Making Healthy Food as Tempting as Junk
by Missy Chase Lapine
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” Who hasn’t gotten a little crazy when they hear that truck jingling it’s way down the street… But you can get your kids screaming -- in a good way --for homemade, healthy foods too.
To do this, parents like us need to take a lesson from the packaged food giants and make our homemade, healthy foods irresistible to kids. The junk food companies have entire marketing departments devoted to making junk food enticing. First they name it a fun name (like “blastin’ green”), then they give the food a fun shape (like animal crackers), then they make it a fun (artificial) color. We can do this too, in a healthier way, of course. Here are 5 simple strategies for making our healthy food just as kid-friendly as theirs:
- Name It – Call your recipe a fun name like “Breakfast Ice Cream”. That’s what I call my extra thick fruit and yogurt smoothies. Who could resist that?
- Hide It – Steam, and then puree your veggies and mix them into kids’ favorite foods, like pureed peas, broccoli, and spinach mixed into meatballs or meatloaf. Kids eat with their eyes, and they don’t fight over what they don’t see.
- Top It- Use “visual decoys”. Top that healthy fruit smoothie with a few calories of whipped cream to eliminate all resistance. Dust whole grain cookies and muffins with powdered sugar or top them with a few sprinkles or chocolate chips. Put that smoothie in a fun parfait glass with a straw. Lure your kids into that first sip or bite.
- Fake It- Use “taste decoys” so they’ll take a second, third, and fourth bite. Add kids’ favorite flavors like ketchup, cheese or chocolate to cover up any new taste that your healthy foods might add to a recipe. Spread ketchup over your meatloaf or inside hamburgers that have hidden pureed veggies inside them.
- Shhh It!- Don’t tell them it’s healthy – trust me on this one.