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This post is sponsored by the American Heart Association

When you first hold your newborn baby – you have BIG Plans. Big. And one of them includes healthy eating. I’ll never feed my child junk food, you think smugly to yourself. Nothing but fresh fruits and vegetables from my imaginary organic garden, lean protein bought from the neighborhood food market and lots of whole grains. This kid will be swimming in whole grains!

Fast forward a couple years and you are literally torpedoing bags of chips into the back of your minivan in an effort to stop the whining.

Encouraging my five kids to eat healthy sometimes feels very hard. But there are easy tricks that can help. And no, I’m not talking about some pricey gourmet meal with 45 minutes of prep time that your children taste and immediately say, “Can you make me a hotdog instead?” Because we aren’t trying to give you a nervous breakdown here.

These are 8 real ideas that actually work with minimal effort from the parent. Minimal parenting effort. Isn’t that a beautiful phrase?!

1. Get Kids To Eat Healthy When They’re Actually Hungry

It can be very difficult to convince a kid who isn’t even all that hungry to taste some of those delicious, crunchy carrot sticks. Way easier if they’re super starving. So as you’re preparing dinner… put healthy snacks out on the table. This is actually part of their dinner.

Every time a kid saunters by with pains of hunger, suggest they survey the table and eat anything they want. You can put out things like carrots with hummus, seaweed (found at places like Costco, Trader Joe’s, Asian markets), edamame, guacamole (Don’t underestimate the avocado. It’s super delicious and good for you), cut up fruit, bowl of grapes, you get the idea.

Even if you’re serving pizza for dinner, make sure they get the healthy stuff first. That way they don’t fill up on bread and cheese before even trying the grapes.

2. Keep Almonds or Other Nuts in the Car

I always keep a bag of almonds in the car because when I’m running around, I get hungry and it’s an easy way to satisfy my hunger. But I found that my kids (even one of my pickiest eaters) started snacking on them when there were no other snacks to be found. And now I have a couple of serious almond lovers. My 4 year old refused to try them for months and then finally relented one day when he was bored and now he’s almost an almond enthusiast. Just make sure to check the serving size so you don’t overdo it.

3. Pack Healthy Snacks (really, do it)

Most kids will dive for the junk first so just don’t have it around when you pick them up from school or various activities. The other day I brought my 4 year old to the library for an outing and I only brought healthy snacks…. a banana, seaweed, low-fat cheese stick, apple and a fruit flat.

And he ate EVERYTHING.

Did he eat a little more junky things later in the day? Yes. I am not a saint. But at least he had already gotten some nutritional food in that belly. Here are some great ideas on healthy snacks to bring along.

4. Skip the Soda

Soda in my house is a special treat reserved for birthday parties, special outings and celebrations. My kids drink water and milk because that’s pretty much all there is in the house. Yes, sometimes I make chocolate milk or lemonade as a treat. But in general, it’s only H20. Do they complain about this sometimes? Absolutely. Do I feel bad for them? Definitely not.

5. Kids Love a Gimmick

If you’ve ever made your kid a pancake that looks like an emoticon face, then you know they love doing fun things with food! So how about trying to make a meal using all the colors of the rainbow. Here’s some ideas on what you can include.

6. Get Your Children into the Kitchen

Ever noticed how much kids love to “help?” Depending on their age, you can have them start making some of these healthy meals. My 7 year old twins will help me cut strawberries. My 10 year old will make salad. My 12 year old has made chicken burritos for the whole family. They can even pick out and help make recipes. If your kids are more invested in what is being served, they are more likely to actually eat it. Or at least that’s my theory.

7. When Necessary – Sneak Some Good Stuff Into Their Diet

The truth is – there are some super picky eaters out there that won’t be convinced that fruits and veggies are all that fabulous. Check out these ideas on hiding a few vegetables into everyday meals. I particularly like the idea of putting cooked and pureed vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots into cheesy dishes like lasagna or mac and cheese.

8. Find out Where the Cheap Food Is

Healthy food doesn’t have to take away from your vacation budget (because you NEED that vacation). Just know where the best places are for you to shop. The cost of fruits and veggies varies GREATLY. I have my go-to store for affordable produce. But a warehouse club is where I buy bulk snacks. And I visit my regular grocery store for convenient snacks like a hummus/pretzel combo or guacamole/chips combo. So doing a little investigating on who has the best prices in your neighborhood can save you money.

So What Now?!

You know when the perfect time is to try some of these healthy ideas? June! Because it’s National Fresh Fruits and Veggies Month. Especially if you just celebrated National Doughnut Day a little too hard.

And you don’t have to try all this at once on your kids. Just join the Healthy For Good Movement (scroll down and click “join the movement”) and  get inspired by fun ideas and yummy recipes. You got this.

Have a great tip on helping kids (or yourself) eat healthier? Please share. It takes a village.

This post is sponsored by The American Heart Association. The views, opinions and positions expressed within this post belong to Mama Bird Diaries and do not necessarily represent those of The American Heart Association unless explicitly stated.

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kelcey kintner