How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

Kids Healthy FoodsKids seem to love artificial, processed food that comes in cleverly marketed, colorful packages. These “fake foods” contain refined or artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colorings, and other chemical compounds to make it taste better or to prolong shelf-life. When kids eat this processed food, their bodies have to deal with the synthetic additives, and it can lead to nutritional imbalances  and chronic disease. Their bodies are designed to metabolize whole foods, not these synthetically altered foods.

Do kids naturally love processed food or is it a learned response to advertising? Or is it that this is the food that they consider “normal” since it’s what most other kids are eating?  My experience with my daughter is that she enjoyed her healthy whole foods diet until she was introduced to the processed food she saw other kids eating at school. Until then, she didn’t know about all the packaged junk that passes for lunch. We didn’t have television in our home so she didn’t get the early commercialization of food. But soon it became a challenge to compete with the fake foods.

Unfortunately in this society, there are plenty of fancy-wrapped junk foods that grab our kids attention and taste buds. And it does take time to prepare wholesome foods rather than take the easy route of packaged convenience foods.

So how do we get our kids to eat healthy foods?

The biggest piece of advice that I can give from experience is to not make food an issue. Respect your kids’ appetites, and if they are not hungry, don’t force food on them. Never use food as a reward or bribe or make your kids “clean their plate”. Allow them to choose how much they want to eat of the healthy foods you have available.

It’s important to be a healthy role model for your kids. Kids will imitate what they see their parents eating. Maybe this is not apparent yet in your toddler, but kids will grow up accepting their parents way of eating as the “norm”.

Here are some ideas:

Use basic, fresh foods and ingredients. Choose healthy foods without corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, preservatives or chemical additives.

Shop at a local farmer’s market or a grocery store that carries produce from local farms. Or take your kids to the actual farms so they can appreciate how food is grown. Let them see all the different types of fruits and veggies and let them pick out new ones to try.

Get your kids involved in meal planning, food shopping, and cooking.

Plant a garden with your kids and/or enroll them in healthy cooking classes.

Teach your kids why we eat healthy foods and about nutritional values of different foods and how this affects their bodies.

Allow your kids to choose what goes into their school lunches from a variety of healthy foods.

Keep healthy snacks available at all times so they are easily accessible when kids are hungry. Cut up fruits and vegetables and put them right in front of kids. Simply put a bowl in front of them while they are doing homework, watching TV, etc.  Have you tried giving them red, orange or yellow bell peppers? These are much sweeter tasting than green peppers and many kids love them. I cut them up into strips and simply hand them to my daughter whenever possible.

Introduce new foods on a regular basis and don’t give up when introducing something new. Some kids need it to be offered 8-10 times before they decide to accept it as a food they like. Talk about the new food’s smell, color, texture and shape, and ask them decide for themselves if it tastes good. Serve the new food along with the foods they already like and don’t make a big deal of it.

Make food fun and playful by cutting it into shapes, making smiley faces, food collages, or fruit kabobs. Make a game of exploring one new vegetable each week to learn about and to taste.

Don’t worry if your kids are not eating three balanced meals each day. Instead, look at what they are eating over a period of three days.

Don’t let them fill up on juice, milk or soda throughout the day so there’s no appetite for food. Get them in a habit of drinking plenty of water, instead.

Try to keep your kids away from television and other advertising. There are a lot of ads for processed foods and advertisers target kids early on to establish brand loyalty.

You can add kale or other leafy greens to meals without your kids knowing. Chop the greens up finely in a food processor and add them to spaghetti sauce, lasagna, stew, stir fry, soups, or chili. You can even chop greens up in advance and freeze them in small bags so they are handy when needed.

Most kids love cheese, so you can always add shredded cheese to greens to make them more appealing. Raw cheese is healthier than pasteurized cheese. Here’s a simple dish that my daughter has always loved. Saute spinach or chard, add tomato sauce and top with cheese. Serve over brown rice. Very simple. You can make different variations, depending on tastes.

Roasting the vegetables can make them more appealing to kids. Coat the vegetables with olive oil and bake at 400° for approximately 20 minutes.

Buy a juicer and a blender and make green smoothies, carrot juice, apple/beet juice. Here’s an example of a vegetable and fruit juicing recipe for kids.

Soups are a great way to add vegetables to a diet for kids. You can chop up the vegetables or blend them into a broth so your kids don’t even know they’re there.

Patty James, the author of More Vegetables, Please!, has the following ideas for adding more vegetables to a diet for kids. Check out her website: www.PattyJames.com.


• In a bit of olive oil, sauté onions, peppers, zucchini and garlic for a few minutes and then add your eggs or tofu and spinach leaves for a healthier scramble.
• Add cubed pumpkin or butternut squash to your morning hot cereal. Pureed pumpkin is fine as well. Sprinkle with nuts, seeds and cinnamon.
• Add a handful of leafy greens to your morning smoothie.
• Cooked chopped kale, peppers and onions in some water in a saucepan and after it’s softened, crack an egg in the center. Cover to poach the egg until it is done to your liking.
• Add shredded zucchini to your next muffin recipe.
• Add pureed pumpkin or other winter squash to your pancake batter in lieu of some of the fat. Less fat, more veggies!


• On your next sandwich or wrap, add some grated carrots and zucchini, sprouts and lettuce. All of them, not just one of them.
• Add pureed peas to your next guacamole recipe.
• Steam the stems of the broccoli, puree and add to hummus to guacamole. Brocomoli!
• Add grated carrots and slices of cooked butternut squash to your next grilled-cheese sandwich.
• Add minced red peppers, celery, red onion and shredded carrots to your next tuna salad recipe.
• A big green salad for lunch is an easy way to add more veggies to your life. Go light on the high-fat salad dressing.
• Add some spinach leaves to your homemade hummus or place store-bought hummus in your blender and add spinach leaves yourself.


• For a snack try sliced jicama with salsa. Also good is jicama rubbed with lime juice and sprinkled with chili powder.
• On Sundays and Wednesdays, you and your kids, if you have them, slice/chop carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli and any and all other seasonal vegetables. If they’re easy to grab, you’ll eat them!


• Start your meal with veggie slices as an appetizer. Try cutting the carrot sticks into little rounds instead of slices, red peppers into squares, etc. It’s a fun little change that kids especially like. Serve with your favorite dip if you like.
• Try to have half of your dinner plate as veggies; some cooked, some raw.
• Marinara sauce used for pasta or pizza is an easy way to add more veggies….shredded zucchini, finely chopped broccoli, chopped spinach leaves, red peppers, onions and garlic. Yum!
• Add peas, chopped broccoli, and grated carrots to your next macaroni and cheese recipe.
• A meat loaf is an easy way to add more veggies to your life. Finely chop and add red pepper, onions, celery, carrots and any other favorite veggie.
• Next time you make a pot roast or stew think: Veggies and Pot Roast, not Pot Roast and veggies. Ditto for stews-heavy on the veggies, light on the meat.


What has worked well for you? Please post your suggestions below. Feel free to also post any questions.



  1. Start from the beginning. If all they learn is healthy eating then they’re more likely to continue that since they’re taste buds will be used to those favors. Of course everyone likes to indulge sometimes. When I babysat my niece I was much more aware of developing good habits from the start and fed her much differently than I had my three when they were small, not that they ate all junk. Now her favorite foods are broccoli, seafoods and fish and many other good foe her foods. The only beef she wil eat is a very lean prime steak. She refuses to ever eat a fast food burger and opts to go for baked chicken wings. Now that I have another baby we are starting her off even healthier, no chemicals, steroid, hormone or antibiotic foods. Trying to stay as organic as possible without denying her a normal childhood. Just teaching her the better options. On a side note the way I always got veggies in picky eaters was casseroles. Kids will eat almost anything with cheese or red sauce.

  2. I would love to see more ideas for healthy eating for teens. My kids were all healthy eaters until they became tweens and teens. Now it’s nearly impossible, and they don’t want to be the “weird” kids. It’s so hard when you hear your 16 year old’s friends say, “Well we can’t go to your house, dude, cuz your food SUCKS!” That’s when we started caving, and it’s been a downhill spiral ever since. We feel like we’ve lost them! Any advice from moms of teens who have been here?

    1. Sheri, I have a teen-age daughter and I know exactly what you mean. My advice is to let it go as much as you possibly can. If they’ve had a healthy beginning, and they’ve learned what healthy foods are, they will come back to them later. I know it’s difficult, but teens need to make their own choices. If you fight it, it’s a losing battle. They want to fit in and be “normal”. It makes me crazy to see some of the things my daughter eats sometimes, but she does eat healthier than most of her friends. And now she’s 17 and is beginning to choose healthy foods more often. I think that if we teach them at a young age how to eat healthy and we model it, even if they reject it for a time when they are teens, they will come back to eating healthy as they get older. I’m already seeing it with my daughter.

      One thing I won’t do is buy a lot of unhealthy stuff. If she wants a lot of junk, she has to buy it herself. But I do get a little lax when friends are coming over and will buy some of what they like to eat. I keep our home stocked up with healthy foods, and do allow a little bit of other stuff. And I know I can’t control what she eats elsewhere. I’ve really learned to let it go and let her make her own choices. And I do continue to talk about healthy food vs. unhealthy food, and how they affect the body. Not in a lecturing sort of way, but just mention it casually. She may roll her eyes, but I think it’s sinking in.

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  4. hello,
    When looking at teens & having concerns for nutritional needs. allow them to be the one directing their food choices as yes, they should have had a solid beginning for life & food choices to promote health.

    check out the websites that have nutritional smoothies..for athletes, body builders, or just health seeking teens…greensmoothiegirl.com or rawfamily.com both have some excellent choices for quick making & nutritious ideas for food to nourish their growing bodies..

    having had 4 teens at one time in our household I know how important good, raw snacks, and their choices can be for further health.

  5. I find that our kids are so much better behaved when they eat healthy. They love it if we bring along sliced apples, bell peppers, carrots etc as snacks. If they learn to snack on healthy foods, they won’t always be tempted to grab chips or candy.

  6. A friend told me a few weeks ago that her kids won’t touch veggies with their meals, but what she does is, during that pre-dinner cranky, ‘I’m hungry’ time – you know when everyone’s a bit tired, hungry, and your still trying to cook dinner, clean up, etc etc – she puts out a dish of crudite – just sliced raw veggies. And occasionally some berries or cut up fruit. And she says her kids will sit there quietly and eat all of it. I tried it, and had great success! Toddler ate the equivalent of 2 whole carrots & a cucumber, as well as 4 cherry tomatoes. It’s my favorite new trick 😉

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  8. o Educate, motivate and empower kids to eat healthy, and avoid toxic, addictive foods, drinks and ingredients.
    o An entire generation of kids and teens are hopelessly addicted to toxic ingredients including sugar, bad fats and salt and don’t even know it.
    o Experts predict that this generation might not outlive their parents.
    o Prevent our kids from becoming “Generation XXL”
    o The videos help kids WANT to eat healthy.
    Please help prevent tragic childhood obesity. Get kids to eat healthy. Great project. IGG.me/at/nancy

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