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How do you encourage your children to eat healthily?

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hello all, i am a design student looking to devise an interactive toy that will encourage children to eat healthily. With the governments '5 fruit and veg a day' scheme, children are being encouraged to eat healthily (as are us adults!), to benefit their health.

I was just wondering if any of you could enlighten me on how you think children could be encouraged to eat healthy, or how you yourselves encourage your children to eat their greens. For example, my friends little sister is encouraged to eat veg by putting smiley faces on pizzas with pineapple pieces etc...

Do you think there could be any products that would help educate them as to the benefits of eating healthy? An example of this could be the plastic toy fruit and baskets that small children use to pretend they are shopping.

Any help would be greatly apreciated.
Thank you in advance.
post #2 of 36
My mother can't cook. She gave me mostly raw vegetables to eat when I was little, sometimes cheese (favorite meal: pieces of cheese wrapped in lettuce).

I think the way to encourage kids to eat healthy is to feed them healthy food. To counteract the advertising they're seeing about food, laugh at the McD burgers "hahaha, they call that food, what will they have us believe next" or don't park them in front of the tv.
post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hey, cheers for the reply. You make a good point in that the way to encourage them is to feed them healthy food. Its just trying to cross the gap that kids have with proper fruit and veg. Many kids prefer the fast food junk from Mcdonalds or burger king etc... Possibly because it is readily availible for them and requires no preparation.
But if they could be encouraged to interact with the cooking of their food and see it in a fun light, i personally think that they would enjoy their healthy food a lot more. Like you said, "hahaha, they call that food, what will they have us believe next".
Any more ideas?
Thanks again!
post #4 of 36
There are as many ways to convince children to eat healthy foods as there are children. I love onions; I loved them when I was still in diapers and I enjoy them regularly. When our daughter was a small child I introduced her to onions - she still hates them. Our grandson will eat broccoli. He won't eat it if it's cooked but he will eat it raw. However, he insists on dipping it into ice water before he takes a bite. That's OK with us. There is more to enjoying healthy food than flavor. Color, texture, shape, size, etc. all can be factors. You need to determine what it is that the child doesn't like about the food item and affect a change in that aspect of the food. However, if the child has tried broccoli and doesn't like it, when you make the change he will still recognize it as something he doesn't (didn't) like and will not want to try it again. That's where the problem gets sticky. Veggies can be raw, al dente, pureed, etc. They can be pureed in fruit juices, dairy products, etc. But if the child doesn't like it the first time it's offered he has learned something - he's learned that he doesn't like it - and you've got a tough job bringing him or her back to the "try it; you'll like it" phase. Good luck.....
post #5 of 36
I think, just feed them the good stuff and nothing out of a jar or can. Kids don't need much food. The recommendations are one Tablespoon per food group per day per year of age.

Garrett's favorite foods are:

Soybeans, Salmon, peas, corn, rare steak, rice, pistachios, chicken, corn tortillas, dosa, tofu, idly, pan fried noodles, scallops, vada, yogurt with papaya, papadams, swedish pancakes, fresh bread, preserves, chocolate, creme brulee, etc.
post #6 of 36
What an image that is of a toddler in diapers running around chewing on an onion. If only I knew how to use PhotoShop. :D

I thought of something else too... I have a thing for french fries and coca-cola. Why? Well, my mum would take me to a special place for said food. The pleasant memory of it being "special" made me like the food. It was as much the experience as anything.

McDonald's sells their hamburgers to kids by making them fun. Healthy food is often served with "come on, try it" or "eat this and you will get whatever treat". Instead, healthy food should be served as the fun part or the treat.
post #7 of 36
Thread Starter 
I agree with you freerider, companies market their food very successfully to children with the concept of happy meals and a fre toy with every meal. Healthy food is still seen in the negative 'come on and try it light'. I was hoping to design a product that would encourage the children to make their own healthy food- a fun design blender for example (obviously it would be safe to use!). This way they would get away from the stigma that many children associate with health food.
Anyone agree/ disagree? Please leave feedback!

Many thanks again.
post #8 of 36

Daddy, Pleeeease buy me Brussel Sprouts!!

Funny story about my now 23-year old daughter: When my kids were small, My MIL had come over and brought some brussel sprouts to prepare at our house. I've never really liked them because all veggies in my house growing up were cooked to death (beyond recognition, some times). So MIL sets about preparing them, and they turn out great (can't remember how she cooked them)! All three children (2, 4, and 6 at the time) LOVED them and chowed them down. A few days later, Hubby goes grocery shopping with our 4-year old daughter, and they're in the produce section and she's begging him to buy some brussel sprouts for her (please, please, please) and he keeps saying no. He got several comments and dirty looks from other shoppers who were watching this whole scene transpire (Dude, buy her the sprouts!!) He finally broke down and got her a handful, and she came home with the biggest grin on her face...:lips:
Micki, aka Pastry Maven

"Yom-yom-yooom, ze chocolad!"
Micki, aka Pastry Maven

"Yom-yom-yooom, ze chocolad!"
post #9 of 36
John Cena!
Hes the new Hulk Hogan
When I was young I had my Hulk Hogan work out set and I said my prayers and ate my Vitamins!
And now I'm a professional Fitness model!
post #10 of 36
Toy healthy food. My sister has a set of wooden toy food velcroed together.

It's totally cool.

You velcro the food together. So all the cucumber slices stick together to make a whole cucumber. Then you "cut" the vegetables at the velcro connection with a toy knife to make the food. The strawberries quarter, the tomato slices, the lettuce comes apart in leaves.

Same with the loaf of bread and the rest of the set

Make sure to disallow a velcroable burger, but maybe a vegie sandwich from mushroom slices, onions tomatoes and lettuce and such would be good.

Get them in the habit of prepping the fresh fruits and vegies to make the play meal so they will have a feel for it as the grow.

But no toy will succeed without the parents. So you should provide some coupons in the set for the parents to shop with the kids, Buy the kind of food that's like in the toy set and build the same kind of real meals they were making as toys.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #11 of 36
Thread Starter 
Love the spouts story - im a big fan of them myself. I get the strangest looks from my friends when i tell them that, oh well.
Also, the Hulk Hogan story is a brilliant example of how the association of healthy living with a character such as Hulk Hogan makes kids eat their greens, take their vitamins, and stay healthy. And in CarlAird's case, lead to a health related profession!
Cheers everyone for the help so far - keep those ideas and stories coming please!
post #12 of 36
Thread Starter 
Brilliant idea Phil, glad to hear of examples of current products out there. Also good to hear that you enjoy them :)
A coupon scheme would be a great addition to that example of an educational toy, so that the parents become involved in the childs learning.
Many thanks,
post #13 of 36
Why do people need fancy products anyway? People forget how kids learn. Kids are parrots. Model good habits. That's how I "encouraged" my kid.

Don't forget kids may reject a certain food 20-30 times before finally taking a bite. Use positive encouragement, don't make mealtime a nasty experience. ie., not timeouts for not finishing their food. The "clean plate club" concept is out. They will sit for approximately 5 minutes per year of age. Don't expect more, and try to sit down together as a family.
post #14 of 36
The one part of the equation that seems left out somehow is the understanding that kids need CHOW in order to grow.

Kids eat at fast food places because they can get mega doses of calories to fuel their energy needs. And it doesn't take much time so they can zoom off to whatever places their hyperdriven brains and bodies take them.

Plus, fat calories taste good.

So, in order to get kids to eat better you need to consider taste, speed, calorie amounts and the already stated fun factor.

Veggies alone don't cut it. Even well prepared veggies are sometimes lackingin the fun and calorie areas. Especially if you're looking at fast prep & eat times. This means (at least to me) that any educational toys need to incorporate the whole view of eating as well as portion control. Not just be limited to one partial view based upon "eat only what's good for you" science.

How about rating food choices based on a scale (like the 4 star rating system for eateries) but for individual items. A game of how many points you can get based upon individual menu items as well as combinations and preparation. A gormet suzy homemaker kitchen set that subliminally teaches nutrition?
post #15 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hey everyone! Thanks again for the feedback.

I understand that kids need the quick boost of energy that is provided with fast food meals.
From my research, they do not really care how many calories are contained in each big mac etc. They just want to have a meal that tastes nice and doesnt take long to eat.
The problem here is that fast food chains such as McD provide a quick 'tasty' meal for kids to enjoy. And there is the added bonus of a toy with the happy meals, not to mention the immense amounts of advertising that is pumped into them through the media, TV etc...
This in turn has a really poor effect on their health - watch the film 'supersize me' if you dont believe me!
The idea behind my project is to educate and encourage children to want to eat healthily. Whether this is by designing a fun game that they can take part in that educates them subliminally, or a product such as a fun smoothie machine will encourage them will be found out as part of my research. Thats the reasone i asked you guys what you thought and of our experiences with children who dont want to eat their greens! I agree with kuan on the fact that the sitting down as a family is a big part of the healthy eating and wanting to eat the correct meals, but if there was something on the market that made kids think that it was cool to eat their greens (going back to Carlaird's Hulk Hogan story), then that cannot be a bad thing really.

Keep the feedback coming - I appreciate it all!
post #16 of 36
You know, funny, we just had this discussion in ECFE class Monday. We have this discussion every semester. :)
post #17 of 36
Youre very right! I'm a Sub Teacher now and the kids ALWAYS ask me how I got so big?, How much do you lift? and I always tell them YOU HAVE TO EAT! A LOT of kids I've been hearing their moms tell me that they dont even like eating period!! So I tell them YOU HAVE TO EAT!
post #18 of 36
Slather vegetables with Beef Gravy and butter... uhhhhh I mean no I would never do that.

My biggest source of anguish is that I make, for example, a beautiful butterflied cut of chicken breast stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, tarragon, parsley and some salt and pepper, My kids (3 of them 6, 3 and 1.5) will say the like it and when I am not looking dump Heinz Catsup all over it. I pulled a fast one on them once and got Banana Catsup that worked for a day before they realized Banana Catsup is really, really good. Oh the horror I feel after spending endless moments slaving over something to have it bathed in the unholy offspring of vinegar and tomato we displeasedly call "catsup" or "ketchup" depending on your region.

The only solution to getting MY kids to eat healthy foods like veggies is to only give them veggies they like. I might end up with 3 pots on the stove of separate veggies. This one likes Brussel Sprouts, that one likes Green Beans, this one likes Baby Corn. It's kind of tough. My daughter, the sunshine of my life who loves to stand in the kitchen and oversee everything I do claiming all the while to be the "Sous Chef", is starting to come around and try more things but younger than that there isn't much reasoning with children.

I am often curious, how, if I am then the Executive Chef at my house why my Sous doesn't do anything but peel one half of something, badly, and then walk off to go watch television and then meander back in and criticize my choice of salad greens. She is more like the owner or Executive Chef than I am. I guess instead of my "Chef" apron I should wear my "Cook" apron... kids... what can you do?

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” -- Zaphod Beeblebrox

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” -- Zaphod Beeblebrox
post #19 of 36
Couldn't agree more!

You can't expect to have every child eat all foods at all times. But it's like anything else...if you tell them to do one thing while doing another. Well, they'll end up acting just as you do.

My kids actually eat fairly healthy. It's not by design or because of any effort. My wife and I like good food...and you get good food by using good ingredients. Hmmm...maybe this would be something actually worth looking into. Perhaps a small children's starting garden set. Where they have a few seeds to plant, care for, watch grow...and after some time...something to eat.

I'm also not sure if you could (or should) restrict a healthy child's appetite. But you can certainly limit the portions of what and when they eat. You can certainly fill a child's appetite and address calorie concerns without feeding them McDonald's. Much less a supersize meal for a 10 year old. Supplement some of the meals they eat with other sides.

There's nothing wrong with bacon...just don't feed them half a pound at a sitting.

my $0.05 (inflation) ;)

post #20 of 36
Hi Mike,

Each kid is certainly different...and you have to find what works for them. Our oldest daughter tried going through a "finicky" period, where she wanted only the few foods that were her favorites.

We told her that during the week is our (mom and dad) time to pick dinner. But the Sunday dinner will be her choice. We explained that the week day meals may not be her favorite, but she that's what we're having. Then...if she eats well during the week...she gets to pick the Sunday meal for everyone. Most times it's steak...but a few times we've had pizza, chicken, waffles and on and on. It's kind of fun :)

post #21 of 36
Heh heh... my wife's sister's husband, I don't wanna call him my BIL because that would imply that we're related, he dumped ketchup on my MIL's country fried chicken with milk gravy. :) What little respect he had earned was totally gone. He'll never recover!
post #22 of 36
How to get kids to eat healthy food- here's what i think:
1. cook good food
2. NEVER force or even encourage and above all never reward eating - eating is its own reward, if it's not rewarding, the food isn't to the person;s taste.
3. make a large variety of foods from the very start, so they have the chance to develop different tastes
4. remember that if small kids are exposed to a large selection of foods, and allowed to pick from the selection here and there, they will end up eating a balanced diet by the end of a couple of weeks. one day may be all fruit, another all meat, sooner or later, they will have satisfied all their needs. This holds for kids who weren;t forced, cajoled or rewarded for eating. (It's a famous experiment that was done and repeated - two year olds end up eating a balanced diet)
5 nothing will make a kid hate a food more than making him eat it. Imagine being forced to eat something you hate, you'll throw up just at the thought of it.
6. if they don;t eat, don;t worry. They'll get hungry eventually and will eat. the more you obsess about food the less they will want to eat it
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #23 of 36
I think reverse physcology works very well. My trick has always been to cut up some raw vegies or cook some mixed ones . Put them in a bowl and place them on a table while the kids are wathcing TV or other activity. Tell them you have made them for yourself and could they "please" watch them so no one steals them.
Well you just have to see their delight as they scoff them down as you walk away to another room. The only problem is they tend to eat them too quickly and occasionally make themselves sick !

Its also important to remember that kids tend to snack and graze rather than eat 3 meals a day. So they tend to fill up fast and get hungary again soon after. Best to keep a steady flow of healthy food thru the day , especially during the morning and don't expect them to clean big plate fulls at meal times.
post #24 of 36
When my daughter was growing up she had two choices at meal times - eat that or go hungry! In freshman year at HS she read the book "Fast Food Nation" and (never a big fast food fan to begin with) she ragailed family and friends who even thought of entering a fast food joint with sordid details of what they were about to eat. She is an athlete now and eats accordingly.

In this day and age and with the very best of intentions it is almost impossible to avoid processed foods entirely. The best we can do (and especially us city dwellers) is to keep it to a minimum. All the educational fun stuff is hard pressed to compete when all your pals are going to hang out at the mall eating whatever they serve there. Strong reinforcement and good examples set by parents is the key.

post #25 of 36
Educate kids about how gross fast food is. It really is gross. It may have 'calories' but they are empty calories and loaded with fat! A lot of your food is handled by slack workers who don't care and would sooner drop your meat on the floor and put it back in your burger rather than walk all the way to the freezer to get another one.

Feed your kids home cooked foods. Your kids are only going to eat what you feed them. Trips to fast food should be out of the question, and they should be taught what makes quality food.

A huge problem is tv advertising, which just targets kids left and right. McDonalds in particular is one of the worst. You even have to watch the shows with them to see what product placements are in there.

My parents always made me take at least one bite of everything given to me, even if I knew I didn't like it. If I didn't like it I didn't have to finish it, but I always had to take at least one bite. Now I try almost everything and have discovered lots of great foods! It's a shame to see grown adults refusing to eat something they've never tried.
post #26 of 36
[quote=siduri;154735]How to get kids to eat healthy food- here's what i think:
2. NEVER force or even encourage and above all never reward eating -
Not true! I got a Happy Meal EVERY SATURDAY till High School And like I said I'm a bodybuilder now so........
post #27 of 36
[quote=CarlAird;154955]Not sure what you mean. The happy mean was forcing, or encouraging or rewarding eating? and that made you a body builder? i don't really understand
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #28 of 36
No, First its Happy MEAL. Second in America there are no absolutes, So do not say NEVER reward with food or a treat because it is not ALWAYS going to teach your children bad eating habits. In America we are trying to teach people of all ages SELF CONTROL and MODERATION.
post #29 of 36

children eating healthy

I just saw a PBS special the other day on this subject. A California school started a program where the kids had a little garden spot, grew their own vegetables and herbs. The school didn't stop there, they took them on field trips to local farmers markets, taught them on field trips what different insects do for our food sources (bees, how they pollinate, etc). It was all hands on for these kids. They then got to combine herbs with different vegetables and cook them. Their cafeteria used some of the vegs. they grew. It was really great to see these kids eating healthy and choosing to eat this way over the regular school fare.

When my son was young, I gave him and the neighborhood kids little parts of my garden. They were excited to see their plants grow (or sometimes die, lol). We then cooked them in my kitchen when they were ready. I always made sure the kids helped preparing these foods. I taught them to make roses out of radishes, etc. and they would eat them. If you make food fun, get them involved, they will eat. Before anyone says they don't have time, yes. you do. I worked 40-50 hrs. a week at that time. Before long, you too, can be making animal shapes out of foods, :lol:
post #30 of 36
Look at Madonna!
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