Eat Well, Spend Less: 5 Ways to Make Food More Fun [For Kids]

Kid Friendly Recipes, Kitchen Tips & Tricks, Picky Eating | 17 comments

From personalities, to interests, to eating, my children are two very different little people.

Logan is an incredibly picky eater and always has been, though in the past two year’s he’s made tremendous progress in the right direction (how many 6 year old boys will eat a plate of baby spinach?). Read his story here: Picky Eater Tips.

Madeline was the chubby baby who put everything and anything in her mouth. She started out with no preconceived notions about any of her food, yet is now experiencing a slight picky phase and is mostly too busy to be bothered with meal time. Yet every once in a while she surprises me.

katie goodman goodlifeeats

Kids don’t know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. In fact, it seems that my kids often form opinions about food that they’ve never even tasted! Moms, how many of you have had a conversation like this:

“Yuck – I hate [fill in the blank food]!” (gagging noises and disgusted faces commence)

“Have you ever tried [said offending food]?”

“Well … It looks [insert negative adjective].”

“But what does it taste like?”

Thanks to some sort of cruel and ironic twist of fate (or more than likely, my need to learn patience), meal time and feeding kids has been quite a stressful experience for this food loving mom. I’ve learned a lot about feeding kids and dealing with picky eaters. I’m not an expert, and my kids aren’t perfect eaters, but I thought I’d share a few of the ways we’ve learned to make food a little more exciting.

5 Ways to Make Food More Fun

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1. Focus on Color.

Not only are bright, colorful foods naturally more appealing to children, but they’re also better for them. Eating a rainbow a day will help your child’s body get the wide variety of nutrients that it needs to grow strong and healthy. And it’s fun.

rainbow fruit

rainbow fruits from I Am Baker

Need ideas? Check out this list of fruits and vegetables by color.

Make a game out of it: see who can eat a rainbow first each day.

Try purchasing different colors of more ordinary foods: purple cauliflower, yellow tomatoes or blood oranges.

2. Maximize Their Interests

What is your child’s current obsession? Incorporate that into their food.

For Logan it is geography. He loves learning about different countries and cultures. I emphasized the “Canadian” aspect of “Canadian Bacon” and his ears instantly perked up. The verdict? He decided to try a slice.

Madeline has always loved fun shapes. It takes me about 30 seconds extra to cut lunch meat, cheese, fruits, or vegetables into fun shapes using cookie cutters.

Mandolines are also great tools for cutting foods differently. You can make thin slices, matchsticks, or waffle cut.

3. Use Fun Names.

Though it might seem silly to the child-less adults out there, calling food by crazy names can instantly change the attitude about a new food for someone under the age of 8.

I most definitely teach my children the proper names of fruits and vegetables, but we have fun calling food by fun or silly names.

Broccoli is “baby trees.” Milk is referred to as “delicious” and now that Logan will eat spinach I’m planning to introduce green smoothies and call them “monster juice.” For Logan’s Solar System birthday party a couple years ago, grapes were “alien heads.”

4. Serve it Differently

A change in presentation can make all the difference, and doesn’t take much extra time.

Tired of sliced pears or apple wedges? Make fruit kebabs instead. Sticks filled with cubes of brightly colored fruit are always fun. Include a healthy dip option as well, such as yogurt. Kids love to dip!

fruit and cheese kebabs

Fruit and Cheese Kebabs from My Baking Addiction

You can even make vegetable kebabs. In the summertime, cherry tomatoes and bite-sized pieces of mozzarella are delicious treats.

Miniaturized foods are always fun, too. Mini pizzas on English muffins, bite sized sandwiches, or mini muffins are sure to catch some attention. Serve casseroles in individual serving sized dishes.

When fresh fruit options seem dull in the winter, prepare smoothies using frozen fruits. I have taken to preparing a large batch once a week and per Food for My Family’s suggestion, storing them in the freezer in Ball Plastic 8-Ounce Freezer Jars. Madeline calls these freezer smoothies “ice cream!”

In the spring and summer, fresh fruit posicles are fun different options.

5. Involve Them in Food Selection and Prep

I’m one of the first to admit how much I dislike taking my kids to the grocery store. I even shared my My Grocery Shopping Confessional last year. But I know taking young kids grocery shopping and involving them in the food preparation process are both important ways to teach them about good food choices and make food more fun.

Personally I can only handle bringing one child at a time on a trip, but when I do, I like to keep them involved in the process. I’ll let them pick one or two new things each trip that they think they would like to try.

With younger kids, point out the names of the produce. Use produce to practice colors since there are so many different colors and types. With older children you can talk to them about why a certain fruit or vegetable is good for you in a non-threatening way. (i.e. carrots are good for your eyes). Appeal to their developing reasoning skills.

My kids love to help me in the kitchen. They’re always asking “can I help stir that?” They know how to saute an onion, though I always supervise. Love pressing buttons on the food processor and blender. And putting muffin liners in the tins is always a popular job as is helping grind fresh whole grain flour.

Involving them in food selection and preparation gives my children an opportunity to see the process of making food and spend time with me, and that definitely makes things fun (although often messy too.).

What do you do to make meal time more fun?

eat well spend less for fall

This post is part of the Eat Well, Spend Less Series where, along with a few of my friends, I bring you suggestions for how you can eat delicious, tasty meals without wrecking your grocery budget.

This month we’re discussing Making Food More Fun. I’d love to hear your suggestions for making food and mealtime more enjoyable

Check out what the rest of the Eat Well, Spend Less group has to say here:

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Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    Aimee @ Simple Bites - February 20, 2012 @ 7:55 am

    I knew a few of these tricks, Katie, but I’ll be implementing the rest very soon. Love all the great takeaway from this post.


  • 2
    Amy - February 20, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    I absolutely love these tips, Katie! I agree that giving foods fun names helps. I do an orchiette pasta with roasted cauliflower and we call it, “Trees in Your Ears Pasta.” We have also renamed soups and stews to make them more appealing. I love these ideas!


  • 3
    Karen Le Billon - February 20, 2012 @ 11:20 am

    Great idea – I love the use of ‘fancy names’. This has actually been scientifically proven by studies in cafeterias; just changing the name of a dish can increase consumption by impressive amounts! I call it ‘marketing food to your kids’. Might as well compete against all of the other marketing that we’re subjected to!


  • 4
    Rachel @ Following In My Shoes - February 20, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    Great ideas! I have boxes and boxes of cookie cutters and food picks that I use for lunches; my kids love seeing a fun, themed lunch at school!


  • 5
    Suzi - February 21, 2012 @ 6:24 am

    My son wouldn’t touch honey (called it bee puck) or mushrooms (that was fungi) until he started cooking with me. That was the end of his picky eating. Just wish I would have worked on his father – he took picky eating to an art form :-(


  • 6
    Kati @ Around the Plate - February 21, 2012 @ 6:49 am

    This is a GREAT post! My two boys are the same way – one is VERY picky, the other would eat anything. Thanks for sharing some very realistic, family-approved tips.


  • 7
    Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon - February 21, 2012 @ 7:14 am

    I do not have kids but I was an incredibly picky eater as a child! Some of your suggestions my mom definitely employed to get me to eat!
    For example, she used to cut cheese into letters that spelled my name (HA!!) and make fruit kabobs with one mini marshmallow smack dab in the middle. That way you had to eat the fruit to get your sweet treat!


  • 8
    Julie@teachinggoodeaters - February 21, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

    I think that making food fun is one of the best strategies for helping kids to be good eaters! I try to make eating into an adventure- we love to go to ethnic food festivals, check out new markets, and explore the grocery store. One of my favorite adventures was when we had a scavenger hunt meal- We ate each course of the meal in a different room of the house and after each course, the kids got a clue which led them to the next room. Taking kids to stores where they give samples is also a great way to get kids to try foods. Instead of having to encourage kids to try something new, they end up hunting down the samples and “begging” to try them!


  • 9
    Katie @ Epicurean Mom - February 21, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    Great tips Katie!! I’ll definitely be trying some of these with my very picky 21 month old!


  • 10
    Jen - February 22, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    I’d add give them a choice when choice doesn’t matter. For example – ask them would they like broccoli or green beans for dinner if it doesn’t really matter to you which you serve. Or let them choose exactly what cup they want but don’t let them choose what they have to drink. It also helps in other facets of parenting because it gives them choice when it’s appropriate but not say when it’s 20 degrees outside and they’d like to go out without their jacket on.


  • 11
    Tara - February 24, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

    These are great tips. One thing that has helped my picky daughter a lot is to be able to taste test the food just before it’s served. We make a big deal out of asking her if it’s okay or if it needs more _____ (spice or sugar or something). Once she’s tasted the food, she eats it at the table.


  • 12
    Evie S - February 26, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    Thought I’d let you know I talked about this post and linked to it here. Thanks… the pictures are beautiful and the suggestions worked! :)


  • 13
    'Becca - February 27, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    Great tips! Among the funny-name foods I ate growing up were Bat Wings (very thin slices of beef with a soy-sesame sauce) and Winnie-the-Pooh Snack (strips of buttered whole-wheat bread arranged around a pool of honey for dipping).

    He likes to help cook, and I’ve also had some success getting him to eat better by involving him in menu planning and letting him pretend our home is a restaurant.


  • 14
    Amanda - February 28, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Great ideas! My 3-yo is pretty picky right now, and I’ll definitely be using some of these tips! We also let him “taste test” like another commenter mentioned, and have him help in the kitchen often. :)


  • 15
    California Strawberries - April 02, 2012 @ 8:47 am

    We like these tips! That rainbow photo is great!


  • 16
    Meagan Marion - December 19, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

    As a twenty-something, I still love adding color to my plate. Great tips here!


  • 17
    Kia Robertson - January 24, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

    These are all excellent tips…my favorite is Focus On Color! We all eat with our eyes and we are drawn to color (which is why all the junk food that is marketed to kids is so colorful!) so why not use that to encourage healthy food choices! Eating a Rainbow every day is a fun way to get kids excited about fruits and veggies!


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