10 ways to encourage healthy eating in kids

23 April 2020

healthy eating

Promote healthy eating in kids with these fun and engaging activities and games that are sure to win over even the fussiest of eaters.

In a world littered with fad diets and online fitness videos, teaching susceptible children about the importance of a balanced diet at an early age is crucial.

But, as many a parent who has gone before will testify, learning about nutrition and what makes a good meal doesn’t have to be boring.

Benefits of healthy-eating activities

  • Helps children to engage with what they’re eating and develop a positive relationship with food
  • Allows parents to explore basic nutritional concepts with their kids in a way that’s fun and easy to understand
  • Builds a habit for healthy eating that will hopefully extend to teenhood and beyond

Need some ideas on how to grab the attention of the little people in your house when it comes to eating well? Here are 10 healthy-eating activities for kids of all ages.

1. Grow your own food

child picking vegetables

Whether you have a large garden or a small balcony, growing your own food can help to engage young minds and keep them occupied on a project that will hopefully teach them a thing or two about healthy eating.

Something as simple as growing a herb garden or potting a plant can be a real game-changer. If you have more outdoor space, why not try your very own vegetable patch? Encourage your children to plant seeds, water them and then harvest them before using the end result for food preparation. Easy vegetables to grow include radishes, carrots, runner beans, onions and potatoes.

2. Try a game of healthy-eating bingo

Yes, you read correctly. What better way to get your kids thinking about healthy food than with an interactive game of good ol’ bingo?

Instead of numbers, fill the bingo cards with illustrations or print-outs of different foods (think apples, yoghurts, eggs etc), then call them out at random as your kids mark off the ones they have on their boards. First to call out ‘bingo’ wins.

3. Have a rainbow day

Teach your children about different nutrients and the benefits of a balanced diet by encouraging a ‘rainbow day’. The aim of the game is to eat as many colours of the rainbow in one day as possible.

Beige food, be gone!

“Try strawberries at breakfast, carrot sticks at snack time, sweetcorn with lunch, blueberries for an afternoon snack, broccoli for tea and a plum for dessert.”

4. Sample some plant-based or gluten-free snacks

ape snacks

Expand the healthy-eating lesson to discuss alternative diets, such as veganism, and to explore the topic of allergies and intolerances (wheat and nuts to name but a few).

Snacks that are plant-based and/or gluten-free are a good access point here and proof that not all snacks have to be unhealthy. Try Ape Snacks’ Really Cheesy Puffs (a Mumsnet Rated winner!), Simply Coconut Bites or Chocolate Coconut Bites with your kids before discussing the simple and natural ingredients contained in all three.

5. Create a food science experiment

Educational and entertaining, food science experiments are a great way to teach your children about the different properties of food while having some fun at the same time.

The salty potato experiment is a particular favourite. Fill two bowls with water and add salt to one of them (don’t forget to label them so you can tell the difference). Then cut a potato in half and place one half into each of the bowls. Leave for 30 minutes and witness the power of osmosis as the salt causes the potato to shrivel, just as eating salty foods make people thirsty.

6. Read a book all about food

For slightly older children, or particularly fussy eaters, a kids’ nutrition book can be a great resource for a deep dive into all things healthy eating.

Here are just a few to try:

“My children had an Usborne book called Why Shouldn't I Eat Junk Food? when they were primary age, which had lots of illustrations and was written in a fun, cartoony way.”

“Oliver's Vegetables – great for four-year-olds.”

7. Enjoy a themed tasting day

Try out new dishes at mealtimes and chat about ingredients, or taste foods from different food groups and discuss taste, smell and texture.

You could even take this opportunity to explore food from different cultures too.

8. Make some food art

food art

If there’s one activity that’s sure to get the kids into fruit and vegetables, it’s food art.

Create a caterpillar by grabbing a skewer (or a chopstick) and a handful of green grapes or get even more creative with a vegetable man or woman made out of toothpicks and brightly-coloured veg. Genius, right?

Even if you’re not the arty type, getting the kids involved in food preparation is sure to peak their interest. Try something simple like a fruit salad or encourage them to design their own healthy lunch for every day of the week.

9. Vegetable or fruit guessing game

Place some vegetables or fruit (or both!) into a tote bag, then ask your child to feel inside and guess which items are there.

Not only will this help to increase awareness of the different kinds of fruit or vegetables there are, but it’ll give you creative licence to pick some really obscure ones as well.

10. Plate sorting

No, we’re not suggesting you get them to tidy the cupboard, although you may well want to later.

Draw a healthy-eating plate onto a piece of paper and divide it into different food groups: protein, dairy, carbohydrates and fats.

Then draw (or print and cut out) a selection of foods onto separate bits of paper that your children can sort based on which food group they think they belong to.

A classic food pyramid will also work just as well.

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