How to Find Healthier Foods That My Kids Will Actually Eat?

Updated on March 30, 2011
N.G. asks from Bel Air, MD
15 answers

My kids are super picky eaters, which makes it hard for me to get them to eat healthy stuff. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to find foods that are healthy but also taste good? Btw they are 5 and 7. :)

Rachel - Great suggestions; my kids DO eat pizza & spaghetti, so I'll have to try that. Very sneaky, lol! Other favorites are mac & cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fruit snacks (not the healthy kind), and sugary cereals. I would die in shock if they ate a raw vegetable, even with dip.

James - Thanks for the Kid Kritics recommendation! Looks like a great site.

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answers from San Francisco on

Mine always liked cut up veggies as long as there was dip with it. She wouldn't eat it without the dip though. I did red pepper strips, baby carrots and snap peas...

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answers from Detroit on

Mine is the opposite to Susan's will eat veggies as long as there is no dip LOL.

I find mine to be most receptive during a car ride. I toss them an apple or a bag of baby carrots on the way home from school.

Here are some yummy healthy suggestions
1. frozen wild blueberries. I toss a bowlful in the microwave for just 30 sec to defrost them a little bit. My littlest one can not get enough of them

2. English cucumber = I slice them into half moons and arrange them in a row at opposite directions so the curves are alternating to mimic a snake. A raisin for the eye and a slice of red pepper for the tongue.

3. Mangoes

4. Nuts

5. Add spinach to soups. We drop an egg (white but whole should be healthy for kids) and a cup of baby spinach to our chicken noodle soup.

6. Ants on a log... celery, peanut butter and raisins

7. Hot dogs are not exactly healthy .... maybe a turkey dog ...cut in about 8 bite size cylinders...skewer with 4 whole grain dry spaghetti noodles each ...boil and you have spider dogs

8. Our favorite soup...boil a good quality beef for about half an hour on medium... drain...boil again with new water...salt and pepper to taste...add crushed ginger ( I used about a thumb size...peel it ..whack it and drop it in the water). If you can find it add lemon grass...bring to a boil then lower heat to medium...add vegies..we prefer baby bokchoy or celery cabbage...add tomatoes ( we prefer vine ripe) cook for another 15-20 minutes and serve on a bowl with fresh basil. I put the fresh basil on the bowl and top it with the soup.

9. Scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese

10. Daninino

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

I shred veggies or puree them and hide them in other foods ;) Lasagna, pizza, spaghetti sauce, you name it!! My girls are awesome eaters, but I've had friends with picky eaters. What kinds of stuff WILL your kids eat? I'm the master at hiding fruits and veggies!!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You don't indicate how old your kids are but here is my take on things. In my house the kids eat what we eat. The at least have to try new things. We often enjoy tons of foods together. So my kids will eat different fruit and vegetables and are encouraged to try new things. Some of us suffer from food allergies occassionally but haven't had any major problems. For instance, I love kiwi's and mangos. I'm allergic to both. So I just have to keep an eye on any presymptoms that may come up.

The kids are excited about the foods I'm excited about. If they see me eating it they want to at least try it. We just don't give in to their saying they don't like this or don't like that. Typically they are just saying this without actually having tried it yet. Also we will try to prepare things differently. Perhaps I don't like cooked carrots but I do like them raw. They should be encouraged to try different things. Also hiding foods is good too but I rather keep trying. I've never seen my kids starve themselves. They like food too much and they are now 23, 22, 20, 18, 16, 16, and 15 years old and they love trying new things. Some of the boys are far more adventurous than I am. I'm proud of them but I still don't want to eat frogs legs. ;-)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My only real advice is stop giving them junk/buying junk, start serving healthy meals with good carbs, veggies, fruits and unfried meats at every meal and nothing else. Your kids will learn to eat healthy foods, eventually even like them and they will not starve themselves.
One more thing-do not resort to hiding veggies in the junk they already like. By doing so, you aren't improving their eating habits, making them healthier eaters or teaching them to choose healthy options. You're just teaching them to eat the same old junk, while allowing yourself to say your kids eat veggies. If presented with veggies, they still will refuse them, if their only exposure to them is when they're hidden.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You got great advice but I also would like to add to just try even if you don't think they will like.
One day we were at a friend house and she ask me if my toddler could eat raw celery and carrots with dressing. I told her she could but probably wont.
I was wrong and she love them.
Another day we were having green beans alone (no dressing and just a little cooked) I just put them in her plate thinking she wouldn't eat them, but she start calling them green grass and eat them all.
Same with brocolie, so just keep trying because they may surprise you one day.

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answers from Dallas on

Just a suggestion. If your kids will only eat those items how about not buying them anymore especially the fruit snacks and sugary cereal. If you dont have them then they cant eat them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Keep offering healthy food to your kids. I always made healthy meals, meat, potatoes, a veggie and salad, my kids had to eat a little of all of it. I never believed in making kids clean their plate, you don't know how hungry they really are. And I know too many adults whose parents insisted they clean their plate as kids and were way overweight and still cleaning their plates even though they were stuffed full. But I digress, if you keep offering good food to your kids and tell them they only have to eat 2-3 pieces they will learn to eat almost everything. All 4 of my kids and the 3 grandkids old enough to eat food, eat everything I put in front of them. My granddaughter, 10, was here last night, I made fish filets with a few shrimp, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, no salad. My granddaughter said she didn't like peas and picked the diced carrots out of her veggie. I simply explained that I love her and would never give her food that wasn't good for her and she had to eat some of her peas, she did. Her dad, my son, said 'how did you get her to eat peas? I replied by saying, 'you lived with me as a child, don't you remember I always made you eat everything?' Of course he laughed and nodded.
One more point no one was ever allowed to say ' I don't like ..' or 'that's yukky' in front of my kids. If you were a guest in my home and eating a meal with my kids, you sucked it up and ate a little of everything. Kids are so impressionable you can tell them how good green beans are and one person comes over and says 'yuk green beans' and they often won't eat them. So everything in my kitchen was yummy.

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answers from Honolulu on

Here is a good interesting article, from ABC news, on picky eaters:

Only buy healthy stuff and to have in the home.
Don't buy junk. Then that way they will not eat junk.

Lots of healthy foods taste good. It is how you cook it.
Whole Foods also has great natural snacks.
Many grocery stores now, also have aisles dedicated to good healthy organic foods/snacks.
The brand "Stacy's Naked Pita Chips" are a good alternative. They have it in grocery stores.
Here is a link about it:

You just have to 'choose' to buy more healthy foods, then bring it home.
Don't bring home junk.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I would just start feeding them what you and DH/DP are eating (assuming you are eating healthy meals). Get the hot dogs, chicken nuggets, candy and sugary cereals out of the house completely.

DS (5) has eaten what we have eaten since he started solids. He has preferences (so does everyone) but for the most part he eats what we serve. We do not offer foods that are not part of the meal and we do not provide other food if he choses not to eat what we serve (which has happened once in 5 years). He is also part of our meal planning, shopping and gardening.

We have a whole grain item (cereal, whole grain pancakes/waffles, french toast) and fruit for breakfast , occasionally eggs. Plus milk. For dinner - generally fish, chicken, whole grain pasta, lamb, occasionally beef, probably 2 or 3 veggie meals a week. Plus fruit for dessert. We don't make a big deal about an individual food - since we only serve foods we are happy if he eats - it's not a big deal if one meal he eats mostly broccoli but no fish and the next meal, mostly fruit and no grains. It balances out.

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answers from Washington DC on

Do you know about Kid Kritics? Their whole mission is to identify food products that are healthier for kids to eat but also taste great. All products are kid-tested and awarded the "Kid Kritics Approved" seal of approval if they pass.

I'd recommend taking a look at the products featured on their site to get some ideas. Actually, right now they're even doing a giveaway where you could win a whole case of free food products:

Their site has helped me discover a lot of great brands & products I'd otherwise never know about, and my kids have loved most things we've tried.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

Every day for lunch, I do a pre-lunch for my 2 kids. I sit out a plate of raw carrots, celery, and sliced apples with a few spoon fulls on peanut butter. I don't bring out anything else until that plate is eaten. They LOVE PB. (9 times out of 10 it get eaten), then I will bring out a small sandwich or soup, and some days when they have ate well, they get a special desert. It works for us.

Occasionally I feed them spaghetti o's. The tomato sauce is good for then. I have also somehow gotten them to like salsa (mild). Also other soups that have alphabet noodles, or other kid friendly things inside are appealing and they accidentally get a carrot or corn in with each bite :)

I make jello sometimes and add in mandarin oranges, apples, pears or peaches. One dollop of cool whip and they think it's as good as a hot fugde sundae!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My 5YO is a pretty good eater, but my husband is pretty picky. I sauté whatever veggies I want and then stick them in the food processor for any soups and sauces. Once they are mixed in he has no clue they are there!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

A couple:
Add frozen peas (or peas and carrots) the mac and cheese. My son (3) screams when I do this and I tell him to just eat around them but sometimes he forgets and eats them anyway.

Add chopped (cooked) carrots to your spaghetti sauce (and/or chopped spinach) I make my own sauce, and put the carrots in when I do the onion, but if you use jarred sauce, you could chop the carrots up small, cook them in the microwave and then add them to the sauce. Put the spinach in anytime.

Give frozen peas as a snack before dinner. My nieces, and my son (all toddlers) pop them like M&Ms. Shocking, but true.

Make your own chicken nuggets and freeze. You can put some flax meal and wheat germ in the breading. Also, when you bread them, you can use pureed sweet potato (baby food). Look online for recipes/how to.

Stop buying the sugar cereals. Get cheerios and let them have cut up strawberry, banana or blueberries on it with a little bit of sugar.

Mandarin orange and canned beet salad (mix together - sprinkle a little brown sugar on top)

Hummus and pita bread

Start replacing all of your whites with whole grain - whole grain noodles, bread, etc.

Target brand (Archer Farms?) have fruit strips that are better than fruit roll ups.

Cheese - low fat string cheese, or regular chunks of cheese, with fruit - chedder and apple, or moz. and strawberries.

I make "yogurt treat" for my kids. Lowfat (or nonfat) vanilla yougrt, mixed with strawberries, blueberries, peaches, or whatever we have around. I sprinkle a little wheat germs, and cinnamon/sugar or brown sugar on top. That is their "special dessert"

taco night with turkey tacos and corn tortillas - cheese, avacado, tomato, lettuce, salasa. We just use a box kit. and refried beans.

I love hearing everyone's ideas!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I negotiate. Go ahead and judge me, but it works for us! "Yes, you can have ice cream, but only after you eat 4 bites of meat and this pile of cheesy brocoli." I have also tricked them into thinking healthy food is a treat. "Sure, you can have some yogurt, strawberries, string cheese, or cottage cheese, as soon as you finish all the meat on your plate."

This is what I feed my kids
fruit - fresh, canned or frozen, dried apricots, dried cranberries We have plates full of strawberries, bananas, apples, raisins everyday
grains -cereal, malt o meal, oatmeal, brown rice, "smart" pastas, granola bars, pancakes, goldfish, animal crackers, saltines, wheat thins
veg - brocoli, corn on the cobb, salad
Protein and dairy - Cottage cheese, yogurt, string cheese, cheese cubes, ice cream, milk. grilled chicken, turkey, ham. They love chicken legs, fried or baked, they peel the skin off anyway. turkey dogs and bologna, burgers, meatballs. Peanut butter, trail mix, scrambled eggs with cheese, homemade chicken nuggets, fried catfish,

1 mom found this helpful
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