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Food & Fitness

Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy Food

Sisters cookingWhen was the last time your child sat down at the dinner table and said, “Gee, thanks for this delicious plate of healthy food! Can I have seconds?” We can’t promise these tips will convert your picky eater into a fruit and vegetable fan, but they should make good food choices more attractive for everyone.

  1. Get them involved

    If you involve kids in planning meals, going grocery shopping, and preparing food, they will become invested in the process and more likely to eat. Even toddlers too young to make grocery lists can help you make choices (pears or nectarines? cheddar or swiss?) along the way. Simple, no-cook recipes like frozen yogurt popsicles or fruit parfaits are an excellent way to get young chefs interested in healthy cooking and eating.

  2. Go to the source

    Teach kids where their food comes from. Rather than limiting yourself to the weekly supermarket run, take your family to a local farmer’s market (or to the farm itself) and meet the people who grow the food. Picking berries from a vine can help nurture a lifelong love of good eating and environmental stewardship. Visiting a dairy farm can teach children where their milk comes from (and why we should care about what goes in it). Planting tomatoes and melons in the garden may tempt a child to try the fruits of her labor.

  3. Make healthy snacks available

    If you stock the kitchen exclusively with healthy treats, children will eat them. As your children grow, stock good snacks in cabinets and shelves that they can reach without your help.

    Some kids eat more when they’re in the car than when they’re at the table simply because active play isn’t a viable alternative when you’re strapped in. Make sure you’re prepared with nutritious snacks whether you’re driving the carpool or going to soccer practice. Good choices include sliced apples, carrot sticks, whole grain crackers, light popcorn, raisins and water bottles.

  4. Give them freedom of choice

    Like the rest of us, kids want to have it their way. But no parent wants to be a short order cook, making four different meals for four different family members. Instead try the fixings bar approach. Offer a suitable base meal, like rice and beans, whole wheat tortillas or lean ground taco meat. Then let kids (and adults) dress it up with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cheese, salsa, jicama, parsley, peppers and other toppings. You might also try a pasta bar with a variety of healthy sauces. This approach works especially well when you?re serving young guests whose food preferences you may have trouble predicting.

    Kids like choices at snack time too, so consider packing an insulated lunch bag full of good snacks so they can make their own smart choices (and you can avoid hearing “I don’t want THAT!”).

  5. Drink to that

    Remember that your child doesn’t have to just eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day he can also drink them. Smoothies and mixed fruit drinks like watermelon slush and mango lassi can be a fun way to introduce new fruits.

  6. Be a role model

    A recent study found that young children’s food tastes are significantly related to foods that their mothers liked and disliked. Letting your child see you order a fresh salad rather a burger and fries at the drive-through may encourage her to do the same.

  7. Don’t give up

    Studies show that most children need multiple exposures (between 5 and 10) to try new foods. This isn’t to say that showing your child the same papaya or avocado five nights in a row will win her over, but rather to suggest that you shouldn’t give up the first time she rejects something.

  8. Teach healthy eating habits early

    Use meal and snack times as teachable moments to help even the youngest children make wise food choices. You’ll find some great tips and strategies for helping babies and toddlers develop healthy eating habits in this downloadable booklet (requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader) from Zero to Three.

  • Food_Safety_Attorneys

    Our attorneys recently won $4.5 million for a young woman who got an E. coli infection from eating undercooked tenderized steak. Her E. coli developed into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which caused kidney failure. The lesson here is that all food served to children should be cooked well to kill any pathogens.

  • J-noh

    Perfect time to try this craft since kids are on spring break!

  • omgpop2153

    this is an awesome project to do

  • FunKid

    Had troubles makeing it. JellyFish Did Not Move The Way I Imagined -_-



    • Ur mum

      Did you do it after school? It’s been 3 years, Amie.

  • Angelcris Emnace Sadili

    You have a long instructions. It would be better for the reader to make it short.

  • Doctor Who

    I am not sure if this is worth it. It sounds like kids can do better things with their time and skills.

  • Guest Ninomills

    Great idea for a sensory activity. My child has SPD and loves the calm of the little jelly fish “swimming” around. Very calming and neat discovery bottle. Might try adding this to our timeout basket. Did have some trouble getting it to move. Will try adding more water, think ours had too much air. Think we may experiment and try adding glitter glue or corn syrup to slow the movement down. Great idea thanks for posting!

  • apirl flores

    i love this for his school project.

  • poop

    this did not work for me. and I tried everthing.

  • Yvonne Greene

    I would extend the lesson and teach them that trash such as plastic bags finds itself into our waterways as pollution where it can entangle wildlife (if that’s all then they’re lucky but more than like will die from it) or they can mistake it for food whereas they die from starvation or suffocation. (Lots of photos on Texas Parks and Wildlife site of this very problem). Then I would extend it even further buy teaching them the importance of the environment, picking up trash and using (or making) reusable grocery bags to combat this very problem.

    • Kirsten McGovern

      That’s exactly what I thought when I saw this. I want to use this at my nature center to show how turtles (and other sea creatures) can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish that they eat. I’m excited to try it!

  • Alison Ashley Formento

    I absolutely love this project and it’s a perfect share for teachers who do activities with my book THESE SEAS COUNT! (Albert Whitman & Co. 2012) In the book, the kids are cleaning a dirty beach and I love finding ways to repurpose items in a useful or artistic way, especially plastics which are harmful to our oceans and seas.

  • lolnan

    Tried different bottles and bags, just didn’t work for me. My grandchildren were disappointed.

  • Steven Lee

    Although you don’t want to get in the habit of forcing your kids to eat foods they don’t like or make them “clean” their plates, there are lots of healthy foods kids like. Parents often overlook these healthy foods and go straight to what they think are more “kid-friendly foods,” such as hot dogs, pizza, french fries, chicken nuggets, juice and soda.

  • Sarah Jane Fretwell

    I just made this and had trouble keeping water inside the jellyfish head so i stuffed some of the left over plastic wet inside and re-closed it and that has worked for me. Although I do think my jellyfish was too big for the bottle so i transferred it to a 2L bottle and that has worked better.

  • guest

    To all the people having problems keeping air in your bag, why don’t u try a small balloon or water balloon and then tie the bag over that… this project is way to cool to just rule out all possibilities… just saying. I’m for sure going to make some amazing jelly’s with this idea, add some LED’s to the equation and we got ourselves a spectacular sight.

  • Lynda Roberson

    Children learn what they live so if you don’t introduce unhealthy choices, they won’t make them.

  • simple knit & crochet

    This my point… “A recent study found that young children’s food tastes are significantly related to foods that their mothers liked and disliked.”

  • spanglernest

    All of the above are great points to encourage healthy eating in kids. It is important to start the process and encouragement early on! I am a third year medical student at UNC School of Medicine and have written an interactive children’s book, Where is Henry? Where is Henry? incorporates the importance of daily physical activity, nutrition education, and literacy within the classroom/family setting. Where is Henry? Is geared towards kindergarten to third grade students and their families, providing a mechanism for nutrition education during routine reading time (with a twist!). You might be wondering—what exactly is an interactive children’s book? Where is Henry? allows students to interact with the story, performing exercises while the story is being read. Learn more about the Where is Henry? at

  • Brooklyn

    These are really good choices

  • Emile Janson

    Thanks for the tips, its really useful for all the moms out there and its really very important to develop healthy eating habits for the kids. Here are some healthy ideas for kids which will help to develop a healthier lifestyle.

  • Jen Hajime

    Amazingly sincere and helpful information prepared in bitesize pieces. I’ll be using and linking to this article as I write my own healthy eating for kids guide. Thanks PBS!
    Sustainable and rent free in NYC

  • Mrs. Long

    I have tried this multiple times, multiple ways. Not working. At all. Even with no air at all in the top of the jellyfish, it still floats to the top and just looks like a plastic bag. Glad I made several attempts before trying it with my class. We will not be attempting this. After reading the other reviews, sounds like I’m not the only one who has had problems.

  • Scott Hernandez

    Thanks PBS! These tips are very useful to develop healthy eating habits in children. If our kid has healthy eating habits his lifestyle will be healthy either. You can also read this blog to get some tips for improving healthy lifestyles in children

  • guest

    Good points, thanks!  The “downloadable booklet” link does not work…

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