This post is from contributing writer Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas.
As a mom of three small children, starting out with a healthy breakfast always makes me feel better about our day. If lunch and dinner don’t meet my perfect vision of healthy eating, at least we hit a home run with one meal, right?
Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Breakfasts
Since focusing a lot of our efforts on healthy breakfasts, we’ve noticed a big difference in our family’s general health. We’re lucky that none of our kids have been particularly picky eaters, but we also try to encourage them to eat a wide variety of foods by not catering too much to the picky phases all kids cycle through. We do NOT make multiple meals for kids who don’t like what we’re serving.
Our kids eat what we eat as soon as they can eat solids. Eating the healthy meal they’re served is a pretty established rule in our house so we rarely have to argue about enforcing it, but occasionally we do face the “I won’t eat what you just made but I will ask for a snack as soon as the dishes are cleared” phenomenon. And that makes me a little crazy, so we nip it in the bud.
Tips for Encouraging Healthy Eaters
- Don’t say yes to snacks just before mealtimes. We often make this mistake and then our kids aren’t hungry for the meal we prepared!
- Eat around the table as a family. Mealtime should be more than ingesting calories. By nurturing special time around the table, kids will enjoy mealtime more.
- If you grow any vegetables (or even just have some kitchen herbs) involving the kids in growing and harvesting the veggies makes them much more excited about eating them!
- Open up the kitchen and let kids assist in the cooking preparation. They will be more likely to eat what’s prepared, even if there are ingredients they don’t usually love.
- Encourage variety, but be sensitive to the major dislikes. Our kids don’t like spicy foods so we keep the meal mild and then add extra sriracha if needed to our own plates.
- When eating foods they don’t love, reward a “good try.” I distinctly remember how hard it was to choke down my green beans when I was little. If our kids have a least a couple bites of the brussel sprouts, they can move on to the other options provided.
- Put un-favorite ingredients (for our kids, that’s onions) on the side if possible.
- If they don’t eat any of a meal but ask for a snack soon afterwards, offer to heat up their leftovers rather than provide a snack. That way you avoid hungry kiddos but also get the healthy food in their tummies. We learned this the hard way when my oldest kid was on a bananas only streak and would refuse his meals and then fill up on bananas all day long. It took a couple of days to get out of the habit, but now we say yes to an after-meal banana if the plate is nearly clean and everybody’s happy.
That being said, none of our kids have health problems that would require more cajoling to get the calories they need and they’ve never gone on a hunger strike because they didn’t like something. So we’ve had it pretty easy.
And that’s just what works for the kids in our family. I have friends who have had a much more challenging time encouraging their kids to eat healthy meals and what works for us totally didn’t work for them. So, every kid and every family is different. I hope some of these tips will help you figure out what works in your home!
Make It Fun
We try to cook healthy meals that our kids like to eat to avoid the arguing or snack requests at 8:30 am. And in addition to the tips above, one way to encourage this is to make the presentation FUN. My husband is much better at this than I am!
Presentation matters for grown-ups, of course, but kids are especially susceptible to the “it looks gross, it must taste gross” mentality and very gullible as far as the “it looks awesome, it must taste awesome” trick goes. So we try to make breakfast look a little awesome sometimes. More fun=full tummies + less grumbling.
So I give you the Dinosaur Nest! Sure, it’s just an egg sitting in the middle of a tomato and avocado salad. But if you call it a Dinosaur Nest, you’ve piqued a 5-year-old’s interest.
Letting the kids peel their own hard boiled eggs can also add to the fun. We add homemade tortilla chips on the side and our kids love anything they can eat with chips so this goes over surprisingly well. I love this on days when I’m craving something fresh tasting but not heavy.Print
- Mix the tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, lime juice, cumin and salt in a bowl and stir together.
- Add a little of the avocado and tomato salad to each plate.
- Nestle an egg in the center and add chips and cilantro around the plate.
Trouble Getting Healthy Food on the Table Every Day?
Enter Real Plans
Real Plans is an online meal planning software & app that is probably smarter than I am.
It works with all food restrictions to help families find the perfect meal, generate a shopping list, scale it up if needed, and you’re totally in control. Use your own fav recipes, skip a suggestion and tell Real Plans all the foods you don’t like/can’t eat, and it will still do half the work of meal planning (or more) for you.
Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type, including GAPS, Paleo, AIP, Whole30, vegetarian and more!
This is perfect if you’ve just been told you need a GF diet, if you have a friend or family member eating GF and you’d like to cook for them, or if you’re just curious what it’s all about!
And what’s more fun than breakfast? Breakfast in a boat. My husband made these little breakfast boats as a way to use up some leftover baked potatoes and they were a big hit and a great way to sneak in some leafy greens (which are sometimes controversial ingredients with my kids).
- Carefully cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides into a large bowl. Set the potato “shells” aside.
- Fry the bacon in a sauté pan until crispy, set the cooked bacon aside. Meanwhile, chop the greens up but save a few of the best leaves for sails.
- Toss the greens into the pan with the bacon fat. Cook the greens until they’ve softened (about 3 minutes for kale). Then add the potato insides you scooped out earlier. Since the potato is already cooked, you don’t have to sauté much longer. But I like to get the outside of the potato a little crispy (about 4 minutes). Add more bacon grease or other oil if necessary.
- Crack the eggs into the pan. Stir everything and cook until eggs are done.
- Scoop the egg/potato mixture into your potato shells. If you want to be fun, make little sails out of toothpicks and greens.