How To Get Kids To Enjoy Food Time

Working with kids and their food choices can be tough, especially as our home and work life is mixed! I don't have little kiddos yet but working with clients I try to bring variety into their home and make it fun.

We all know kids can love something one minute and then turn around to hate it the follow day. The main reason kids taste buds are always changing and evolving! However, kids also just want a say in what they're eating. As parents you decide when they go to bed, wake up and even play time. So kids have the option to choose what they put into their bodies too!  

As a parent you get to decide what food goes on that plate and in turn the kids get to decide how much they actually want to eat. Now this could be the whole plate or nothing at all. It's a great tool to encourage your young ones to try a variety of foods on their terms. The more they see these food choices, the more they may want to try over time.  

The great news is that getting your kids to eat doesn’t have to be stressful. You can help improve their love for food at any age.  Let's get them involved in the decision making process from buying the food to helping make their meal. It's all about giving them options and responsibility. 

Think About Snacks: How to Health-ify Daytime Snacking
When you're thinking about building those snacks to keep their energy levels up between the three big meals of the day. It's important to think of snacks as you would with those larger meals by focusing on (lean protein, fiber, fruits and veggies). It's all about giving variety. 

Looking for snack suggestions for the little one or just yourself? Look no further!

Protein + Fruit: We're always on the go from traveling to work or out on errands, so that means snacks are essentials and must be quick. What’s faster than a string cheese paired with a piece of fruit, like a clementine or try a hard boiled egg? My favorite option add some nut butter and put it on apple slices. There are even options for pre-packaged nut or seed butter for a no mess car option. 

Pre-Packaged Snacks: Now sometimes it's hard to make fresh granola bars at home or fruit leathers from scratch. If buying pre-made snacks helps eliminate stress, then go for it. However, make sure to read the labels and check the ingredients.  Look for real foods with no added sugar, artificial sweeteners or colors! A good example is dried fruit, as may fruit options are packed with added sugar instead of just the natural fruit sugars. 

Trying A Bite or Two of Everything: Like I mentioned before kids taste buds are always changing and are sensitive to salty and sweet food items. This means they may not like those carrots or broccoli but if you add a yogurt dip to that carrot, it might make it more palatable. Think about having a variety of dips available in the fridge like hummus or greek yogurt to use as a base. When it comes to buying pre-made dressing like ranch just remember to read the labels for minimal ingredients.  If you do have the time, you can batch out dressings with herbs and spices too!

Make Your Own Snacks Together: A great way to engage with kids is to make a batch of snacks with them. Get them involved by making muffins, granola bars or cookies so they know what is going into that lunchbox. 
Check out a simple way to get kids involved by making these Pumpkin Blender Muffin Recipe together!

Make Your Own Trail Mix Together
  • Nuts and seeds: Select dry, roasted, when possible
  • Whole grain cereals or popcorn: For some added crunch and a little variety, choose options with whole grains and read the label for added sugar or artificial colors.
  • Dried fruits: Consider things like cherries, raisins and pineapple chunks.
  • Sweet extras: Chocolate can make anyone happy and a little chocolate goes a long way. Choose one that has more than 60% cacao.

Task Your Kids to Make Their Own Lunch
Now, lunch can be a fun project to let your kids experiment in the kitchen with you. You can lay out all the options for them and then they can build what sounds good to them. Maybe they want a peanut butter and jelly one day and a turkey sandwich the next. Its about giving them some control with their food choices.  

Sometimes a sandwich just doesn't sound good. But that's not a problem, as you can get creative with food groups and give them these simple guideline. Again, lay out all the option on the counter for them to decide. 
Pick 3 food groups:
  • Carbs (crackers, pasta, bread, sweet potatoes)
  • Veggies (raw or cooked)
  • Fruit (whole vs. dried)
  • Protein 
  • Dairy
Some Ideas (even for adults too):
  • Tortilla wraps with veggies, protein and greek yogurt
  • Tuna salad with veggies and a side of fruit
  • Yogurt bowl with fruit and nuts 
  • Nut or seed butter with fruit, veggies or whole grain bread
  • Hummus dip with crackers and bell peppers 
  • Build your own pizza and have for leftovers with some crunchy veggies

To give your kids all the options, provide them with pre-cut veggies or fruits and walk them through the kitchen so they know where they can find pantry snacks to fridge goodies.   Even better get them their own kitchen apron, kid safe tools and stool, so they can cook right alongside with you. Building that healthy relationship with food starts when they are young. Get them excited to make their own food and have fun along the way. maybe get them a cookbook and have them choose what dinner will be one night a week. 

These are just some ideas to help engage your kids while eating. You can get as creative as you like and remember to always talk to them about what they like and do not like. You never know, they might have some creative meal ideas too!
Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences for obstacles when it comes to getting your kids to eat a variety of foods!? 

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