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La Jolla Mom

Simple Tricks for Getting Your Preschooler to Eat Healthy Food

No need to get too fancy

BY La Jolla Mom
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On most days, I find it tough to get my daughter to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

We just passed through the brown and yellow food phase and are improving steadily. Adding more color to her diet 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 seriously doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.

Use Props Like Reusable Straws

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

Small mozzarella balls alternated with whole strawberries on reusable plastic drinking straws.

I bought the candy cane straws in the photo above at Party City for 25 cents each. My daughter named the strawberry and mozzarella combination “hearts and snowballs.”

Reusable plastic straws work better for spearing fruit than cocktail sticks or skewers because they don’t have a pointed edge. Or use cocktail sticks with balls on the end to spear fruit. 

grapes and whole strawberries speared onto a cocktail stick with a round end.
Fruit on safe sticks is more interesting than a pile of fruit on a plate.

These snacks are festive and if you make them for a group, the kids can take the straws home with them.

It’s amazing how something so simple can put a smile on their faces. 

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 shaping sliced (thickly sliced is best) cheese with a small cookie cutter or vegetable cutter. (Vegetable cutters are fantastic for shaping carrots, cucumbers, and more.)

Cheese cut into shapes on crackers
Cheese cut into shapes on crackers.

Save the cheese scraps to melt in a grilled cheese sandwich later.

Sandwiches can also be turned into something more kid-friendly. My daughter will, on occasion, ask to eat the bread left with the hole in the middle.

While there are many sandwich cutters on the market, you can simply use the cookie cutters that you have.

My daughter sometimes eats the sandwich with the shape cut out of it for a change of pace.

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 shaped sandwich 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 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. My daughter chowed down the other veggies, much 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 none of the time.

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 and the dip is hummus.

Vegetable shaped butterflies made with bell pepper, cucumber, tomato and rosemary.
Shape vegetables and fruit like animals.

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.

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17 thoughts on “Simple Tricks for Getting Your Preschooler to Eat Healthy Food

  1. Love the Hearts adn Snowballs! Oh and the cookie cutters are a brilliant idea, I have to pick up some more of those. THanks for sharing your creative healthy food ideas:)

  2. Hello,

    My wife Mara owns Posies and Ponies on 7449 Girard avenue in La Jolla (www.posiesandponies.com) 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

  3. 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!

    1. I’m going to link to Muffin Tin Mondays in this post because you are the perfect example of how to make food fun! Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Ok I would eat all of those. Can you come over and make those for me? DH & I have really tried this year to amp the fruits and vegtables for the kids and it’s hard, but your ideas are absolutely fantastic.

    1. Candice – only if you come organize my house! Ha. I am unfashionably disorganized at the moment with the holidays and all that.

  5. 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.

  6. Wow! These are great ideas for the toddler set – I have a list over on Snack Girl of some other great kid friendly snacks. I hope this is helpful!

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