Chapter 4: Fun food styling and marketing mottoes

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banana popsicles from The Healthy Skin Kitchen

Fast food manufacturers call products ‘happy meals’ and they make children’s food into small and fun shapes. They also associate their products with novelty gadgets and animated characters. This is clever. And it’s clear that over time many people come to associate these brands with enjoyment because they keep going back for more.

Parents can also create this fun feeling with healthy food. All you need to do is use your imagination. You can make vegetables appear fun by creatively styling your child’s food so it looks good. You can also give their meals imaginative names so they sound fun. 

Storytelling is another effective way to communicate the health message to your child without sounding like you’re preaching.

Storytelling for 1–6 year olds

A parent recently told me her son, who was five, was a fussy eater and would not touch pasta. So she got creative. She bought green spinach pasta and told him it was Alien Pasta. She also made up a fun story of how the aliens delivered it to Earth each week. Now he happily eats green pasta.

Okay, I know you may be thinking that your child wouldn’t fall for such a story (and an older child may not), but how many kids love the idea of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? Santa flies around the world delivering billions of Christmas presents in one night, in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

The Easter Bunny has the job of giving out billions of chocolate eggs for Easter Sunday. In reality these stories sound far-fetched but kids (and adults) love them. Stories are fun and you shouldn’t underestimate their power to influence others.


Goldilocks and the Three Bears has this one covered. Everyone loves porridge in this story. You can slightly alter the tale by adding ‘The porridge was topped with honey and milk and Goldilocks thought it was sweet and delicious’, so your child can imagine it tasting good.


I told my daughter’s Year One class ‘When I was about your age I was swinging really high on a swing and I fell and landed on my arm and it didn’t break because I had strong bones. I think they were so strong because I drank milk’.

However, if your child already likes milk then don’t bother hyping it up further as the dairy companies already do a good job of advertising milk’s virtues.

{Note: now I favour plant-based milks such as oat milk which has been fortified with calcium.} 


Say to your child ‘You know how you receive chocolate eggs at Easter time? Well, the Easter Bunny thinks real eggs are so special he wants us to eat them every week’.


Once upon a time there was a little boy named Peter. He went to wizard school and he aspired to be the best wizard he could be. One day he came home from wizard school and he was very sad. His mother, who was a kind and wise lady, asked him what was wrong. He said he was teased by the other boys because he couldn’t do his class work properly. So his mother baked him some bread and added ‘magic grains’ to the mix. These grains were ‘brainy grains’ and would help him to concentrate in class. Peter ate this bread every day and pretty soon he was able to concentrate better during wizard studies. When it came to exam time his grades improved and the other children no longer teased him.

You get my drift... any story that incorporates "brainy grains" will do.

After telling this story continue by saying to your child ‘The magic grains were linseeds and the more grains you can see, the better the bread works’. Then ask if your child wants to go on a magic grain hunt at the supermarket (for linseed bread or soy and linseed bread). You can also tell your child there is a reward for the first person who finds the bread with the magic grains.


Tell the story of Popeye the Sailor – spinach made him stronger.


The Play School story ‘The Little Red House’. Once upon a time there was a little boy who was bored so his mother gave him a riddle to solve. ‘See if you can find the little red house with no doors, no windows, a chimney on top and a beautiful star inside’. He eventually found it was an apple... After telling the story you can demonstrate by getting a red apple, cutting it in half and showing them the perfectly formed star before eating it together.

The ‘What’s in it for me?’ approach for 4–18 year olds

From the age of four, kids like the ‘What’s in it for me?’ approach. However, a two or three year old may also want to know what’s in it for them if they eat healthy food. Kids (and adults) love knowing if a food will make them smarter or give them the edge at their favourite sport or activity.

Teenagers with bad skin want to know if a food will help them look better. Kids in general want to be the best and it gives them hope knowing that something, such as healthy food, can help them achieve their goals in some way.

CAUTION: Don’t get overzealous and tell the younger ones that a food will help them fly or be like spider-man as you don’t want them climbing onto the roof and leaping off. Just make the reward a realistic or a mentally healthy one.

As I said before, the ‘What’s in it for me?’ approach is designed to give kids hope.

If they want to be stronger or better at concentrating then a healthy food may help them achieve their goals. This may sound to you like a bit of a lie or a stretching of the truth but healthy food can actually give kids the edge (see Chapter 5 for the scientific reasoning).

In some cases it may not give them a visible or measurable advantage. However, kids become unmotivated if they think they’re hopeless, stupid or simply unable to improve in any way so let them believe that healthy food can be their saviour.

Adolescents can become depressed and be more susceptible to peer pressure and dabbling in drugs if parents don’t instil in them a sense of optimism that they can improve their life, their situation or their body in healthy ways. Give them hope by answering this simple question for them: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Even if they only imagine they have improved at a skill, you have given them a great gift.



  • Say ‘Porridge gives you energy and helps you concentrate during class’.

  • Rolled oats help to clear up skin problems because they’re rich in fibre and skin repairing minerals so I’ll make you a special beauty porridge recipe for breakfast’.             
  • Say ‘The calcium in yoghurt helps to give you strong bones for climbing and playing’.


Make breakfast fun by letting your child be involved with the preparation. They can be your ‘special helper’ and pour and mix ingredients. And let them crack open the eggs and make a mess, it’s what kids love to do.

  • Tell younger children ‘Eggs are great for making strong muscles’.

  • Tell teens ‘Eggs are great for making toned and strong muscles because they contain protein and B- group vitamins’, and link this to a particular activity they’re interested in.



* Call the grains in wholegrain breads ‘brainy grains’ and tell your child ‘They’re brainy grains because they help you concentrate and think up good ideas’.

My daughter once complained that the grains in wholegrain bread got stuck in her teeth and she said she wanted grain-free bread from now on. I replied ‘That’s a shame. I bought you the grainy bread because you told me you wanted to be smart in class and the grains can help you concentrate and be smart. White bread won’t’. At the time she didn’t like my answer but she obviously thought about it later as she now eats grainy bread and has never protested since our chat. As a compromise I cut the crusts off because she thinks they’re too dry and she doesn’t like to eat them.


Link veggies to your child’s hobbies and interests.

  • Say to younger children ‘Vegetables will help you run faster and jump higher’, and test this before and after.

  • Tell teens ‘Vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, can make your skin look beautiful and they help with concentration during study for exams so I’ll add some greens to our dinner tonight’.

  • Children usually love playing in the garden. Make a vegetable patch with them so your child can see how veggies grow and they can literally pick the food they eat.


Make fruit sound extra special by calling it ‘POWER FRUIT – for stronger, faster kids’.

  • Say ‘I know you want to have fun playing with your friends today so I’ve packed some Power Fruit in your lunchbox so you’ll have energy to play and have fun’.

Food styling for 1–10 year olds

You can style a food to make it look fun. You can make snacks into small, fun shapes. You can call meals fun names. Food styling need not be difficult or time consuming. It can be as simple as adding one extra ingredient or placing a few key ingredients in the shape of a face.

Remember, you know your child’s likes and dislikes best so use them to your advantage and get creative.


Porridge tastes better when it’s pink. But don’t use nasty artificial colourings. Instead add a handful of frozen antioxidant-rich raspberries during the cooking process. Then mash the raspberries and mix with the oats until the porridge turns pink. (See recipe on page 136.)


Healthy smoothies look and taste fantastic. You can also make milk pink and sweet with mashed raspberries. Boys may prefer ‘Green Alien Milk’ coloured with liquid chlorophyll. (See Chapter 5, page 80, for information on chlorophyll.)


Low strength liquid chlorophyll can make eggs ‘shrek’ green. You can also make Dr. Seuss styled ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ by adding chlorophyll to the beaten eggs before cooking them with sliced ham. (See recipe on page 134.)


Make a wholegrain sandwich look more appealing by using a cookie cutter to cut out a shape in the middle. The shape can be a heart, flower, dinosaur or teddy bear and so on. Then remove the cookie cutter and leave the shape in place or make mini sandwiches with them. Cut off the crusts if your child doesn’t like them. It’s also best to keep this food styling trick for wholegrain bread only. Never make white bread look fun.


Any green vegetable can suddenly become ‘shrek broccoli’ or ‘hulk food’. Celery can become ‘Ants on a Log’. Just spread some cream cheese into the groove and dot it with sultanas.1 Carrot, celery and red capsicum make great ‘dipping sticks’. Use them with hummus or other healthy dips. (See recipes on pages 138 and 140.)


Healthy smoothies are a great way to get kids enjoying fruit. Make a ‘Princess Smoothie’ with mango and raspberries or ‘Goblin Juice’ with milk, chlorophyll and banana. Or use blueberries to make a ‘Purple People Eater’ or ‘Barney’s Purple Smoothie’.

Pre-freeze fruits as they make a quick and tasty treat for kids. Frozen grapes taste fantastic. Call them ‘Alien Eggs’ or ‘Grape Lollies’ for extra appeal. Frozen mango can also be whipped into delicious desserts.

See Recipes in Appendix 4 for more details.

Other ways to make healthy food appealing


Have you noticed that kids will often fight with each other because one wants something that the other child has? It’s usually a toy or a similar object that has suddenly become more appealing because someone else has shown an interest in it.

You can use this principle and make any healthy food seem more appealing simply by asking your child if you can try some of their meal. Your eagerness to try their ‘yummy’ food will instantly make it more desirable to them. If they say no make sure you look very disappointed. If they say yes, then happily try 

some and make a positive comment afterwards. If your child thinks their healthy meal is tempting to others, they are more likely to eat it themselves.


My seven year old daughter recently had a friend over for dinner. I gave them pasta, chicken and vegetables and I topped each meal with some baby spinach. I gave my daughter more spinach because I knew she’d eat it, however she complained straight away. She said ‘Why have I got more spinach than Isabella?’ I was quick to respond with ‘Oh, that’s not fair, you’ll end up stronger than her!’ then added ‘Sorry Isabella, do you want more spinach?’ To my surprise she said yes. My daughter then said ‘I want more too!’ So they were both given extra spinach.

After dinner Isabella’s mum picked her up and I made a point of praising both the girls to her (so the girls could hear me). I said ‘They were both so good. At dinner time they asked for extra baby spinach and ate it all, and they did an amazing job cleaning up Ayva’s room. They even folded the clothes in her drawers. Come and have a look’. Then we had a good look at the room to see their fine work. I did this to reward the girls with genuine praise and reconfirm the benefits of good behaviour so they would be more likely to repeat the positive actions in future.

Public praise works remarkably well. Two years ago I had a daughter who complained about eating vegetables and most of them went in the bin after dinner. Two months ago I was the one complaining that my daughter’s room was consistently messy and I was always tidying it. Now, I have a girl who is obsessed with cleaning her own room (and other rooms in the house) and she eats her veggies. All because she loves ‘praise for reward’.

You can also reward your child in other healthy ways. When your child grows up and gets a job their boss will reward their work with a wage. So it is healthy to give kids pocket money for their efforts. I reward my daughter with a small amount of pocket money if she helps around the house. My daughter decorated a tissue box and I put silver coins in it (and a few gold coins) and she gets to choose her own pocket money once a week. Without looking, she dips her hand into the box and grabs a handful of coins. She is only allowed one handful each time. As you can imagine, it’s the biggest handful she can manage. Her pocket money adds up to less than three dollars but receiving it is fun as it’s like a lucky dip.

Don’t reward your child with unhealthy desserts and lollies. Praise for reward and earned pocket money (not money for nothing) are much healthier incentives to encourage a child to do the right thing.


The big budget junk food companies advertise every day so you hear their messages regularly. And have you noticed – they never nag? They just let you know on a daily basis that their food is linked to fun times, good feelings and success. You can do the same by casually mentioning the benefits of wholegrains and vegetables every day.

Of course, don’t get anxious or annoyed with your child if they don’t immediately rush to the fridge door begging for broccoli. Marketing takes time to work with some children, while others lap it up straight away. Your child is an individual so keep this in mind. However, do not use this as an excuse to let them grow up not eating healthy food. You’re also the parent who knows best. Now you have the marketing techniques and within a few weeks your child will know what’s best for them too.

Key points to remember

  • Observe your child and take note of what activities they’re most interested in.

  • Get creative and use food-related storytelling if your child is under the age of six.

  • If you can successfully answer ‘What’s in it for me?’ when marketing healthy food to your child (aged 4–18), then you’ll convince them to eat the right foods.

  • If your child is under the age of ten, make healthy food look fun with food styling and call your child’s meals fun names.

  • Give detailed praise to reward your child for any type of good behaviour. Public praise is even more effective at reconfirming their positive actions so they’re more likely to occur again.

  • Remember the daily marketing effect – casually mention your health slogans every day – but don’t go overboard and get too wordy and long-winded as this can be annoying rather than inspiring.

  • Don’t get irritated if your child is slow to embrace healthy food. Be patient and persistent.

  • There are more creative meal ideas in Recipes in Appendix 4.


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