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5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthful Foods

Written by Taylor Newman, MS/DI student | Edited by Laurel Sanville, MS, RDN, LD

 vegetable flower

It can be frustrating to get your children to eat nutritious foods. Kids tend to prefer sweet and salty foods over options like vegetables. Some kids might even refuse to try new foods. Don’t give up! It’s important to help your child develop healthy habits at a young age, as these habits can follow them in adulthood. Here are 5 fun and easy ways to help your child expand their taste buds!


1. Get your kids in the kitchen!

One of the best ways to get your child excited about healthy food is by letting them give you a hand in the kitchen. Allowing your child to help cook can increase positive feelings of ownership over the food and can lead to increased vegetable consumption[1]. It can also increase the total amount of food that they eat, so be sure to make their portion sizes appropriate. Some ways kids can help you in the kitchen include making home-made trail mix, cutting herbs with kid-friendly scissors, and helping peel a hard-boiled egg. Here are a few more ways your kids can be involved.


2. Make kid-friendly snacks

fruit face

Making kid-friendly healthy snacks can increase the chances that your child will eat them and hopefully—like them! Some ideas include making smiley faces with the food, making their plate colorful, and using fun recipes like ants on a log. Researchers have also found that naming vegetables catchy names can make kids more likely to eat them.[2] For example, carrots become “X-Ray vision carrots” (the vitamin A in carrots helps with vision!) and broccoli is “tiny tasty tree tops.”


3. Improve their favorites

Kids like pizza. Why not a blueberry dessert pizza? Kids enjoy mashed potatoes. What about making cauliflower mash instead? Kids crave quesadillas. How about stuffing some vegetables in for a fiesta quesadilla? Other ideas include making mini turkey burgers, baking chicken tenders instead of frying them, and making mac-n-cheese with low-fat cheese and broccoli.


4. Have a tiny taste test

Experts say that it can take offering your child a vegetable 8-15 times before they finally eat it.[3] That’s a lot! The good news is, experience with a new food can help your kids like it and eat more of it. Having a tiny taste test with your child outside of a regular meal time will give them the chance to try small amounts of foods they might not like without the stress of meal time.[4] Be sure not to criticize them if they choose not to eat it, but praise (“You’re a great taster!) can be encouraging for those that do. You can even give them a sticker to celebrate their tiny taste!


5. Eat the Rainbow

fruit kabobs

This challenge is fun and helps kids get excited about trying fruits and vegetables. The goal is to eat fruits or vegetables that match the colors of the rainbow. For example, a red pepper for red, an orange for orange, summer or crookneck squash for yellow, snap peas for green, blueberries for blue, and grapes for purple. They can try this challenge in one day or over the course of the week. When they eat all of the colors, reward your colorful superstar with a trip to the park or with a sticker!


Vegetable flower original photo source
Fruit smiley face original photo source
Rainbow fruit original photo source

[1] van der Horst, K., A. Ferrage, and A. Rytz. "Involving children in meal preparation. Effects on food intake." Appetite 79 (2014): 18.
[2] Wansink, Brian, et al. "Attractive names sustain increased vegetable intake in schools." Preventive medicine 55.4 (2012): 330-332.
[3] Cooke, Lucy. "The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review." Journal of human nutrition and dietetics 20.4 (2007): 294-301.
[4] Cooke, Lucy J., et al. "Facilitating or undermining? The effect of reward on food acceptance. A narrative review." Appetite 57.2 (2011): 493-497.