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If you’ve dined with small children lately, you probably noticed they wasted food. Like a lot. It goes with the territory, and it can be rough sometimes. Abstract things like money, waste, hunger, food justice, etc., can be difficult to explain to small children. You just have to do the best you can. Here are some tips from my experience with a 5 year old.

DON’T make them clean their plate. That’s old school and while it may prevent waste, it doesn’t teach healthy eating habits. Serve small portions, they can always have more.

DO ask them to be a Food Hero and try new things. Food Heroes don’t have to like it, they just have to try it. And since their taste buds are still developing, they literally have to try something over 10 times to actually be open to liking it. This encourages good eating habits, and prevents waste in the long run. It also gets me in the habit of serving what we’re eating to her, plus stuff I know she likes. I serve in small portions knowing that she can be picky, and has a varying appetite. If she eats it all, great she can have more. If she doesn’t like it, we usually end up eating it and serve our portions accordingly, knowing we’ll be supplementing with her food.

DON’T cut off the crust. {I’m talking to my husband here}. Sometimes our kiddo eats the crust, mostly she doesn’t. I don’t make her eat it, but I’m not going to let her think it’s normal to have a sandwich with no crust. She sometimes makes deals that if I buy soft white bread she’ll eat the crust off that, which I sometimes give in to, for that exact reason. But sometimes, she realizes she doesn’t mind the crust, regardless of what kind of bread it is.

DO cut off other things that make sense. If I leave the tops on strawberries, only half of it is eaten. If I expertly slice off the greens, she downs the strawberry, so I’ll take the extra effort on that one. Keep an eye out on what prep you could do that helps them eat the good stuff.

DO plan to make use of their leftovers when possible. TheĀ apple with a ring around the outside has made it into the following day’s smoothie. (If I slice it ahead of time she won’t eat it as it’s brown by lunch time. I’m going to experiment with this by drizzling lemon sometime to see if she likes that, and next time I have oranges in the house I’ll pair apple slices with orange slices to keep them fresher looking). Her unfinished dinner, if it’s something she liked and was an unfinished second helping, is her leftover lunch.

DO ask your kids to help with meal prep, including lunches for school. It gets them more likely to eat healthy food if they were involved in prepping/cooking it. Prep as much as possible so they can easily access the food quickly and without assistance (a reusable bag/container is easier to open than a packaged snack bag, plus you don’t have all the packaging waste, and if they don’t eat it all they can have it the next day).

DO offer fruit first. In an effort to encourage healthy eating habits (and so the perishables don’t spoil) get in the habit of offering fresh fruit first, before packaged/processed food. This can be as an after school snack, or after bed when they’re suddenly hungry even though they were “full” from barely eating their dinner!? Our rule is our kid can have fruit most any time, and that’s generally the only thing they can have after dinner and/or before bed.

Check out this list of food waste prevention tips with kids.

Do you have any tips about preventing food waste with kids? Let us know in the comments!

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