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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)...

See results

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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    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks a lot Kelsey, appreciated. :)

    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 

      5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great post! I found this so useful I shared it on a hub I wrote. Thanks so much for the tips!

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Glimmer Twin Fan, it's hard as a parent when you see your children eating really little. My daughter was eating close to nothing when she was a toddler, and always constipated.

      My main rule has always been similar to yours: I never forced her to eat, but I had strict rules for junk food too.

      Sometimes all they want are candies and chips, and the temptation is to let them have it because at least they have something in their belly. But It's much healthier for them if we play tough and only allow some things.

      When they are really hungry, grapes, cheese, and baby carrots will be enjoyable snacks.

      Thanks. :)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      8 years ago

      If only I could get my daughter to eat more...Our main rule in the house to get fruit into her is that before she can have any other afterschool snack she has to have a piece of fruit. She also loves those yogurt sticks frozen. It's her ice cream treat. Nice hub!

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Amy, I hope you find something he likes - even if it may take a few try for some foods. ;) Thanks a lot.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 

      8 years ago from Indiana

      I'm going to try some of these! My son is horribly picky, and I'm always looking for new ideas!

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Sure Marcy, come over. I promise I'll be easy on bedtime and chores for you. ;)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      8 years ago from Planet Earth

      Can I come over and pretend to be one of your kids? Everything looks so good.

      Voted up!

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      That's wonderful adjkp25, you guys are doing a great job! Thanks! :)

    • adjkp25 profile image


      8 years ago from Idaho

      I'm so glad my kids are not anything like I was growing up, I was very picky.

      Both of our kids eat a wide variety of things, some I still won't eat!

      Great ideas and they are easy too.

      Voted up and useful.

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Bert, I know what you mean about parents eating everything and children being picky. My youngest is still resisting some foods, but as long as she tries a bite each time, I'm not fighting it. She'll come around sooner or later. :) I appreciate your comment, thanks. :)

    • wayseeker profile image


      8 years ago from Colorado

      I love the presentation here of a host of options. My kids are picky, though I'm not sure why as neither I nor their mother have that issue. Nonetheless, it is always good to have more options!

      Thanks for sharing,


    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      myownlife, sometimes I think back at all the games and fun stuff I had to come up with my older child to make him eat when he was 2-3 years old ... it was fun for me too, but boy did I have to work for it! :) But he turned out to be a great eater, and now it is very rewarding.

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Yes, a captive and starving audience is surely very receptive. lol They do try to negotiate for sugary and fried stuff anyway, but I try to be firm and allow only healthy snacks, and maybe a candy afterward if they clean their plate.

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

    • myownlife profile image


      8 years ago from london

      Great ideas, some kids are really against eating but when they find it fun they want to try it at once, it is my own experience.


    • Nettlemere profile image


      8 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Very good suggestion about trying them with new foods at the point of arrival in the car after school! A captive 'starving' audience should mean new things have a chance of being sampled.

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      hi Roxanne and James, I hope you enjoy them. Let me know how it goes. :)


    • James McCullough profile image

      James McCullough 

      8 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      Really great ideas here. Going to have to try some of them out myself.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 

      8 years ago from Washington

      You have some really delicious and smart meals here! I'm definitely trying the lasagna tonight. Voted up! :)


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