15 proven ways to get your kids to eat healthier meals 🥙

10. Try new foods when they're hungry

woman cooking with daughters in kitchen
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I'm often asked what parents can do to get their kids to eat healthily. While there are no quick fixes, I've gathered a list of proactive, research-based actions parents can take to positively influence their kids eating habits.

1. Eat well during pregnancy + lactation

Helping kids accept nutritious fare starts at conception. The amniotic sac not only transmits nutrition but the flavors of the food eaten. Studies show that the wider range of flavors babies are exposed to in utero and through breast milk, may help to increase their preference for a more diversified diet later on.

A 2001 study published in Pediatrics assigned 46 women to consume either water or carrot juice for 4 weeks prenatally. When the infants were given carrot flavored cereal at 6 months of age, the babies whose moms drank the carrots juice had few negative expressions and seemed to enjoy the cereal more.

2. Get in as much variety as you can

Most babies and toddlers under two are willing to eat just about anything. Research suggests that the more dietary variety kids get in the very early years, the more accepting they will be later on.

So start with bland fruits and vegetables but up the ante. Use herbs, spices, garlic and onions to make food taste good. Once kids can eat table foods, let them join you at the dinner table. Your mission is to get them to try as many flavors as possible.

3. Make the unfamiliar familiar (and accessible)

Research suggests that repeated exposure is the most powerful tool when it comes to helping children accept new foods. A 2003 study published in Appetite showed daily exposure was much more effective than nutrition education or doing the same old thing.

But experts in behavioral economics say parents need to go a step further by making healthy foods highly accessible. So lay out an attractive bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. Include veggies with dip with meals and while you're preparing dinner. Studies show the visibility of food increases desire to eat it.

4. Show them how it's done

"I've learned that at this stage, they so much want to be like their parents, so if I'm enjoying a nice green salad and broccoli or asparagus, they want to try it too," says Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD, dietitian and mom of twin preschoolers.

Now this may not happen automatically for every kid, but research supports the notion that kids are more likely to eat a food when they see their parents eating it.

5. Make time for family meals

Family meals combine the benefits of repeated exposure with role modeling. It also teaches kids how to behave at the dinner table and gives families time to connect. I know your schedules may be wacky, but get this habit going as soon as you can.

Kathleen Cuneo, PhD, from Dinner Together says that switching from special kid meals to family meals was the turning point for her now teenage daughter. "I saw a positive change when I stopped nagging her and we made a commitment to family meals," she says. "When I backed off and she was expected to eat from what was made available, she became open to trying new foods."

6. Entice them with food names

Parents can learn something that restaurant owners already know — you need to make food sound tantalizing. In his studies, Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, demonstrates that the name we give a food can make a big difference in how children perceive it. In one of his studies, when the researchers called veggies names like "X-ray carrots" or "princess peas" kids were 60% more likely to try it.

"Dinosaur broccoli reminds kids of dinosaurs—and they think they are cooler," he says. "Re-naming food increases its appeal"

7. Use familiar sauces + dressings

Research suggests that children are more likely to accept new foods if they are similar to other recipes they like. In a previous post, Alexandra Logue, PhD, Psychology Professor and author of The Psychology of Eating and Drinking, discussed how some fussy eaters are super tasters—and she used to be one of them.

When she first started eating salad her mom put a lot of her favorite dressing in the bowl and a small amount of vegetables. Over time the dressing quantity decreased and the vegetables increased. This is how she learned to like salads.

8. Engage them in the process

Julie Negrin, certified nutritionist and cooking instructor, knows that getting kids involved in the kitchen can transform their relationship with food. She says that because kids feel little control over their day to day environment, helping with meals gives children a sense of ownership and makes it more likely they will eat the meal.

"I encourage parents to have kids pick out new vegetables at the market or flip through cookbooks for menu ideas," she says. "Kids have been helping with the meal preparation in almost every culture for thousands of years. It's how they find their place in the "tribe" and the world around them."

9. Help them make the health-body connection

When certified pediatric dietitian, Angela Lemond, works with frustrated parents, she teaches them the three Es: Educate, Expose and Empower. The education part is helping kids understand how certain foods relate back to the health of their body.

"I tell my kids how fruits and vegetables have super-powers," she says. "For example, I explain how these super powers put an imaginary shield around their bodies protecting them from germs and helping their boo-boos heal faster."

10. Try new foods when they are hungry

You probably notice there are times of day when your child is more hungry than others. Work with your child's natural appetite rhythm. If they typically eat small amounts at dinner but seem ravenous at lunch, try new foods then. And watch the in-between meal snacking and juice drinking that can be appetite killers.

11. Go for the crunch

It's not always the taste of veggies that turn kids off, it's the texture. Researchers from Wageningen University provided kids (4 to 12) carrots and green beans that were steamed, mashed, grilled, boiled and deep fried. The kids preferred the boiled and steamed versions. Why? Because they were crunchier, had little browning and less of a granular texture.

So experiment with different crunchy textures and see how it goes.

12.  Pair the new items with old standbys

Lisa Gross, dietitian and mom of two young kids said that when her daughter was two, and turned ultra picky, she was tempted to provide her with only her favorites (she loved pasta!).

"I just kept offering the same food we ate but always offered fruit, bread and some accompaniment that she would eat," she says. "I hoped that she would outgrow this stage, and now that she's five it's much better."

13.  Serve fruits + veggies first

According to a 2010 study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, preschoolers served bigger portions of vegetables as a first course ate 47% more.

So put out the fruits and veggies while you're putting the meal together, your kids might eat whole serving of fruits and vegetables, and then some.

14.  Make nutritious food fun

When a group of 4 to 7 year olds were presented with two versions of fruit, one cut into fun shapes and the other not, the kids presented with the fun shapes ate twice as much fruit.

While the researchers of the study published in Appetite say that the novelty can wear off, it's important to remember that kids like fun. And if we can present food in a fun and attractive way, it can pique their interest and desire.

15.  Give them a choice

According to Smarter Lunchrooms, requiring kids to take a vegetable at school has no impact on consumption. But if kids are given the choice between two veggies, they consume 20 percent more.

When you can, have your child decide between two items, the peas or carrots, banana or cantaloupe. This helps them feel like they made the decision of what vegetable to eat. And they might respond by eating it.

And whatever happens, try not to stress, mama. Jennifer from The Mommy Archives said it well, "One of the feeding issues I had was with me. I realized that I was the one that was panicking when I made a meal and he wouldn't even try it. I would be so worried he wasn't getting enough nutrients. Once I let that go, and let him set the pace of trying new foods, our meals became so much less stressful."

Originally posted on Maryann Jacobsen.

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The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

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Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

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Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

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Belly mask

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Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

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Nipple + lip ointment 

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Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

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Belly tattoos

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A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

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This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

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Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

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Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

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Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

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Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Sensory play set

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Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Foam pogo stick

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Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

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Dumptruck 

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

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Hopper ball

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Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

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Pull-along ducks

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Rocking chair seesaw

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This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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Extended breastfeeding just happened for me—and I'm in no rush to end it

My son is two and a half and still nursing, and it's what makes sense for us.

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When I became pregnant with my first child, I assumed that I would breastfeed. I also assumed that I would pump and give bottles. I even had all the bottles, a bottle warmer, and a bottle drying rack all ready to go. I made sure I got my pump before the baby came, so I was ready. But then, I actually tried pumping a couple of times and hated it. It was tedious, time-consuming, and not as effective, so nursing was the standard between my two children. It came naturally for me, and I found it the easier of the two options since I stayed home with them anyway. I was always there when they needed it.

I was able to breastfeed my first until she was two and a half, at which point, I was seven months pregnant with her brother. Between the hormones, being touched out, and being uncomfortable, I decided to fully wean her. It had been coming for some time because the clock was ticking on getting her to sleep on her own before the new baby came since we had been co-sleeping up to this point.

I cut night feedings first, moved her to her own bed, and then weaned her completely as I went along in my pregnancy. She still wanted to nurse to sleep, but I had to stop eventually because I was so uncomfortable. My body and brain could not take it anymore, but I'm proud I made it that far with her and that I nursed that far into pregnancy.

When my second child came around, my son, breastfeeding was not only easier, but I found myself here: extended breastfeeding.


He recently passed two and a half, which is where my daughter stopped, and he is still co-sleeping. He still nurses quite a bit, because his tummy hurts because of constipation issues. He still uses it to soothe and help him go back to sleep at night. He's getting too big to stay in our bed much longer, but I'm in no rush to wean him completely until he's ready.

Being able to stay home with them has definitely fostered the breastfeeding relationship. Cuddling is a huge part of it, too, and I'll continue to breastfeed until it makes sense to stop.

While my husband doesn't always agree with that philosophy and tells him that he's a big boy and can be done having milk, it's ultimately not up to him. I told my son that we would work through it together.

It is still an emotional connection thing, and at the same time, it still has benefits for him. He's still getting nutrients especially designed for him. He's still getting supplemental nutrition while he doesn't want to eat as much otherwise if his stomach is hurting.

My body has been doing this for a long time. I'm used to it. While I get touched out some days, I also know how helpful breastfeeding still is to help him settle down and how much he still appreciates it. I don't feel the need to cut him off quickly—both for his sake and mine.

I'm also painfully aware that this is probably my last baby. My breastfeeding journey, over five years in the making, will soon be over. As long as he is still getting the benefits and I'm not stressed over it, I'll let it continue on a limited basis. I know it will end soon—it has to. He will be growing up and entering the next stage before I know it. But until then, I'm going to cuddle my baby boy a bit longer. I'm going to let him nurse at certain times and in certain situations.

I never intended to do extended breastfeeding with either of them, but it just happened naturally. And that's okay. You need to do what makes the most sense and do what your intuition tells you is right for your family.

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