Convincing kids to eat healthy foods when they’re constantly bombarded with marketing tactics promoting preservative-laden novelty items isn’t easy, but it can be done. There are a variety of ways to make healthier fare more fun, encouraging kids to eat better while still allowing them to enjoy their food. Childhood is the time when eating habits are established, so helping kids make healthier choices on their own is one of the best things you can do for them. These 15 tactics can add some visual spice to run of the mill foods, saving the long-term health of your kids and your pocketbook in the process.
- Cookie Cutters Aren’t Just for Cookies – Turning an ordinary, wholesome sandwich into something exciting can be as easy as making fun shapes with a cookie cutter.
- Buy Baby Varieties – There’s something inherently fun about miniature food. As an added bonus, the strong flavors that can cause kids to turn up their noses with foods such as veggies may not be as pronounced in baby varieties because they’re often harvested before the taste profile fully matures.
- Learn Food Origami – Turning radishes into roses and boiled egg slices into daisies are just two examples of ways that creative knife work turns ordinary food into a treat.
- Dress Up Lunch Bags – Who says that lunch bags have to be brown? Decorate them together with stamps or drawings to make the contents within seem more special.
- Make Faces – Making a face out of a food item is a whimsical way to encourage kids to eat things they might ordinarily refuse.
- Create Animal Shapes – When in doubt, make food look like an animal. With a bit of imagination and some creative prep, you can turn an ordinary snack into something exceptional.
- Play With Your Food – Your mother may have forbidden the idea of playing with your food, but that doesn’t mean you have to. An inverted apple slice with toothpicks through the bottom and a single grape on each end of the toothpick turns ordinary fruits into a car kids can enjoy playing with before they chow down.
- Sweet Sushi – Fruit leathers are healthier than rolled up gummy fruit treats and can make adorable wrappings for “sushi” made of crushed rice cereal.
- Freeze! – Frozen foods are just more fun than those at room temperature! Before serving foods that are frozen solid, make sure that all of your pint-sized diners are able to chew them without difficulty to prevent choking.
- Get Experimental – You can draw inspiration from a variety of sources, but there’s nothing like coming up with your own innovative food design. If cooking is a hobby of yours, you may even find that the process is fun and soothing.
- Splashes of Color – The primary draw of many processed foods marketed to kids is the bright coloring. Unfortunately, those attractive hues are almost always the result of chemical dyes and additives. Take a cue from the food manufacturers and make your kids meals colorful. Steamed vegetables tend to hold their color when they’ve been blanched, so work with the natural colors of the veggies and come up with a fun arrangement.
- Take a Dip – Even the most pedestrian foods become fun when dipping is part of the eating process. You don’t have to opt for fat and preservative filled processed dips, either. Organic offerings and hummus are great choices.
- Creative Containers – Kids love things that are just their size, so buying small containers or ones with a unique twist can make mealtime more fun. Small ramekins, re-purposed containers and other innovative methods of plating can make an everyday snack seem new and exciting.
- Toppings are Tops! – If it can be squirted, shaken, sprinkled or dusted over food, kids will almost always love it. Sometimes the addition of a few fun toppings alone can be enough to convince kids that a run-of-the-mill meal is something special.
- Group Prep – When kids have a hand in preparing their food, they’re automatically more invested in it and less likely to think that it’s boring. Letting little ones assist with assembly may create more work when it’s time for clean-up, but it keeps them engaged and involved with the preparation of their food. It’s also a great way to spend quality time together, passing on basic food prep skills and tricks.
If you’re running low on inspiration, there’s no shortage of kid-centric recipes and plating ideas on the Internet. Entire blogs are dedicated to the idea of fun kid-cuisine and are filled with techniques for every skill level.