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How to Get Kids to Try New and Healthy Foods

Updated on October 27, 2016
Robie Benve profile image

Born and raised in Italy, Robie loves good, healthy food (even better if it's easy to cook). She cooks every day for her family and friends.

Teaching our children to be open minded towards food is one of the best gifts we can give them.

The food we like as adults is based on our experiences while growing up.

When you learn to eat healthy as a child, you'll eat healthy all your life.

But if don't eat healthy as a child, it 's not guarantee that you'll start eating healthy when you get older.

Tips on how to get children to try new foods, with examples of dishes that my children would eat at enjoy on a regular basis.
Tips on how to get children to try new foods, with examples of dishes that my children would eat at enjoy on a regular basis. | Source

Children Prefer Fun and Simple Food

Sometimes to make the kids try new food, or eat less favorite dishes, it takes a little bit of humor and creativity.

If it looks serious and "too healthy", they might get suspicious. But make it fun and you get much higher chances they'll eat what from healthy and nutritious becomes a special treat.

Simple ways to do this is to lay food on the plate so it forms a face, or their name's initials, or cute little animals.

So feel free to put your personal fun spin on any of the dishes presented below.

Food can be fun and put a smile on your face :)
Food can be fun and put a smile on your face :) | Source

Most Foods Are Acquired Tastes

It may take children several tries to like a food, so don't get frustrated if they refuse to eat what you serve, it might just mean they haven't acquired that taste yet.

Keep offering them small quantities of less-liked foods, while you offer also a selection of other options.

But the best thing you can do for them is to role model healthy eating habits, they will be more likely to try foods that you seem to enjoy.

Heart Shaped Pancakes
Heart Shaped Pancakes | Source

Have Simple and Healthy Snacks Handy

The moment my children get out of school and into my car, it always sounds like this: "Hi mom,I'm starving!".

They make it sound like they are going to die in the five minute drive to our house.

They would eat the worst junk food to satisfy this hunger, but on the other side, they are so hungry that they don't say no to healthier alternatives.

So my focus is to avoid oily, fried, or sugary treats and offer them only food that makes me feel I'm doing a good job as a mom, like grapes, baby carrots, or cheese and crackers for snack.

Toasted bread, butter and jam, or fruit spread.
Toasted bread, butter and jam, or fruit spread. | Source

Butter and Fruit Spread Bread Toast

This is one of their favorite, especially since wen they have learned to make it themselves.

Put two slices of white Italian bread, with a bit of butter, into the toaster oven. The butter will melt, spread it around with a knife, then spread fruit spread of their choice or jam over the butter.

For a change, my son substitutes the fruit spread with honey, and my girl likes to sprinkle some sugar on the butter and eat it that way, accompanied by a glass of milk.

Bread and a chocolate spread, like Nutella. Yummy!
Bread and a chocolate spread, like Nutella. Yummy! | Source

Cheap Pasta Dishes

Pasta allows to serve a good fulfilling meal and keep it cheap.

You can season pasta with so many things, from the cliche' tomato sauce, to leftover veggies or meats from last night's dinner. Many leftovers can become pasta seasoning, with a little bit of creativity and minimum editing, like dicing, adding heavy cream, etc.

Butter, Parmesan Cheese and Corn Pasta

As a variation from the above you can add corn from a can to the hot pasta, no need to warm the corn up, just drain and mix in.

The corn adds some texture, color and sweetness to the pasta. Start with a little bit, and see how it’s received before you add more.

Simple Buttered Pasta with Parmesan Cheese

This is an easy-as-it-gets dish. You only need the time for the pasta to cook, then:

  • Drain the pasta
  • Put it in a bowl with one tablespoon of butter per portion
  • Add few spoons of the pasta’s cooking water (that you have kept from draining)
  • Stir while hot
  • Add Parmesan cheese

I haven’t found a child that doesn’t like it yet.

A nice home made pasta dish is healthy, nutritious, and most children simply love pasta. - Penne Carbonara
A nice home made pasta dish is healthy, nutritious, and most children simply love pasta. - Penne Carbonara | Source

Pasta with homade meat sauce

I make my meat sauce with lean ground beef, tomato sauce and minced vegetables.

The recipe is a variation of the original Bolognese sauce, and the veggies make it healthier and probably tastier. I freeze it in plastic containers and use it as needed on any kind of pasta or gnocchi.

Lasagna Bolognese

The Bolognese lasagna is particularly creamy, because it has béchamel sauce, grated cheese, and the meat sauce I mentioned above.

With the no cooking needed lasagna noodles, it takes only 45 minutes of baking for this delicious dish to be ready.

Homemade Lasagna Bolognese
Homemade Lasagna Bolognese | Source

Is Your Child a Picky Eater?

While serving dinner to your child(ren)...

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Raw Veggies

Raw veggies retain all the vitamins and the nutrients, and being crunchy, are preferred by many children, especially those sensitive to texture.

My daughter would not eat cooked veggies for the first five years of her life, but she would squirm in delight any time I gave her a crunchy veggie snack.

I usually wash the veggies and serve them on a simple plastic container, and my children like them plain, but of course they are great with seasoning or dip, according to taste.

Some examples:

  • Baby carrots
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Celery sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflowers.

Cooked Veggies

In the cooked veggie category you can really go overboard with ideas, and make sophisticated or rather plain dishes, like steamed carrots.

Here are some ideas from my Italian heritage:

Stirred Broccoli

I cook my broccoli, frozen or fresh, with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic and onions, some parsley, salt and pepper.

I also add some water at the beginning and cove to make sure they cook all the way through, but I don’t make them too mushy.

Spinach with Onion and Garlic

Believe it or not, my children love spinach.
Whether I get my spinach fresh, frozen, or from a can, I always season them in a pot with finely chopped onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in some olive oil.

Cooked spinach can be used as a side dish, you can mix them with ricotta cheese and season a pasta, or stuff giant shells for a baked dish. You can also use spinach in spanakopitas.

Spinach has the characteristic of feeling funny on your teeth, and to avoid that I add some butter and lemon juice towards the end.

Green Beans in a Pan.

Very similar to the broccoli recipe, I cook the green beans in a big pot with EVOO, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley.

Add some water at the beginning, cover and stir 2-3 times for about 30 minutes.

Pan Roasted Potatoes
Pan Roasted Potatoes | Source

Pan Roasted Potatoes

This is by far the most welcome veggie dish for my children, I guess since I don’t like giving them French fries, this is the closest they can get. Lol

I cut the skinned potatoes in little cubes, and cook them in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, and a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. They get crunchy on the outside and soften inside, and the rosemary and garlic makes them really yummy.

By Robie Benve

© 2012 Robie Benve


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