Is it magic? It might as well be sometimes. If you’re a parent, despairing at the eating habits of your kids, know that you are not alone!

Getting kids to eat healthy is a big challenge for many parents, and despite the bounty of healthy foods available, it continues to be a concern we hear. Here’s a few tips we’ve compiled to help you create some magical that will have your kids eating healthy.

1. The Magic of Togetherness

In today’s age, we rely a lot on ready-made, or pre-prepped meals so that we can get the food on the table (or in the car) quickly. Our lives are busy, and these shortcuts or kitchen hacks or whatever you call them have made eating easier.

Thankfully there are lots of healthy options available in ready-made, and ready-prepped meals, but the magic ingredient that is missing here, is the togetherness. Try to sit down with your kids and eat together as a family. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes.

Mental and emotional associations between family, togetherness, and healthy meals can really make an impact on your kids’ eating habits. Additionally, this study found that family meals had positive long term impacts on kids’ behavior, mental and physical health, and lower levels of soft drink consumption.

2. The Magic of Preparation

When you involve your kids in the kitchen by prepping and cooking meals together; you can stimulate both their interest in new foods and their appetite. The washing of the vegetables, the cutting, the tossing, and the drizzling of your choice of salad dressing makes that bowl of salad on the table lot more interesting to you. Your mouth has been watering, your nose has been sniffing, and your mind has been imagining the way it would taste as your pearly whites crunch down. That’s the magic of preparation.

Your kids don’t have all that wind-up if they haven’t been a part of it. Get them involved in the kitchen! They may be too young to use a knife for cutting, but there’s other ways they can help. They can find ingredients in the cabinets or fridge, they can wash them, they can strain them, they can tear them, they can pour them, and they can stir them.

3. The Magic of Self Service or Buffet Style

We parents are heavily invested (emphasis on heavily) on the topic of food when it comes to our kids. Is it healthy? Did they eat enough? Did they eat too much? Do they like it? Why don’t they like it? Etc. The worries about this topic play in our brains and are endless and cyclic.

Kids recognize how much we care about this topic and can engage us in power struggles. So, try serving food buffet style or in bowls on the table to pass around. Relinquishing control over what goes on their plate and how much, can be a helpful concession to our kids. It encourages them to take some control and responsibility. Remember; you are in control of what goes on the buffet, or in the bowls. You are simply letting them control what goes on their plates and how much.

4. The Magic of Meal Planning

Do you meal plan? This magic trick is again, about stimulating interest. Get them involved in the meal planning! You set the guidelines about categories of food as you see appropriate, and they get the opportunity to exert some control (which feels good!) and by being part of the planning process, they can accept some responsibility and learn about the food groups.

5. Take Away the Magic of Desserts

This one might feel counterintuitive but trust us. Make dessert part of the meal, and control portion size. When you hold dessert hostage over vegetables, you set dessert up as being more interesting (and more important) than anything else on the table. Take away the magic of the desserts and serve them with the meal.

Yes, likely they will eat them first, because this will be a surprising change to mealtime in your house! However, the novelty of it will wear off once over time. Remember, you control what dessert is, and the portion size. The point is, they will still be hungry even if it’s the first thing they eat!

6. The Magic of the Your Example

Are you a healthy eater? Take a moment to think about your eating habits, and how they might be mirrored by your kids. If you drink a lot of soda, then it makes sense they would be interested in soda.

If you struggle with eating healthy, maybe eating healthy can be a journey for you to take with your kids. Experiment with different recipes, or sauces to find ways to eat healthier foods that you can enjoy. Set an example of tasting and trying new foods. Maybe you will find new healthier favorites together.

7. The Magic of Cooking Shows on TV

We like TV shows that teach our kids numbers, letters, singing, dancing, and about emotions and imagination; is it that much of a stretch to think TV shows can have an impact on their eating habits as well? Do you enjoy cooking shows? Do your kids ever watch them? Look for cooking shows you can watch together, preferably ones that are creating healthy dishes.

This study, performed on children (with parental consent) in the Netherlands, found that kids who watched healthy cooking shows were more likely to choose healthy snacks and foods after!

Some of these “magic tricks” require more time and investment on your part as the parent than others. You might even already be doing some of them. If you aren’t please don’t feel guilt-tripped or burdened by the thought that you must do all these things and do them every day.

Look at your week, and pick a few from this list to try out that seem practical and manageable. Feeling overwhelmed won’t help you relax about mealtime, and we want meals to be enjoyable for parents as well as kids. Eating healthy can be delicious and fun, but only if the parents can feel good about it.