Getting a Child to Eat Healthier

Hi Everyone! No I didn’t completely drop off the earth life simply got busy. This has been a crazy summer where I have been trying to get as much done outdoors as possible to make up for not getting as much accomplished last year.

Mixed in with the work on my home I have also been asked to help or at least give direction to others wanting to do some DIY on their homes.  Turns out an old lady in a wheelchair who builds furniture and restores an old house will inspire others to learn new skills and improve their homes as well. 🙂  I’ll tell you all about this in coming posts. I won’t promise you a post a day like I used to write but I’ll try to post at least once a week until things slow down.

Getting a Child to Eat Healthier

Each of my grandchildren has particular likes and dislikes when it comes to food. My oldest granddaughter loves salads but her brother doesn’t. He grew his own lettuce and was excited to try it but still didn’t like it.

This summer the lettuces took hold and grew prolifically in my garden. The youngest granddaughter who hates lettuce of any kind, even if it’s just sitting on the edge of her plate has to have it removed before she will eat from the plate, decided she was going to try my lettuce.

lettuce

At first all she would try from the garden were the strawberries but this year the lettuce was there and had to be sampled. Pretty soon she was picking and eating it so fast I was concerned there wouldn’t be any left. Her mother was shocked to see her eating a piece and held her breath waiting for her daughter to spit it out, she didn’t. Her father when told she ate my lettuce declared that she would only do that at my house.

One afternoon she asked me me two questions. Could she spend the night and would I make her a salad.

She made a huge production out of it. First she cut wild flowers (and weedy flowers) to dress up the table.

setting-the-table

When that was in place she clipped the lettuce and found a cucumber, another food she previously declared gross when introduced to it, big enough to pick and of course had to pick all the ripened strawberries to have for dessert.

salad-beginnings

She put on her apron and helped to rinse and dry the lettuce and slice the cucumber.

the-chef

The berries were next, she carefully washed each one and set them on a “pretty rag” for dessert.  I have a mix of ever-bearing strawberries with the more common June only berries which gives us a small taste late in the summer but not much more until they spread in another couple of years.

late-summer-strawberries

The table was set with cloth napkins, the only kind found in my house and we sat down for dinner. She served us giving herself the largest serving of veggies and sat down to eat.

first-salad

As we finished dinner she asked if she could call her mom. The first words out of her mouth were “Can you buy me salad? I like salad.”  Mom was thrilled and did just that. Since that afternoon mom has been making her different salads trying a new one for lunch each day. So far I’m told the caesar salad is the best.

My tips for getting a child to eat healhier

  • introduce healthy options as early as possible
  • don’t force them to do more than taste a food the first few times while their taste buds adjust to a new flavor
  • allow them to help prepare the meal
  • Make a production out of it. Use the good china, cloth napkins, fancy glasses and set the table with flowers or a candle.
  • Grow a couple foods in your yard or in a container. If you can, give children their own small plot or container to plant any food they choose.
  • Finally, be patient. Taste buds change and what might not taste good today might next month or next summer.

What tips do you have to interest children in healthy food options?

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40 comments

  1. Lois, it all worked wonderful…glad she is loving salad…

    Look forward to more reports on how you are inspiring other DIY.

    a funny story about kids/ eating..

    My son was always a pretty good eater. He was always, also, helping, and doing himself in the kitchen. From about one and half, when he could stand on a chair at the kitchen cupboard, he would “cook”, or help prepare.

    One thing he liked to “cook” on his own (since I had made so often too), was homemade soup. By about two and half he would take a pot and in would go this and that, and (choke) every spice in the house. Dad would come home to “soup” and was a very good sport and choke down a bowl, and I would pretty much choke down a small bowl, and he would have a very very small bowl. Well, this went on three or four times, he would ask if he could make soup, and then when he wasn’t looking I would chuck the leftovers..etc..

    One day, he asks if he can make soup, and Dad and I looked at each other, and by golly, we just were not relishing choking down yet another bowl of grossly / highly / over spiced “soup”.

    Not wanted to discourage him, I struck gold with my inspired answer..
    “Of course, but only if you eat it with us. You have been going to such hard work, and then you sit and watch us eat, and we feel REALLY bad and sad that you work so hard and do not eat with us”..

    I still recall, this little kid looked long and hard at us…I think he was trying to see if we / I were sincere (I was ..sort of),
    and what I was really meaning.

    He then said, “ok”, and I let me at it..
    OMG

    Soup was totally excellently spiced/ etc… And form then on, (seriously) he has been a chef quality cook.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great story! You and your husband deserve parents of the year awards for eating his soup. 🙂 The latest fad with my grand kids has been asking to bake. Of course there isn’t much in the cake, muffin recipes that’s all that healthy but a treat now and again is good for the soul.

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      • grin…well, we could only eat so much of that highly spiced soup (and one of the spices was rather a LOT of pickling spice…yuck)

        re your grandkids and baking , that is good too, and yes, a body needs a treat..
        maybe the kids could be interested in “expanding ” the baking a bit..
        grated zucchini or carrot or potato in muffins is good etc..
        also, take a muffin tin, butter, press a slice of bread in to it, and “fill”…scrambled eggs, cheese, leftover veg/meat
        etc…

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  2. What a fantastic story! What kind of lettuce is that in the photo? It looks a lot like baby spinach to me.

    I obviously haven’t experienced this from the adult end, but I can remember some trials and tribulations with different foods when I was a kid. Sometimes it was simply the way my mother prepared things that I didn’t like. Spinach, for example – she always cooked it to death and then smothered it with lemon juice and vinegar – I thought it was disgusting. Imagine my shock the first time I was treated to a raw spinach salad. I couldn’t believe how delicious it was! I didn’t discover that cooked spinach could be delicious until I discovered an Italian/Greek restaurant where they made spinach calzones – sauteed spinach & onions with feta cheese in filo dough pastry shells smothered with marinara sauce – just delicious!

    There were also other healthy foods that I never got to try because my mother hated them – like beans. I have a very clear memory of going out to eat one day when I was a teenager. The soup du jour was lentil. My mother was like “don’t order that, you’ll hate it.” So, naturally, I had to order it just to piss off my mother. Turned out it was absolutely delicious!

    Anyhow, I guess my point is that it’s probably a challenge not to let one’s own taste get in the way when introducing children to new foods.

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    • The lettuce is a combination of a mild leafy green romaine and a slightly stronger red leafy romaine. I grow these because they grow back so quickly after snipping that I can guarantee I will have at least one salad a day most of the summer months.

      I think you and I have a lot in common, both in how we learned to eat certain foods and in how rebellious we were. I would have done the same thing you did to your mother in the restaurant. 🙂

      I know exactly what you mean about the way foods are prepared. So many vegetables I refused to eat for years because I couldn’t get past the smell from them being boiled to death. And spinach, no way. My grandmother didn’t like spinach so refused to make it leaving my grandfather to purchase canned spinach for when he craved it. The smell nearly knocked me over. Years later, trying not to pass on to my boys my picky eating I would let them buy one new produce item to try. One week my son picked fresh spinach. I made him a salad and he loved it so much he insisted I try his salad. I worked so hard to provide the atmosphere of healthy eating and feared refusing would turn him off so I took a bite (prepared to be violently sick from it I should add) and was shocked that I loved it.

      I too learned I could like spinach cooked when I tried a calzone made exactly like what you described.

      As for the children, I try very hard not to let them know which foods I don’t like. One exception would be tomatoes. I can’t eat them raw because they upset my stomach. I’ve simply told the children that part of the truth. But beyond how my body reacts to them I don’t like the texture of the raw tomato.

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  3. So pleased your granddaughter is eating salads.. Its what I aim for eventually with my granddaughter.. Her mother doesn’t like Tomatoes and some greens, so she has followed suit picking up on those vibes.. I too tell her that her taste buds will change.. She eats cucumber and will eat home made tomato soup.. But not fresh ones.. and although she eats greens.. She says she doesnt like lettuce.. So I patiently wait and will try later, but I too never force, just ask her if her taste buds are ready ..
    Glad you have been busy and all is well Lois.. Love to you my friend Enjoy your weekend Hugs Sue ❤

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    • Sue, it’s so hard to watch a child pick up on the parents dislikes, and fears. I had to carefully remind my one daughter-in-law not to let the children see that she’s afraid of all wild animals. She’s not only afraid of bugs but birds, frogs etc. I do hope your granddaughter will get beyond these dislikes soon. My oldest granddaughter announced recently that she loved salads but not spinach. It was such a surprise that I burst out laughing. She wanted to know why I was laughing and I had to tell her she’s been eating spinach for years. When she was about three she was at my house and asked for a salad. All I had was spinach on hand so her mother suggested I tell her it was lettuce. When she devoured the plate of spinach her mother decided spinach was healthier than lettuce so has been making her salads with mostly spinach since that day. Luckily, for all of us, my granddaughter laughed at the story and now asks for spinach first. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • too funny re the spinach salad..
        reminds me, years ago, we had two young nieces stay for a few days….(about ten or so yrs of age)…Anyway, their Mom very concerned/seriously, told me the one could not/did not eat anything but green apples. She could not/would not eat red apples. Niece told me too.

        I made them a snack, and all I had was red apples. but you know, red apples often have bits of green in the skin (at least these did). So I peeled them, and just left the green skin bits on (accidently of course). Apples were eaten/enjoyed and I was thanked. No sick stomach or other signs of distress …

        couple of days of eating apples like this, and the niece commented on how it was good I only gave them green skinned apples as she didn’t care for red skinned ones. I then told her what she had been eating, and she was a bit mad at me….ah well

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        • I’m sure she was mad, no one likes being called out on their preferences but in this case I hope she walked away and took the time to reconsider her aversion to the red apples and maybe even more foods she had rejected before that.

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      • hahaha.. Yes its true it is often what is planted in young minds that stick.. I keep trying to temp but not push her to try new things.. I hope as the years progress she eats healthier options.. As that is all that is on offer here, apart from the odd icecream and pudding 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Lois, I agree with you completely that if you involve the kids in the growing and the preparation of food, they are much more likely to eat it! That’s a cute story about the salad and your grand-daughter–cute pics, too! I read a great book a couple of years ago called “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman–it is all about how living in France showed her a whole new perspective on “training” kids to eat healthier with less issues of fussiness. Kids in France don’t have all of these different “kids meals” prepared for them (no chicken nuggets, fish sticks, etc.); and there is no snacking between meals. If they don’t like what’s for dinner after they’ve tried it, they don’t need to eat it–but the parents don’t cook them a different meal either. They learn to eat what is offered to them. I highly recommend the book! Very interesting to see how another culture raises kids to be healthier.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joy, you are a wealth of good ideas. I’ve added that title to my wishlist and look forward to finding and reading it. I’ve heard a lot about how the French both eat and shop and it intrigues me very much. A lot of what you describe sounds a lot like how I was raised. We didn’t have snacks, not permitted. We were told to eat as much as we wanted at mealtime because it would have to hold us over until the next meal.

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  5. You are a wise woman indeed! Patience is what’s called for with children. My son ate well as a youngster but is more picky now. I never forced them to eat anything. My daughter wouldn’t eat anything when she was little and was so tiny we were afraid she would blow away. Her dad screamed at her every meal that he was home for to EAT! I told him she would when she was hungry. Now she has the most versatile palate of the whole family. Willing to try anything almost. We didn’t have gardens in those days and I knew nothing about fresh foods. Didn’t have them either. I am so glad that is all changing. Had tomato on toast for lunch today. 🙂 Yum. Don’t think I’d have the energy for grandchildren at my age but you are doing an excellent job.

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    • My youngest granddaughter is like your daughter. She’s picky and barely eats much at a meal and tiny–oh wow is she tiny. None of us have forced any food on her and it’s worked because she’s now trying new foods and her parents tell everyone when she decides she likes a new food they can add to their menus for her.

      As for your husband, I would have wanted to smack him for yelling at a child over food.

      It’s a funny thing about children. They adjust how they behave for who they are with. A good friend of mine had six children and was blind. Her children never pushed the boundaries, kept the floors tidy out of concern for her etc. Me, I had my own disability and could never run after a child so none tried to run away. Today, they all seem to realize my limitations and what they try to pull on other adults they never do with me. My friend and I determined that children assume an able-bodied parent will always catch them and therefore test the boundaries whereas our children didn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I read this part of the comment second. You are right. Children are extremely insightful. I never chased mine even though I could. I could give them a “look” that said everything. My MIL was awful about feeding kids too. Too much food on the plate for a little one and demanded it all be eaten. I got in a lot of trouble by going against her too. 🙂

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    • Hit the wrong button too soon. The point I was attempting to make was that if you had grandchildren or other little ones around, they too would adjust to meet your situation instead of expecting you to meet theirs.

      Liked by 1 person

          • I used to be fearful too. I think every generation has been. I think there is a plan in all that’s going on and all will really and truly end up well for them. It’s taken my a long time to get to that point but it helps to keep your eye on what’s good in the world.

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          • I sure hope you are right. When the fear starts to grab hold of me I turn it around and involve the children in activities that will teach them skills they can use to hopefully make life easier on them later.

            Liked by 1 person

          • You have taught them a lot of wonderful things already. The most important being gratitude for what they have. The rest will come. They are lucky you are in their lives. You are essential to hem.

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          • Absolutely! I had a friend much older than me who survived 3 rounds of cancer to continue raising 3 great grandchildren that the father couldn’t and the mother wouldn’t. Being needed is vital to our health.

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          • Wow that’s amazing. Three rounds of cancer. Once was enough for me but giving up isn’t in my nature so I guess I’d fight it too. Children are great medicine because with them comes unexpected moments of laughter and we all know laughter is the best medicine. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad to hear that you are well and busy, Lois. You give good suggestions for getting kids to try different things. I did with my kids what my mother did with me. They had to try a spoonful of everything, but didn’t have to eat anymore than that if they didn’t like it. And involving kids in the growing and prep is always a good idea. I remember one time I made applesauce with all of the kids in the neighborhood and they all loved it. I got several comments from parents about how now their kids liked applesauce and they didn’t like it before.

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    • Hi, Live and Learn. I can’t believe I was missing for nearly a month, how time flies.
      You are amazing in how you’ve shared your time with the children in your neighborhood. I can’t picture a child that doesn’t like applesauce, what a strange food to dislike.

      I too ask children to try a bite but never required them to eat more if they didn’t like it. My granddaughter shocked us all this summer by finally liking watermelon. She loves all fruit except melons but takes a bite every time we have them. Even growing her own she didn’t like it then this summer she took the one bite of mine and declared she loved it and took my wedge and finished it. Unfortunately, I’d really wanted that watermelon and didn’t have any more in the house.

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  7. My son is 16, and I’m still waiting. We tried everything on your list. He hates vegetables, though he will eat them now – but only by cutting them up into teeny bits and swallowing them whole!

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    • Your son is hilarious! At least he’s found a way to eat his vegetables. 🙂 I thought for a long time that it was more boys than girls who struggled with liking vegetables but recently I’ve been seeing a lot more girls refuse to eat them.

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  8. I was wondering where you’d got to Lois. I’m looking forward to hearing about your coaching adventures. That’s very satisfying when children learn, because of you, that vegetables are actually good. My daughter wouldn’t eat cooked veges – would have a platter of raw ones every night. She mostly still eats them raw, even now that she’s 23, but has learned to eat cooked veg too.

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    • Hello Anne. Yes, I got so busy that any downtime I spent sleeping. 🙂

      I wouldn’t complain if a child wanted to eat raw veggies only, and a platter of raw vegetables every night is most mother’s dream for their child.

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  9. great article! i’ve done an article on healthy recipes! one of which is banana pancakes which have no refined sugar at all and are incredibly healthy! would mean a lot if you could check it out and give it a thumbs up 🙂 great read again !!!

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