Hub for reliable, timely news about COVID-19 pandemic

Kids and healthy foods: Creative ways to encourage kids to make better food choices

Data pix.

MILWAUKEE -- As a parent, mealtime can be maddening. Your kid hates a veggie they liked yesterday -- and refuses to try the new meal you serve the next day. What's a parent to do? Registered dietitian Lisa Grudzielanek with Metcalfe’s Market joins Real Milwaukee with some ways to encourage kids to eat better.

1. Start outside the kitchen with picky eaters

  • Read picture books with food characters. Stories can be referred to at mealtime.
  • Experiences such as strawberry/pumpkin picking, farmer`s markets, planting a garden and visiting a dairy farm add to the interest and can be referred to during mealtime.

2. Give them a say

  • Take your child along to the grocery store and let them pick out a new or favorite fruit or vegetable.
  • Meal planning: Have your child(ren) choose one night`s dinner that week.
  • Get them involved in the kitchen.

Age-appropriate tasks

  • 2-years old: Wipe the table, wash produce, tear lettuce, pull apart broccoli florets.
  • 3-years old: Mix and pour ingredients, knead or shape dough, toss items in the trash or recycle.
  • 4-years old: Peel oranges or hard-boiled eggs, shape cookies, cut parsley or green onions with a scissors, set the table.
  • 5-years old: Measure ingredients, cut soft foods with a plastic knife, beat eggs.

3. Start with a clear division of responsibilities

  • When it comes to food parents take full responsibility for what, when and where to eat, while kids choose how much and whether or not they eat.
  • Registered dietitian Ellyn Satter developed the theory — coined the 'Division of Responsibility in feeding' model — in the 1980s and 1990s. The version of this theory used by Pediatricians and Dietitians for many years now.
  • No need to 'force' kids to clean their plates with this division of shared responsibility. You would still choose whether they are offered dessert or snacks, though.
  • When a child rejects a certain food and we put pressure on the child to eat that food, it becomes a negative experience and a power struggle.

4. Make it a game

  • Color game- pick a color for your snack. Do you want blue or red? Do you want orange or green on your dinner plate? Each snack and meal include at least one color.
  • 'Try Foods,' where they are blindfolded and try to guess various foods based on taste.

5. Same food for all

  • Avoid short-order cooking. Share the message, 'We`re all in this together eating the same things'.
  • Offer alternatives to the meal you`ve prepared such as plain cottage cheese, plain yogurt or plain Cheerios; healthy yet boring alternatives, that will likely encourage the meal prepared.
  • Catering to kids` picky preferences drives the pickiness and never gives them a reason to try new foods

6. Keep at it

  • Lots of parents fall into the 'peas are the only vegetable my kid eats' trap; and then that parents serve peas every night.
  • It may take a dozen exposure before a food is accepted. If they don't eat it, don`t give up! Keep giving it a try.
Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.