I’m always trying to find ways to get my kids to try new foods and develop healthy habits.
In January 2013 I came up with the Top Food Challenge and it was such a hit my kids wanted me to do it more than once a month.
Unfortunately, because I like to do a lot of planning and researching, once a month is about all I can handle but I was certainly excited about their enthusiasm. They still get super excited when I announce its Top Food Challenge Day and often ask me to hurry up so they can try another new and healthy food!
Read on to learn how to have your own Top Food Challenge!
Step 3: Buy the fruit a few days before you plan to use it. Most fruits aren’t ripe and ready from the store or farmer’s market and if that’s the case you will need to wait a bit until the fruit is ready to eat. Most fruits are ready when you can smell their lovely scent and when a gentle push with the finger shows the fruit is soft. Other fruits are good to go from the store or market (like apples and oranges).
Step 1: Choose your fruit (or vegetable). Here’s a list of the fruits we’ve tried so far, you can use this as as a checklist or to ask your kids which ones they’d like to try first: Twenty-six Fruits to Sample
HINT: Some fruits are hard to find depending on the time of year. Try to choose seasonal fruits!
Check here for more Healthy Foods ideas
Step 2: Decide on the ways you will prepare the fruit. I usually serve the fruit raw, cooked somehow, in a drink, and in something baked like a muffin or cookie (I have fun searching online for recipes). If you aren’t much of a cook then find the fruit in juice form and as a jam /jelly for a simple preparation. You can even just puree fruit and make them into popsicles or smoothies for another easy preparation.
I like to look online to find recipes for these challenges. Check here to see the links to the recipes I used.
My basic idea was to highlight one healthy food a month, starting with fruits! I wanted to prepare the food in a few different ways to show them that foods can vary in taste when prepared differently. I am also trying to encourage them to eat foods as a complete bite (with other flavors and ingredients) instead of picking out all the peas in the pasta for instance.
I decided the make it into a bit of a judging thing to make it fun. I’m not sure what this says about me or my kids, but we adore Food Network shows and watch things like Top Chef, Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen a lot. When I told them they’d get to be the “judges” and rate each preparation they were keen to sample the foods. I told them they only had to take one fair sized bite and if they didn’t like it they could give it a 1 star but if they did like it they could eat the whole thing and then rate it accordingly. There was only one occasion when my Youngest flipped out about trying a fruit. Can you guess what it was? I was a bit surprised myself, but he had a fit over eating raspberries!!
Like all Family Theme Day ideas this can be adjusted and certainly made simpler. You could choose less preparations, you could choose store bought preparations, you could get your kids involved in the cooking, you could make it a 3 star rating instead of 5, you could skip the nutrition talk and focus on flavor and texture (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, soft, chewy, crunchy…).
Make this a fun thing for your family and just enjoy the process of introducing healthy choices to your kids.
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Step 5: Prepare the fruit. I love to cook and experiment with recipes so some of my choices might not work for you, but if you look online or in your favourite cookbook you will find many wonderful and easy ways to prepare various fruits. To see what I served my sons check this page: Top Food - Sample Challenges.
Step 6: Talk to your kids about the fruit. My Eldest is logical and loves science so I always list the basic nutritious elements of the fruit before they eat it. I don’t give a complete list of vitamins and minerals as that’s lost on them (and frankly to me) but I remind them of the basics...vitamins to help you grow and stay strong, etc. Check out my Nutrition Matching Worksheet for a basic introduction to nutrition key words for kids. Go to the Top Food - For Fun page for the KEY.
Start with fruit which is generally sweet and much easier to convince kids to eat.
Step 4: Print out my Top Food Challenge Worksheet or make up your own or have your kids simply write on a piece of paper (coloured paper is always fun). For younger kids you could always search online for a colouring page of the fruit as well and start with that while you prepare the food.
Has it been a complete
success for us?
Are my kids now reaching for the fruit bowl when they are hungry?
Well….not as much as I’d hoped, but the good news is I’ve found some new fruits to add in their school lunches and new ways to add nutrition to meals. Instead of a veggie I sometimes serve fruit, or make a fruit salad or
bake apple pieces
Step 8: Step away from the table and let your kids rate the fruit. I tell them to write what they feel and not to worry about hurting my feelings. They are judging the fruit, not my cooking. I remind them that its okay to not enjoy the taste of something and that some flavours need to grow on people. I myself hated tomatoes when I was little but I adore them now! I remind them that this will give me ideas on what fruits to buy for snacks and which ones to pack in their lunches. If you step away from the table and let them write on their own, chances are they will be more honest than if you hover over them.
Step 9: Let them read their reviews out loud. Talk about what they liked and didn’t like. Some foods taste better when blended or cooked or when other spices or ingredients are added. Discuss the differences. Did one child dislike the seeds? Does one child dislike sour fruits? Did the fruit taste better when cooked? Learn about each other’s tastes! It’s fun!
Step 7: Serve your kids. When they are a bit nervous about trying a preparation I remind them that they only have to have one bite and that seems to help. We all sample together as well. I find it helps when they know everyone is trying the food.