Getting variety into kids’ diets is one of the most challenging things for parents.

But that’s because most parents think of variety as meaning NEW.  Instead, think of variety as DIFFERENT.

In my last post I made the argument you can teach your kids the principles of healthy eating—proportion, variety and moderaton—even when your kids are eating foods that aren’t that healthy.

Variety is important because it lays the foundation for new food acceptance.

Variety isn’t just the spice of life.  It’s the basis of good eating habits.

Think of it this way: If you give your kids basically the same foods for breakfast, morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack you are reinforcing a monotonous diet (and monotony is the opposite of variety).

Variety—rotating through the foods you serve—trains the palate and the mindset.

Still, many parents find it difficult to think about how to get variety into their children’s diets. Here are 10 ways you might not have considered.

10 Ways to Add Variety to Your Children’s Diets:

1) Make a list of everything your children will eat (I mean everything) and then start mixing up when you serve something.  Everyone knows about breakfast for dinner, but what about dinner for breakfast? Or a plate of snack foods for lunch: raisins, granola bar, crackers/cheese, apple sauce.

2) Cut your childrens’ favorite foods into different shapes.  For some kids it is quite challenging to accept different shapes and working through this is a first step to true variety.

3) Buy different brands of your kids’ favorite products.  Read How Brands Bite You in the Butt.

4) Cook pasta with different shapes or colors.

5) Let your children add food coloring to their food to make them pretty (in pink) or gross (in green/blood/black).

6) Permit your children to spruce up their spinach with spoonful of sprinkles.

7) Use leftovers for a different meal (serve dinner leftovers at lunch) or modify leftovers to make them new (chili can be turned into tacos, burritos and nachos).

8) Use a Twister-style spin wheel to let your kids select side dishes.

9) Keep multiple small bowls of cut up vegetables in the refrigerator (green beans, carrots, celery, peas, lima beans, red pepper slices, cucumbers). Bring 3-4 different bowls out for each meal and ask your kids to pick from 2 of the bowls.

10) Put familiar foods together in different ways.  Why not serve a cottage cheese-banana split (with a cherry on top of course!).

The key is to help your chidlren get used to the IDEA of change, the IDEA of different, and ultimately, the IDEA of new.

What your children think shapes what they will eat.  And remember, if your kids are resistant to new foods you might be “selling” the wrong stuff.  Read Take a Walk on the Wild Side for ideas on how to use candy, ice cream and donuts to break down the new foods barrier.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~