It’s one of the most challenging aspects of life that knows no social, ethnic or economic boundaries: getting kids to eat – oh, dare we say it – HEALTHY.
Aside from the few food superheroes who try any food put in front of them, many kids generally go through a phase when they avoid anything and everything that looks green or orange or has leaves, or isn’t some dreamy concoction of cheesy pasta or finger foods. Faced with omnipresent fast food and junk food marketing, and the accessibility of processed food options, what are parents, caregivers and educators to do?
For starters, make it fun! Putting an exciting spin on healthy meal prep and wholesome snacks is sure to pique a picky eater’s interest, and what better way to do so than employing our creative faculties? Here are some ways to use art to get kids to eat healthy:
Be a food engineer! Create a glorious veggie-and-fruit pyramid, a skyscraper, a house, or whatever the kiddos choose to build. Use toothpicks for structure and/or sturdier produce, such as carrots, jicama sticks or celery as your foundation, with grapes, melon or mangoes to dress it up. Then, have a blast bulldozing the whole thing down by devouring it. Demolition at its healthiest!
Eat the rainbow. At the grocery store, have kids pick out fruits and veggies that can be arranged to make a rainbow. For older kids who need a bit more of a challenge, try the color wheel! It’s a great way to encourage nutritious snacking and cultivate a deeper appreciation for art at the same time.
Create a mosaic. Take a piece of whole-grain flatbread or a rice cake, spread hummus or peanut butter on top, and add a variety of crackers, cut veggies, edamame or your choice of beans or nuts to make a design that even the most skilled artisan would appreciate.
Animal Shapes. A gold standard for exasperated parents everywhere, cutting food into animal shapes is the time-tested way to a stubborn stomach. If we adults haven’t cut a sandwich into a bunny or kitty, it was likely done for us at one time or another (my childhood preference was the bunny). Still, sandwiches aren’t the only ones who make stand-ins for cute creatures. Tofu is perfect for this kind of artwork – just drain, shape, season and bake!
Sunrays. Make a “sun” using an array of veggies surrounding their favorite dip in the center. They only get to eat the dip by taking at least one of each veggie “ray.” For dessert, try using fruit and a sweet sauce center.
Design an artful lunchbox. The latest cool trend from Japan comes in the form of the bento box.Bento boxes are efficient and intended to present food in a way that’s attractive for kids and adults alike. A lunch in a bento box keeps food neatly separated (often a must for toddlers), and there is no shortage of possibilities for how to make an artful, healthy meal that’s also fun to eat!
Become a food jeweler. Remember those candy necklaces from yesteryear? Well, who says we can’t make them from veggies or fruit? With some floss and a pin, gently thread grapes, melon, cantaloupe and vegan cheese cubes to make deliciously healthy edible bracelets and necklaces (again, smocks may come in handy for this activity!).
With these suggestions, you’re sure to make snack-time an adventurous foray into art and healthy eating. Be messy, make mistakes and have fun!