La Jolla Mom

Getting Your Preschooler to Eat Healthy Food

BY La Jolla Mom

Most days, I find it tough to get my daughter to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. We just passed through the brown and yellow food phase and are improving steadily.

Adding more colors became easier when I put more effort into making healthy food fun. Below, I’ve included simple ideas should you need to prepare a healthy snack for the preschool set. Fun also doesn’t have to be expensive or too fancy.

Use Props

For older preschoolers, anything on a safe stick is more intriguing than a pile on a plate.

I got the candy cane straws in the photo above at Party City for 25 cents each. My daughter named this strawberry and mozzarella combination “hearts and snowballs”. These snacks are festive and if you make them for a group, the kids can take the straws home with them. Or use cocktail sticks with balls on the end to spear fruit. It’s amazing how something so simple can put a smile on their faces. Make sure the kids pull the fruit off the sticks to eat it so they don’t hurt themselves.
Healthy Preschool Snacks - Fruit on Sticks

Keep Cookie Cutters of all Sizes on Hand

Changing the shape of a common food helps too. Calcium is critical to a child’s development. If you think your child isn’t getting enough, or maybe you just need to bring a festive snack to preschool, try this. Cheese is very easy to cut with a small cookie cutter. You can use any waste in a grilled cheese sandwich later.

Sandwiches can also be turned into something more kid-friendly. La Jolla Girl will, on occasion, ask to eat the bread left with the hole in the middle. I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shaped like ducks to preschool once, and it was the most popular snack I ever made. I use fruit spread from Trader Joe’s, which has less sugar than traditional jams or jellies. Sometimes I use Almond Butter instead of Peanut Butter, or I sneak bananas in the middle. The kids don’t complain. This strategy works with other sandwiches like turkey, cheese, and lettuce, though I find it tough with tomatoes inside.

Get Creative

Do your kids have a favorite show? Sometimes I can get my daughter to eat celery because the Wonder Pets do. I once saw a vegetable platter in the shape of a cat (cucumber eyes, etc.) and studied the reaction of the kids. They didn’t “see” the vegetables, they saw a cat. La Jolla Girl wouldn’t touch the tomatoes in the arrangement, but chowed down on the other veggies, to my surprise. I then started staging vegetables with moderate success. I wish I could say it works all of the time, but some of the time is better than it used to be. These vegetable butterfly snacks are really easy to make and are inspired by something I saw on Nick Jr. The antennae are rosemary from my yard. Hummus is an easy, healthy dip for veggies that can be store bought or made quickly. I like Ina Garten’s Hummus recipe since it has no oil.

Not all of these healthy snack ideas will work 100% of the time, but it’s up to us, as parents, to do whatever we can to encourage healthy eating habits. Fortunately, there’s help if you need it.

I recently joined the First 5 group on BabyCenter and took the pledge to feed La Jolla Girl 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for one month. First 5 is a California organization dedicated to helping educate parents and caregivers about the importance of fitness, nutrition, and reading during the first 5 years of life. In their BabyCenter group, you can also pledge to remove chips and soda for a month. Or if you have a new baby, you may pledge to introduce fruits and veggies from the beginning. It’s also a great place to interact with other parents and see what healthy living techniques work for them. Check it out. Thanks to BabyCenter for sponsoring this post. I’m very excited to be a member of the BabyCenter Blog Network.

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17 thoughts on “Getting Your Preschooler to Eat Healthy Food

  1. Hello,

    My wife Mara owns Posies and Ponies on 7449 Girard avenue in La Jolla ( and we have both been following your tweets and blogs .. well done! Also read the article in the paper the other day. If there is anything we can do – synergies – please let us know!

    All the best!

    Jean-Luc and mara

  2. Katie,

    You know I am a HUGE advocate for getting my kids to eat healthy and do it creatively. That’s one of the reasons I love Muffin Tin Meals so much – you can see in each cup, just how much your child is getting. We have amassed a TON of cookie cutters for this very purpose.

    Love this post. There is actual research to support the idea that when food packaging has pop culture characters on it, kids are drawn to it and more likely to eat it. – and while that is disheartening on one side -it also encourages me to think outside the box a little – to promote healthy food in the same way!

    Love your ideas!

  3. You are so good at stuff like this! And stuff like that!
    These are all great ideas.
    The only thing I do is shred spinach and put it microscopically into the kids’ mac ‘n cheese.

    Also…I once had a friend who served a big bowl of veggies before every meal and her kids learned to eat it before they got to have the entree.

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