Kids Just Want to Have Fun with Food
Boost the 'fun factor' of healthy foods with these tips and recipes.
When it comes to food, it seems kids just want to have fun.
We are, after all, talking about the "Happy Meal" generation. Kids
are used to going to fast-food restaurants and finding their meal in a cute,
colorful box with a toy inside. They've seen snack foods like mini cracker
sandwiches made with fluffy cheese and peanut butter, and fruit-filled pastries
you can pop in the toaster. They see commercials for breakfast cereals with
colorful marshmallows in fun shapes, and cereal that looks and tastes like mini
chocolate chip cookies.
It's easy to make junk food fun to eat. But is it possible to use the
"fun factor" to inspire kids to eat healthy foods?
The way to get kids to eat more nutritious foods is to make the experience
as much fun as eating less healthy snacks, George Carey, president of the Just
Kid Inc. marketing group, told WebMD in an email.
And what makes a food or beverage fun? Just Kid Inc. recently put that
question to children in three age groups (2-5 years, 6-8 years, and 9-12
years). The study (which included responses from a national sample of 3,230
six- to 12-year-olds and moms of 2- to 5-year-olds) found that most children
agreed on a few characteristics that make a food fun to eat.
The "fun" attributes they named include:
- Finger foods. No surprise here -- kids like eating with
- Dipping and scooping. Children also think its fun to dip
or scoop their food into another food.
- Add-ins. Kids enjoy taking matters into their own hands by
adding things to their food, such as sprinkles, sauces, or other toppings.
- Fillings and frostings. Fillings or frostings tend to make
foods appealing to children.
- Silly shapes and cool colors. Kids like foods that come in
interesting shapes and colors.
- Portability. Children like to be able to take food
products with them.
Fun-Filled Healthful Foods
With a little imagination, all of these attributes can translate to
healthful food and recipes (with the possible exception of fillings and
frostings). For example:
- Baby carrots and celery sticks are portable and come in individual
containers (available in the produce section of your market).
- Whole grain breads and biscuits can be cut into silly shapes.
- Light dips, yogurt, and smoothies can change into cool colors with a flick
of the finger (using food coloring) or by blending in colorful fruits (like
raspberries or mangos) or juices (such as pomegranate or grape juice.)
- Some ideas for fun add-ins and toppings: Chop tomatoes, broccoli, and green
onions for topping baked potatoes; stir frozen fruit (sliced bananas, diced
mango, bing cherries, blueberries, or raspberries) into hot cereal; and use
veggie toppings to create a face on a pizza or morning bagel.
- To create fun shapes, try pouring pancake batter into a plastic bottle and
squeezing out the letters in your child's name.