The Tempting Apple: How to make raw fruits and vegetables appealing to kids

Nov 21, 2009 by

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on Feb. 5, 2010

Let me just say right off the bat that the best ways to make raw fruits (and vegetables) or anything else that’s healthy more appealing to kids are:

1. Avoid giving them junk food. Ever. Kids who eat junk food develop a taste mostly for junk food.

2. Also: catch them when they’re hungry. Food plus hunger and nothing else equals kids eating.

3. Perhaps most important: do not push them to eat whatever it is. At all. Ever. Kids who are never pushed to eat will naturally like raw fruit. Kids who aren’t pushed do not develop food resistance.

Other posts here expound upon those topics at length. But here is a bit more on the topic of making raw fruit appealing.

The other night, I went to a gathering of “creative artists”—a loose term including all sorts of people who want to develop their creativity, including even me, blogger, writer of press releases, newsletters and grants, and photographer (lacking formal training).

The group shared a delicious potluck dinner, and then our friend Elizabeth Mesick presented her own art: what she calls “painting with food.”

Elizabeth, who has lived in Italy and England, talked about her history of enjoyment in making food and serving it appealingly. She rhapsodized on the ways food appeals to our five senses and described and demonstrated how even very simple food can be presented attractively.

The story that struck me most was her going to a restaurant for a simple lunch. She chose an apple over chips with her sandwich, but didn’t end up eating the apple, because it wasn’t sliced.  It wasn’t appealing, she explained.

For our group, Elizabeth passed around a lovely dish of sliced apples drizzled with a little honey, dusted with cinnamon and garnished with raisins and sliced almonds.  It was so simple but so much more pleasing and special than a plain whole apple.

I had already been thinking about how easy it is to make fruit and vegetables disappear, not by having them sitting around so much as taking that little step of cutting them up and throwing them in a bowl on the table at strategic moments.  All the better if it’s actually arranged attractively and temptingly, on a nice dish, maybe, and with some care.

Sometimes it’s just too much effort, especially for kids, to wash an apple and bite into the big thing and have to chaw on it and get it all over your face. You have to really want it to do that. Some nice wedges on a dish go down all by themselves, though. Same with cut up carrots or celery or just about anything along those lines. Some dip or enhancements like Elizabeth used are certainly nice sometimes, but it’s not necessary.

Whenever I have fruit sitting around that needs to be eaten, I cut it up and set it out at breakfast or before dinner. It always works.  No need to tell anybody to eat it, which tends to create resistance for most people. It raises suspicions.  Is it going bad or something, or does it just taste bad? Why do you want me to eat it?  A single casual offer is more effective: “You want some?”

My daughter will mindlessly eat anything I set out in front of her while she’s doing homework at the kitchen table. I think it’s a comfort to her to be taken care of that way and to have something to munch on with her books.  When I’m fixing supper, and things are smelling good and people are hungry, is the perfect time bring out a little appetizer.

My family has pretty much always been ready to eat anything presented around here, but nevertheless, I was inspired by Elizabeth’s talk to look for little ways to make meals more appealing.  For example, I think I’ll bring food to the table in serving dishes more often, and instead of in ugly pots and pans. It doesn’t cost any extra or take more than a few seconds extra. Yet, it makes a difference.

Much of feeding children is just facilitating. Bolster them, make the good thing easier, make the good thing tempting.

Related posts:

Feeding children made easy: Parenting sun style instead of north wind style:

Five steps to removing food resistance:

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 21 November 2009 / All rights reserved