done to get her to make healthy choices:

1. Dip away.

Give kids something to dip food into (veggie dip, ketchup, bbq sauce, nut or seed butter, etc.).

2. Offer foods one at a time.

Offer food in the order you want kids to eat it (for us that means protein and veggies first; carbs, fruits and treats last).

3. Make it special.

Plate food in a way that makes it special. Ideas:

  • Make a fun shape (like an animal or funny face)
  • Create a rainbow and try to find something of every color they will eat… ideas: tomatoes, carrots, yellow peppers, green beans, blueberries and grapes.
  • Keep everything the same color!
  • Use a special plate/bowl, spoon, chopsticks, etc. Sometimes my daughter likes to use baby brother’s spoon for her applesauce… I say, whatever gets the job done!
  • Put a face on it. For “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, I drew a pirate face on a banana and the kids at school thought that was the funniest thing.

4. Encourage her to try everything!

Let your child try something even if you don’t think they’re going to like it (and keep your thoughts 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. Serve food in a variety of ways.

Try different ways of preparing foods to find out if it’s just preparation they don’t like or truly that particular food. 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.

Offer two or three vegetables and let them choose the one they want... peas, cucumber, or carrots today? They'll feel like they still have a say, and you'll still have accomplished serving a healthy snack.

7. Let them pick.

Literally -- take them picking when it's time for seasonal fruits and veggies. And in the winter months? Take them to the grocery and let them help pick things out at the store.

8. Let your child be the chef.

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!

Write a "recipe" or "menu" with your child and then let him/her follow it to make their own lunch or snack. This might be a list of ingredients to use for the “recipe” or the list of food to put on their plate for the “menu”. (See photo below for a sample of my daughter’s “recipe” for pancake sandwiches that she wrote to tell her teacher.)

10. Be creative!

Get creative and try new things! That might mean that mom or dad try something they think they don't like too!