Imagine Hearing Your Kids Say “Mmm Broccoli, YUM!”
We instinctively know that to give our kids the very best start in life as far as health goes, we need to get them eating and enjoying healthy food right from the beginning.
The longer we can hold off exposing them to highly processed, high sugar and salt containing, nutrient devoid foods, the better chance they have at developing a taste for natural healthy foods. Not to mention that they will be nutritionally better off as they are getting the nourishment their rapidly growing and developing bodies and brains need!
“Perhaps the most important determinant of a child’s liking for a particular food is the extent to which it is familiar. Put simply, children like what they know and they eat what they like. From the very earliest age, children’s experiences with food influence both preferences and intake, and research suggests that the earlier and broader that experience, the healthier the child’s diet.” 
However, we know that its not quite as simple and putting a piece of broccoli in front of our child and them loving it right away! It takes effort and perseverance too!
Here are 14 really useful tips for getting your kids to love healthy foods
Cook together – Prepare and cook food as a family. This is the main reason our children enjoy eating a wide variety of healthy foods and why it’s at the top of our list.
Have fun – Make cooking a happy experience. Cook on the weekends or when you have more time so you are present in the moment and don’t have to rush out the door.
Teach and talk – Children naturally want to learn so talk to them about food. Teach them about where food comes from, it’s nutritional benefits and why it’s so important to cook and eat healthy and fresh food.
Grow your food – Garden with your kids so they can understand the food cycle and see food in its natural state. This experience is incredibly valuable and fun for everyone. Your kids will be excited to eat what they’ve grown themselves.
Variety – Mix it up! Don’t be afraid to try new foods or unusual combinations. As adults we sometimes get set in our ways and unconsciously pass our habits onto our children. Be adventurous!
Persistence – This is a biggie! Never stop serving a specific food just because your child refuses to eat it at first. Don’t make a big deal of it just put it on their plate often and one day they will surprise you. It may take weeks or even months but they will eventually become curious enough to try it.
Pack lunches together – Get your kids to help pack their own lunchbox. It’s all about empowering them to make their own healthy choices. Do it the night before to reduce the stress/rush in the morning.
Meal Plan – Get as organised as possible and involve your children in the decision making process. Ask them to be responsible for choosing a meal and helping to prepare it at least one night a week.
Be cool – Stay calm at meal times and remember that eventually your children will learn to love healthy food; you just need to be patient and persistent.
Family Meals – Make a commitment to enjoy at least one meal a day together (or aim for as frequently as your schedule allows). Talk about food, connect about your day and remember if your kids will talk to you about the small things then they will talk to you about the big things.
Lead by example – If you want your children to love healthy food then you need to love it too. Clear your home of the things you don’t want them to eat. When the temptations are removed it makes healthy choices easier for everyone.
A few extra handy tips that we have learnt over the years:
Mini Me – Make ‘mini’ versions of recipes/food and get the little ones to help. For example: Mini cupcakes, mini muffins, mini chicken bites or mini shepherds pies.
Share– You know how your children always want to eat from your plate? Well why not try a share plate? Serve your meal on a large plate, platter or board and dig in together. This works best for meals that are less messy but then again what’s a little mess if it means the plate is clean.
Get creative – Use shape cutters. Ask the kids to pick out their favourites and make novelty shapes with food.
Source: Organic Sisters
Reference : Cooke L, J Hum Nutr Diet. 2007 Aug;20(4):294-301. The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review.