50 Healthy Eating Tips

We’ve gathered 50 healthy eating tips to help your family eat more fruits and vegetables.  Experiment with just one or two tips at a time and when you find one that works for you, slowly incorporate it into your routine.  Making small changes over time is the best way to build healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Scroll through these tips from 1-50 or choose a category below to advance to that section.

Grocery Shopping                Meals                       More Inspiration

Snacks                                  Picky Eaters

       

#1.  Play Raise Your Rainbow®with your children to keep them motivated and focused on eating more fruits and vegetables.  Soon this way of eating will become a way of life.

 Grocery Shopping – Stock up!

2.    Create a List of your family’s favorite produce and use this list when you shop so you’re not reinventing the wheel every week. Include frozen fruits and vegetables and pantry items such as beans, lentils, dried fruit, canned tomatoes, and applesauce.  Raise Your Rainbow® comes with a dry-erase fruit and vegetable list by color – use this as a shopping list.              

 

3.    Make a special trip to the grocery store with your children so they can help select produce or choose which new fruits and vegetables to try.  When kids help choose their food, they’re more likely to eat it.

  

Snacks

4.    Place a bowl of fresh fruit in plain view so your kids can grab and go.
 

5.    Fill containers with washed and cut-up fruits and vegetables for quick snacks, school lunches or a pre-dinner appetizer.  Place a small amount of water in containers with carrots and celery to keep them crisp.

6.    Use clear containers so your kids can see what’s inside.

7.    Designate a specific “snack” shelf in your fridge, preferably at eye level, so your kids know where to look for snacks and you’ll know when it’s time to replenish.  Keep other refrigerated snacks in this area too such as yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and containers of nuts, applesauce, or V-8 juice.

8.    Serve dips such as hummus, peanut butter, salad dressing, salsa, yogurt or applesauce with fruits and vegetables.

9.    Kale chips - not potato chips! Make a batch of Kale Chips and watch them disappear as fast as you can say “Why haven’t I ever made these before??”  See our Kale Chips recipe.

10.    Stock up on frozen fruit to make healthy and delicious smoothies. Freeze your own fruit, especially if your berries are getting too ripe in the fridge.  For bananas, peel and break into a few pieces before freezing.

11.    Add avocado (chopped or mashed) to salsa, smoothies or just spread it on toast.  It’s a great way to add a healthy fat to your child’s diet.

12.    Offer dried fruit as a snack or use as a condiment.  Sprinkle dried cranberries on oatmeal, salad, or grab a box of raisins for a snack on the go.  Limit dried fruits to ¼ cup per serving because of the high concentration of sugar.

13.    Play with your food.  A creative presentation can make food more appealing to children. Arrange vegetables to make a funny face or make “ants on a log” by putting peanut butter in celery stalks and dotting with raisins.   Serve cut-up fruit on a kabob or with toothpicks.  Arrange a variety of little snacks in a muffin tray for a fun presentation. Lastly give food fun names like calling broccoli tiny trees.

14.     Give kids a choice between two healthy snacks so they feel they have a say in what they eat – e.g. sliced apple with peanut butter or baby carrots with hummus?

15.    Post a “Snack Menu” in your kitchen.  Make a list of the healthy snacks your kids like so when they ask you what they can have for a snack you can just refer them to this “snack menu.” For example:  sliced apples, veggies and dip, smoothie, ants on a log, fruit kabobs, yogurt parfait, chips and salsa, kale chips, whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and strawberries, banana and peanut butter quesadilla, popcorn, trail mix …”.  Reference this list when making your shopping list as well.

16.    Sprinkle fresh or frozen berries or canned peaches or pineapple on top of yogurt.  Add granola, nuts or any cereal of your choice for an added crunch - layer it to make a pretty parfait!  This makes a great breakfast too.

 

 

 

Meals

17.    Have fruits / vegetables with every meal - get the whole family on board with this goal.  See if you can do it consistently for a week.

18.    For breakfast, sprinkle fruit (fresh or frozen) on top of cereal or oatmeal or just serve it on the side if your kids don’t like it mixed in with other foods.  Rotate different fruits throughout the week for variety: strawberries, peaches, cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi, blueberries… Having a fruit or vegetable at breakfast sets the right tone for the day.

19.    Adventurous breakfast eaters: try adding chopped tomatoes, onions or spinach to your scrambled eggs or wrap it up in a tortilla for a hearty breakfast burrito.

20.    Add lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. to sandwiches and wraps.  “Think of your sandwich as a salad between two pieces of bread,” says Ellen Warren, Senior Correspondent, Chicago Tribune.

21.    Review your child’s Rainbow right before dinner so they’re motivated to earn any colors they haven’t raised yet along with some Bonus Serving Stars.

22.    Let them help you cook.  When kids help prepare the food, they are more likely to eat it. Get their help with washing, slicing and spicing the vegetables.

23.    Buy a plastic lettuce knife so your kids can safely slice bananas, cucumbers, strawberries and other soft foods.  

24.     Give them choices.  When kids are not able to help in the kitchen, a good alternative is to offer them a choice of which vegetable to serve or how to prepare it – raw broccoli or steamed? Kids are more likely to eat the food if they’re involved in deciding how it is prepared.

25.    Have a salad with dinner.  Spruce up your salad with colorful and nutritious toppings such as sliced carrots, celery, cucumbers, shredded purple cabbage, dried cranberries, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, sliced fruit, frozen peas, etc. Make a big salad and store the leftovers in the fridge so you don’t have to prepare it every night – it should keep for a few days.

26.    If your kids don’t like salad, give them a big romaine lettuce leaf or baby spinach leaves to dip in their own dressing bowl.  Serve the components of the salad separately if they don’t like it mixed together.

27.    In addition to your salad, serve 2-3 side vegetable side dishes (raw or cooked) with dinner – variety is key.

28.    If you like structure instead of last minute planning, keep a list of vegetable side dishes your family likes so you can refer to this list when planning your meals.  You can continually rotate through this list so there’s no thought involved!

29.    When making vegetable side dishes, make more than you need so you can use extra servings for lunch or snacks.
 

30.    Stock up on frozen vegetables and serve as a side dish on the nights when fresh vegetables aren’t available.  

31.    Add beans such as kidney, pinto, garbanzo, navy, to sloppy joes, canned soup, rice, salads, etc., and double the amount called for in chili, burritos, stews, etc.  You can even puree them and add to recipes such as quesadillas.

32.    Add extra vegetables to your recipes: Add grated or chopped vegetables like zucchini, carrots, celery and bell peppers to soups, salads, casseroles, sauces, chili, crock pot dishes, rice or pasta.  Freeze leftover grated or chopped vegetables to use on another night.   In general, add double the amount of vegetables called for in a recipe.

33.    Use prepackaged and sliced vegetables and fruits found in the produce section to save on prep time. Although often more pricey, the convenience may be worth the extra cost.

34.    Focus on one “challenge” vegetable for a week.  Choose a vegetable that’s under-used in your house, maybe because it’s unfamiliar or intimidating and then challenge yourself to prepare it in different ways throughout the week.  For example, buy a bag of baby spinach and see how many ways you can add it to your current recipes (smoothies, sandwiches, salads, pasta sauces, lasagna, cous cous, omelet, lasagna, etc.) and try some new recipes and cooking methods as well.   You’ll ignite your creativity, discover new foods and techniques, and hopefully start a collection of healthy recipes that your whole family will enjoy.

35.    Roasted vegetables are easy to make and are delicious.  Just use any vegetables you have on hand or choose seasonal vegetables.  Roasting tends to make some vegetables less bitter and thus more appealing to kids (e.g. Brussles sprouts, onions, parsnips.) See our Roasted Vegetables recipe.

36.    Top mini-pizzas or baked potatoes with at least 2 vegetables.

37.    Prepare different vegetables based on your family’s preference and they’ll be more likely to eat them.  Experiment with steaming, sautéing, roasting – serve plain or with lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic…. slightly crunchy or fully cooked.  

38.    Use time-saving chopping gadgets to streamline meal-prep. The Vidalia Chop Wizard ($19.99) is a great device because it chops onions, carrots, celery, peppers, apples, mushrooms, etc. in one quick motion.  Since owning this device, I add so many more veggies to my recipes and salads. Williams & Sonoma offers a deluxe version that comes with a mini chopper section for garlic, shallots, ginger, etc. ($29.99)

39.    Follow the USDA’s “my plate”   guidelines when filling up your plate. Display a print-out of this icon on your fridge so your kids can refer to it as well.  Harvard School of Public Health has a version of these guidelines on their website as well.

40.    Healthy Plate - Take the previous tip one step further and purchase a plate for your child with sections that match the MyPlate icon.  Children will be motivated to fill their plate with the appropriate portions of food.  There are a couple of styles offered on this website at very reasonable prices:  Super Healthy Kids 

 

41.    Offer cut-up fruit for dessert or bedtime snack, serve plain or top with nuts, yogurt or whipped topping.  This is a great way to earn that final Rainbow band or Bonus Serving Star!

 

Picky Eaters -  Persistence is Key

42.    Keep re-introducing the fruits and vegetables your kids say they don’t like.  It may take up to 15 exposures until a child will accept a new food.  My 11 year old just started eating salad and we’ve been trying to get her to eat lettuce for the past 7 years.  Sometimes children’s preferences and aversions change as they grow.  So never stop trying!

43.    Experiment with new fruits and vegetables (or those that have previously “failed” in your house) when your child has a friend over.  Kids are usually more daring when their friends are around – especially if their friend likes it and asks for seconds!  

44.    Try to pinpoint why your child doesn’t like a particular food (i.e. smell, look, texture, taste) and try to prepare it in a way that masks what’s objectionable.  Many kids don’t like the “mushy” texture of certain canned or steamed vegetables, so try serving them raw instead.  Frozen vegetables tend to maintain their color and texture better than their canned counterparts.  Try different dips or toppings to make vegetables more appealing, for example try sprinkling cinnamon on butternut squash or sweet potatoes.

45.    Add “stealth” vegetables to your recipes.  There are many recipe books based on the strategy of finely chopping or pureeing veggies and then adding them to recipes for an extra nutritional punch.  It’s not meant to take the place of serving vegetables on the side, it just enhances the foods you serve.  See box on upper left with book suggestions.

 

More Inspiration – Where to Search

Lastly, if you’re in a rut and want to search for more ideas, here’s where to look:

46.    Explore the websites we’ve listed under Parents - Resources, they’re full of information and helpful tips.  Check out the vegetarian websites because all their information is geared toward fruits, vegetables and other plant-based whole foods -  you don’t have to be a vegetarian to benefit from their healthful recipes and tips.

47.    Search websites like “You Tube” for instructional videos on how to prepare or cook a vegetable that is unfamiliar to you (bok choy, artichokes, fiddleheads?)  They have it all!

48.    Simply Google “fruits and vegetables”, “healthy eating”, “kids nutrition” or similar phrases and you’ll come across some interesting websites, blogs, and fresh ideas that will appeal to you.  

49.    Explore your library’s cookbook section.  Trying new recipes can provide some much needed inspiration.  Look through the vegetarian cookbooks as they focus on recipes that use fruits, vegetables and healthy whole grains as the main ingredient.  Kid-friendly cookbooks are also great because they’re written with kids’ natural preferences in mind.  One of my favorite kid-friendly cookbooks is:  Weelicious by Catherine McCord.

50.    Lastly, talk to other parents. Some of the best ideas come from people who are in the trenches with you.  Organize a recipe swap or start a conversation about snack ideas or how to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables - soon you’ll be sharing many valuable tips.