How To Get Kids Excited About Healthy Food

How to get kids excited about healthy food? Teach them to cook it themselves, of course!

The past two weeks at my dietetic internship were spent teaching kids how to cook!


We hosted 4 cooking classes for kids (through the 4-H program) and had a blast — and more importantly, so did the kids! I think getting kids excited about food and doing their own cooking is one of the most important things that we can do to help fight the child obesity crisis. When kids are involved in the cooking process, they will be much more likely to try healthy foods, like vegetables, because they created it!



The kids in the class were really excited to be learning some cooking skills, like how to use a knife, which knives are used for what, and how a meal comes together from start to finish. They were all really proud of what we created each day.



To make the classes very hands-on, we split the kids up into groups — me, my co-intern Diana, and a volunteer were each assigned 4 to 5 kids to cook with each class; our boss floated around to make sure everything was going okay. Everyone had copies of the recipes for each class (we made about 4 to 6 recipes per class), and our job was to guide the kids through the recipes, making sure they did all the work so they really learned it :) Teaching them to clean up as they went was key, too!


The kids were really cute and enthusiastic for the most part and we only had 2 very minor knife accidents the whole time — success!

At the end of each class, we got to enjoy the spoils of our labors for lunch :)


Our one rule for the class (since none of the kids had any allergies) was that the kids had to try a little of everything. It was successful! We had the kids eating a ton of veggies.



One of the girls said she didn’t like asparagus because she thought it was salty (she’d only tried it canned). We explained to her that frozen (or fresh) asparagus isn’t salty — and she really liked the grilled and roasted asparagus we cooked in the class! She said she’d ask her mom to buy frozen or fresh instead next time. Other kids in the class tried veggies they’d never had before and found they liked them! (And some didn’t like them, of course, haha.) But even just getting one kid to eat and enjoy a veggie they didn’t think they liked or hadn’t had before = win :)


We also gave the kids some basic nutritional information at the beginning of each class, as well as lessons on how to set a table, how to use a food thermometer, etc. I led a session on portion sizes, and one of the kids told me that he went home and educated his family about correct portion sizes later that night! Hehe. Love it :)


We did a huge variety of recipes — stir fry, roasted meat, soup, lots of roasted and grilled veggies, corn bread, eggs, pasta, salads, baked fish, bean dips, and much more. 


We also taught them some easy and healthy desserts that they can make themselves, like yogurt, granola, and fruit parfaits!


Added bonus: parfaits are fun to make :)


Another healthy dessert we made was quick baked cinnamon apples — just combine sliced apples, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar, pop in the microwave, and you’re done!


We even taught them how to make their own whipped cream, which we then served on top of healthy fruit smoothies. Yum!


Did you cook at all when you were a kid? And if you have kids, do you let them help you cook?

Stay tuned — tomorrow I’ll be sharing one of my favorite recipes from the cooking classes!


While we’re on the topic of my internship, a bunch of you asked me to share how yesterday at the WIC (Women, Infants, & Children) clinic was! As part of our hours this summer, we have to do a few visits outside of our own internship, and WIC was one of our “required experiences.”

Basically, a WIC clinic is a federally funded program that serves low and moderate income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 who have a nutrition-related health problem. Each county has the program and it provides residents a combination of nutrition counseling and education, supplemental foods (via vouchers that can be used at the grocery store), breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care. It’s a good program and I was really impressed with what I saw yesterday! We spent the whole day at the clinic and were able to follow a number of patients through the entire visit process — from checking in and getting their (and/or their children’s) weight/height taken, to getting iron levels checked, to having a 15 minute nutritional consultation with a nutritionist or RD. It was really interesting — very much like a doctor’s office. All the nutrition counselors had their charts and plotted the children’s height/weight or calculated the adult’s BMI, and then talked to them about where they were, if they had any concerns/questions, how their and their child’s current diet was and how to improve it if necessary, etc. At the end of the visit, they pick up their food vouchers and are on their way!

We were also able to sit in on a 1 hour pregnancy nutrition and breastfeeding informational class. I was so impressed with the staff we met yesterday — they were all really great and very enthusiastic about their jobs. Fascinating day!


  1. 1

    How fun!! I wish this was done when I was a kid, and can’t wait to cook with my future kids. :) That clip on Food Revolution where the kids can’t tell what a potato is makes my heart melt – food is so important! Looks like you guys had a really great time!

  2. 5

    The cooking classes look fun! I volunteer for an organization that does Cooking Matters courses for kids, teenagers and adults. I really enjoy it because the kids (and adults!) get to try new things and many of them go back to tell their families what they learned. I can’t wait to do another class. I agree that teaching children about food and having them participate in the cooking process really helps to get them excited about healthy meals. It’s encouraging to see how much you’re enjoying your internship. Can’t wait to finish mine!

  3. 7

    This is so awesome! I have adult patients coming in telling me that they don’t know how to cook. We must start young!

  4. 8

    I never cooked, and subsequently ate horribly and was obese, so I definitely think getting kids in the kitchen is a fantastic idea.

  5. 9

    The food demo we did during our internship was making smoothies – definitely not as in depth as this! I agree that getting kids involved will definitely make them more conscious of their decisions!

  6. 10

    I cooked a little with my mom and grandma growing up but my dad is a picky eater so we didn’t cook too many different things. I didn’t really learn to cook until I was older. I can relate to the child who didn’t think she liked asparagus because she only had it from a can. My mom used to only give us spinach in a can – yuck! I eventually learned that fresh spinach is amazing!! She can keep her can of spinach.

  7. 12

    The only thing I tended to want to “cook” as a kid were quesadilla flats (aka tortilla + cheddar cheese under broiler) or white rice (clearly, my skills were at Iron Chef level). Now that my sister’s able to handle a knife and whisk, though, whenever I go home we try to make a tasty treat for the family (though, every now and then, it’s good to taste those quesadilla flats!)

  8. 13

    What a fannetastic post. Yes, my mama let us experiment in the kitchen, with 10 kids she was thankful we wanted to. I did the same with my kids and now my grandkids and they have a blast especially my twin grandkids. Even the boys like it.
    To get kids to eat when they are about 3-5 years old, I would put little cups of fruit and veggies in cups and put them on the coffee table and end tables and they would snack on them when I wasn’t looking. I know “sneaky”. but it worked.

    • 14

      Great idea! Having veggies for kids to snack on while making dinner is great, too – they will eat it if they are hungry enough! :)

  9. 15

    I didn’t cook much as a kid but I talk about cooking a lot with my third graders. We make a cookbook every year for their mother’s day gift!

  10. 17

    What an awesome internship experience! And such important work.

  11. 18

    Loved this! I definitely did cook with my mom as a kid but mostly it was baking (and it wasn’t healthy!)

    This is definitely something I’m going to implement when I have kids of my own!

  12. 19

    I love this! I teach dance, and somehow we always end up talking about food… I think cooking and nutrition should be taught hand-in-hand, and made MANDATORY for all kids…

  13. 21

    I think that’s such a cool program for the kids. I love the kid that went home and educated his family on portion control, hopefully it sticks!

  14. 22
    Pat Elsberry says

    What a great post!! I think you should add these recipes to your own Recipe section and title it “Kids Meals”. Growing up I always cooked and baked with my Mom, and I did the same with my kids, and now with my grandkids. My 2 yr old grandson helps me make banana pancakes on Sunday mornings, and pizza is another favorite to make together at this age! :)

  15. 23

    I think this is true for grown-ups too! Experimenting in the kitchen and cooking from scratch keep me enthusiastic about healthy eating. I always loved eating food I had made myself as a child and it’s still true! :)

  16. 25

    I experienced WIC first hand when I was pregnant with my son, and then for awhile after he was born. It was definitely key to our family’s health at the time! I’m so grateful that the program exists, and now that I no longer need it, I make sure I spread the word to others to use and support the program.
    PS, I want to take your cooking class too! It looked like a lot of fun :)

  17. 26

    Teaching kids to cook is SUCH a great thing — that’s what I’ll be doing with the Cornell Cooperative this summer!

  18. 28

    Cool program! I wish we were taught(and fed) this well at school.

  19. 29

    Teaching kids about food is so important! I think every school should have a garden and food education classes. I’m always shocked to find that kids often only eat canned vegetables, don’t recognize common produce items or just have no idea where they come from! It’s so easy to give kids the tools they need to live healthier lives because they are still interested as children. It can be much more difficult to teach adults I think.

  20. 31

    WIC is a great program. I was a participant during my pregnancy and during my daughter’s early life. Now, 24 years later she was a participant while she was pregnant and now with her 10 week old infant. I’m glad you got to learn more about it. Programs like this are very important and I’m glad there is still support for them.

  21. 32

    SUCH a great program! It’s so rewarding to teach people about healthy eating and have them really take to it. Your internship sounds so fun!

  22. 33

    Awesome post!
    I learned to cook as a kids before I could remember
    (especially since my mother is a gourmet cook)

    What helped mostly with my healthy eating lifestyle was my father…
    He is the healthiest person I know, and always taught me about nutritious eating long before antioxidants was a household term!

    He was always extremely healthy, athletically fit (and competitive) so it was best influence a child could have!
    Thankfully I got my Father’s genes! :-)

  23. 34

    I think another way to get kids excited about eating healthy is to involve them in the cooking process. If they make it, they will usually eat it. :)

  24. 35

    I would’ve LOVED to have something like this as a kid! I played lots of sports but knew NOTHING about cooking or healthy eating…it’s SO important. It’s not that kids don’t want to learn, it’s that they’re oblivious! Most times they just eat what’s put in front of them. I know I did!


  25. 36

    That sounds like such a fun post!! I would love to help out in one of those classes. I’m so jealous of the path you have taken – I would love to do something similar.

    I didn’t cook THAT much as a kid but I was always helping my mom in the kitchen and I loved to bake different treats for my family. I think it has definitely helped me feel more comfortable in the kitchen today.

  26. 38

    I wish I could’ve taken that workshop when I was a kid!
    The only thing I cooked as a kid was breakfast – I made the worst fried eggs ever – and I also made pasta sauce from scratch. I was never invited into the kitchen for other meals.
    However, I did eat what my mom gave me, which was pretty icky kid food. We grew up macrobiotic, so while my friends had bologna sandwiches and fruit drink boxes, I had brown rice, seaweed, and veggies with a thermos full of twig tea. And I ate all of it. I don’t know why, probably because I knew I had no other option. ;-)

  27. 40

    This is awesome, Anne. What fun — and what a worthy cause, too. You all did a lot of good! Well done –

  28. 41

    That is so cool that you were able to do that! I wish I had an opportunity to reach out to kids and teach them healthful ways of cooking and eating!! Fantastic! :)

    • 42

      Programs like this are always looking for volunteers! I bet there’s a program near you – check it out! Cooking Matters is the name of a group that does a lot of stuff like this nationwide.

  29. 43

    This is so awesome! What a valuable experience for those children! My grandma and mom always used to let me help out in the kitchen but my step mom seemed totally against it. I never cooked anything in our home until I got to help bake sugar cookies this past Christmas.

  30. 44

    Wow, sounds fun! I’m directing/counseling for a kids cooking camp this week, and the kids are excited to eat healthy food when they get to make it. We made healthy smoothies, veggie/chicken kabobs, and other stuff. We actually used one of your recipes to make whole grain granola bars today too!

  31. 46

    It’s amazing how much kids can (and want to) cook, if we just get out of the way and let them!

  32. 47

    Can you elaborate on the microwaved cinnamon apples? Like how long to microwave them?


    • 48

      I think we just put them in for a few minutes – just do a couple minutes, see how soft they are, and then put them in for a few more minutes if you want them softer!


  1. […] « How To Get Kids Excited About Healthy Food […]

  2. […] It was interesting to talk to some of the staff on site – most of them have been working there for many years, starting as part of the “youth corps”. The youth corps is a paid program for kids (starting at age 14) that, via an apprenticeship, teaches them about nutrition and trains them in valuable skills like how to garden, cook, and compost. Many of them transition to full time staff members later in life! One of them, when asked why he likes working at Growing Power and what he has learned, said it has taught him a lot about problem solving and how to work with others. He’s also really proud of getting kids excited about veggies and healthy food! Remember when I taught kid’s cooking classes via a community organization as part of my dietetic internship back in 2011? It’s so true that getting kids involved in the growing and cooking process makes them MUCH more likely to try new foods! (See also: How to Get Kids Excited About Healthy Food) […]

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