18 ways to get kids excited about healthy food

Cara Rosenbloom, RD

My five-year-old daughter invented a new sandwich last week: mozzarella on whole wheat pita with sliced green grapes. Delicious!

It was make-your-own sandwich night – always a hit in my household. I lay out different breads, cheeses, vegetables and lean protein choices, and everyone builds their own creation.

Our sandwich night is just one way to give kids hands-on experience with food. There are lots of other ways – all opportunities to get children excited about eating well. Here are some things to try.

Go shopping

Bring your kids to the grocery store. It can serve as a vibrant classroom where lessons in math, reading, geography and science come alive in a fun, interesting way.

Everybody can:

  • select a new fruit or vegetable that you’ve have never tried before, and search online for a recipe that features it
  • learn the difference between everyday foods like apples, and treats such as cookies
  • work as a team to ensure the cart includes items from the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide.

Younger kids can:

  • complete a treasure hunt to find the foods on your shopping list
  • play I Spy in the brightly coloured vegetable and fruit section
  • practice math by counting items that they place in the shopping cart.

Older children can:

  • read ingredient lists and Nutrition Facts panels
  • hone math skills by figuring out which costs more, loose or bagged carrots
  • learn about local vs. imported foods. Have them write down a list of where different foods come from, and then check a globe or online atlas for context. Ask your kids how they think foods gets here and what that may cost.

Get cooking

Children who spend more time cooking tend to choose a wider variety of foods and are better equipped to make healthy choices. Plus, sharing kitchen duties gives you a chance to talk about likes and dislikes – especially useful for picky eaters, who may be more apt to try foods when they chose the recipe and help with preparation.  

So let your kids cook.

Younger children can:

  • learn to make a simple sandwich
  • put toppings on pizza
  • tear salad greens
  • measure and pour ingredients
  • stir things together.

Older kids can:

Children who learn to make something by themselves develop a sense of independence and a positive self-image.

But what if you don’t cook or bake – how will you teach your children? Start with a reliable cookbook and choose simple recipes with basic techniques – click here for our heart-healthy recipes with lots of kid appeal. Or, take a cooking class with your kids. Many community centres and grocery stores offer affordable classes that accommodate children. Learn something new together!

© – Reproduced with permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2012