How can you get kids excited about healthy eating? How can you encourage them to eat healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables? The answer is: MAKE IT FUN!

The first sensory contact we have with our meals is through the eyes. “It looks good!” or “It looks disgusting!” We make a first judgment about the food on our plate even before we take the first bite. This is especially the case for children. The visual appeal of their cropped-fruits-salad2.jpgmeal has a very important impact on their willingness to try new foods or to eat more nutritious foods. Indeed, some studies have shown that visually appealing meals increase the acceptance and consumption of fruits and vegetables in children (1-2). So let’s prepare beautiful, colorful and fun meals!

 

Another way to get children excited about healthy food is to have them participate in meal preparation.Father son preparing foodIndeed, children’s involvement in meal preparation impacts their food preferences and has a positive effect on their vegetable intake (3-4). They might be more willing to eat the meal if they have helped to prepare it. And this is a perfect occasion for them to develop skills, learn about food and share pleasant family time. Many children enjoy being part of the process, from beginning to end, and are extremely proud of their achievements!

Thus, visually appealing meals and children’s involvement in meal preparation are two key points to make kids more excited about healthy eating. Here is a fun idea that mixes these two aspects:

 

Ask your children to arrange raw fruits and/or vegetables into a fun shape or design. Make different healthy ingredients available to them. This is the perfect opportunity for you to introduce new foods and to increase the diversity in your children’s plates. Let them mix the ingredients, shapes, colors, sizes, etc. and encourage them to tell a story on their plate. Then, they can name their creation!

The internet is a great place to find a lot of fun recipe ideas to prepare with your children.

So… What story are you going to tell in your plates today?

For additional resources visit the following USDA links:

Nibbles Newsletter

Kid-Friendly Fruits & Veggies

 

By Maëlis Horellou

Intern

Majoring in Human Health and Nutrition in France

 

References:

(1) Jansen E (2010). How to promote fruit consumption in children. Visual appeal versus restriction. Appetite; 54(3):599-602
(2) Wadhera D (2014). A review of visual cues associated with food on food acceptance and consumption. Eat Behav ; 15(1):132-43.
(3) Chu YL (2013). Involvement in home meal preparation is associated with food preference and self-efficacy among Canadian children. Public Health Nutr ; 16(1):108-12
(4) Van der Horst K (2014). Involving children in meal preparation. Effects on food intake. Appetite; 79:18-24.
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