Finding Your Kids’ Favorite Healthy Foods

My kids have some interesting favorite foods. Sugar snap peas probably lead the pack. They are perhaps not the greenest thing to buy, as I have no doubt that we’re getting them out of season, etc., but it’s hard to complain when your children are begging for something so good for them.

I’ve met a lot of parents who are quite envious that my kids like such things. Here’s some of how I figure out which healthy foods make great snacks.

1. Start early.

The sooner, the better. Pediatricians debate whether it works or not, but we started our kids on vegetables before fruits when they were babies. All I know is that we started on pureed green beans, and they’re also still a favorite. Grow them in the garden, and my kids will react as though we’re growing candy.

But even if they don’t like such snacks right away, you can work toward the goal of your kids preferring healthy snacks.

2. Stop keeping junk food around the house.

It may take time to cut things down. Good eating habits take time to develop. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Some unhealthy snacks can be switched out for healthy ones very easily. Make smoothies instead of serving fruit juice or sodas, and pour any excess into popsicle molds. There are tons of smoothie recipes out there, from ones that only use fruit to green smoothies.

Others are more challenging. We haven’t entirely given up candy in our household, although it’s mostly bought for holidays now, and eaten at the rate of 1-2 small pieces a day. It takes forever to get rid of even a small quantity that way, but also satisfies the urges.

3. Start a garden.

Kids generally love eating the foods they have harvested themselves from the garden. We teach our kids which plants they can snack freely from, and which they have to ask permission. Cherry tomatoes and other small varieties are a big hit around here. Sugar snap peas are also popular. Green beans fresh off the vine can be another amazing treat.

Our garden has always had a few simple rules. We point out which plants the kids can eat from freely. Others they have to ask, mostly to make sure that the plants aren’t damaged by overenthusiastic harvesting or to be sure everything can ripen before being eaten.

My kids and most of their friends get pretty much hooked on sweet basil most summers. Always good to be sure they know which leaves can be eaten safely. They’re taught down to the specific plant, so that anything that looks similar elsewhere is still off limits.

4. Buy healthy foods.

You would not believe how furious my kids were when apple prices went up too high for me to buy them apples for a time. It was great. Frustrating, but great.

It’s not easy keeping all the healthy foods local or in season, but do what you can. If you slip on this, at least the foods are better for your kids and quite possibly the environment than any processed snack could be.

5. Don’t give up.

It’s frustrating trying to change anyone’s eating habits. It is not going to happen after a single shopping trip. Take it a day at a time and even a food at a time as needed. Try foods raw as well as cooked in different ways. If something isn’t appealing, put it to the side for a time. Something else may work better.

Forcing a change of habit doesn’t generally work nearly as well as steadily making a change. Keep it up and things will work out.