Healthy Food Program - Getting Kids to Eat New Foods

December 12, 2019

11.29.19 Healthy Food Program Tip –

It’s always important to take into consideration the child’s individual needs and goals, what they are able to eat easily currently and what is desired for them to eat down the road in time. Sometimes a food is presented and a child is readily agreeable to eating it, or at least trying it. But when a child is resistant to eating a food that is presented, there are some ways to decrease that resistance without forcing the issue. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Suggest that the child just touch the food. Model touching it, picking it up, seeing what it looks like, and putting it back down. Obviously this is easier with a piece of broccoli or a cracker than with mashed potatoes, but try to be creative.
  2. Along the lines of # 1, think “fun.” In some cases, especially with kids with strong food aversions, it is O.K. to “play” with food, to make it into something, to get used to touching and smelling it. Think of the examples of pretending the spoon is an airplane flying into their mouth, or making a picture on the plate with the broccoli as a tree, and the cheese as a mountain.
  3. Ask the child to just sit at the table while the food is present. They don’t have to do anything but wait for others to eat, or for a set time period that is achievable for the child. This is sometimes the tactic when the child is highly upset by food just being present. Over time, you can try moving the food closer to them, and reinforce them for staying calm. You can then try increasing the requests to touching and so on.
  4. Ask the child to “kiss” the food. It’s less aversive to kiss the food than to put it into the mouth or to take a bite, and sometimes the silliness of kissing it breaks the resistance a wee bit.


11.22.19 Healthy Gobbles!

Getting students to eat new foods and increase their intake of healthy foods gives them a bigger repertoire of foods they will tolerate. Today in Room 4, students were making turkeys from their healthy food ingredients of cheese, cheerios, carrots and red grapes.

Children who are hesitant about trying something often will model their peers who are enjoying the foods, or will allow the teacher to put the food closer to them on the table, or even touch it to the student’s lip, and reinforce the child for “kissing” the food. It can take time, but it is important to keep trying so that children are able to grow up healthy and strong! 

10.24.19 Healthy Halloween!

Halloween is next week, and at Crossroads we believe in bringing all of the current holidays and seasons into our Healthy Food Program! Here are some pumpkins made from clementine oranges and celery, along with some banana ghosts with raisin faces. The ingredients are all on our list of foods named by various parents here as difficult for their child, or something they’d like to see him/her start to eat. These were yummy and challenging, yet simple for little fingers and super fun. Thanks Rooms 5 & 3 for the spooktacular pictures!


9.27.19 It’s the start of the school year, which means a new year of planning for the Healthy Food Program. Today in Room 14, students worked on the important food preparation skills of washing and cutting cucumbers. Next they spread their choice of hummus on the cucumber slices and made sandwiches. One of the students was asked to label the household items they were using, such as plate, spoons and knives. Another was asked to hold up a cucumber, and another child to identify its color. All of the boys requested which flavor of hummus they wanted and all did well with trying their creations too!



9.27.19 HFP Tip:

A fantastic strategy to familiarize children with new foods is to put the food item into the child’s proximity. The food can be offered to the child, but if it is refused, then reinforcement can be given to the child for just sitting with it present. Next time, place it a little bit closer to the child, and then even closer the next. Eventually you’ll be able to have him or her touch the food and reinforce that. Then to “kiss” it, to touch it with the tongue, to take a tiny bite, and eventually to eat a bite.

This method does take time, but some major gains have been made in this way, step by step, a little more each day.

Yummy cucumbers and hummus in Room 7.

Why we have this program at Crossroads!


One week over Summer Session, Room 11’s classroom theme was REPTILES. Another week it was OCEAN ANIMALS.

Here are some pictures of them making avocado guacodiles and waffle fish.

Looks as though these learning experiences were as yummy as they were fun! Great job everyone trying new and healthy foods!

8.8.19 Healthy Food Program – so cool it’s freezing.

If you’re looking for a super simple, super cool activity to beat the heat with kids, here’s one that’s sure to be a winner. It certainly was with Room 1’s students recently.

They made yogurt popsicles, by mixing yogurt and fruit, pouring their mixture into a cup, inserting pop-sticks, and freezing.

Wow, what a lot of great skill-building opportunities here – from mixing and pouring, to the science of freezing. All of that on top of the thrill of the taste of a frozen pop. You can almost feel the brain freeze!

The activity was very popular; teacher, Mrs. Kathy reports that this was a definite hit with her students.


7.23.19    At Crossroads we’re quite into our Healthy Food Program.

Getting kids to try new foods can sometimes be a challenge for families at home. Parents tell us this all the time. At Crossroads, we’re quite used to the “picky eater” syndrome; a large percentage of our population experiences difficulties with foods.

It’s the reason for our Healthy Food program at Crossroads. Through this program we repeatedly offer new, healthy food choices, work through challenging behaviors that children might exhibit in response to the presence of non-preferred foods and teach about nutrition and healthy food concepts. Essentially we get the students to try new things and expand their repertoire of healthy choices.

As you can imagine, this takes creativity on the part of the teachers. How to get a child to try broccoli when they balk at the sight of green foods? Or cheese when they don’t like anything white?

Our teachers come up with a wide variety of exciting food preparation activities to meet the individual needs of their classrooms.

From cheese stick snowmen to banana butterflies, the healthy food activities are aimed at tying into the classroom themes and incorporating new foods as well as familiar ones that children need repetition with. By making the foods theme related, children are engaged in a greater way and bridges are built between what they already understand and what they are challenged by.

Our Pinterest Healthy Food board

Here are some peaks into Room 12’s recent project. They are making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and practicing the fine motor skills of spreading and cutting. Further, this activity has them using star-shaped cookie cutters to make their sandwiches into starfish, tying into their seashore theme.

Research shows a correlation between healthy eating and involvement in food preparation. In other words, it seems that kids who are involved in preparation of their food are more likely to eat it. By making their own snacks, students are more likely to actually eat them. Plus, by making foods together with their class, there are opportunities for kids to model the eating behaviors of kids who enjoy eating the food in question.

Crossroads is ever thankful to The Schenectady Foundation for their generous grant that enabled us to start up this program in a school-wide, consistent manner several years ago. Crossroads is also thankful to the Allen Family Foundation for a grant to expand and sustain the program into this current year.

A new grant application for the 2019-20 school year is in the works. If you would like to donate to this or any of the programs at Crossroads, please visit our DONATE page and let us know of your wishes.

Crossroads Center for Children is located in Rotterdam, NY. We offer preschool, nursery school, daycare and elementary school classrooms for students aged 2-12 years old. Call us for more information! (518) 280-0083

4/1/19 Healthy Food Program brings skills and grows food intake at Crossroads.

This update is from Ms. Kate in Room 14. She made apple & peanut butter mouths with her class as they are learning about Dental Health!

12.3.18 – The Healthy Food Program Takes the Elevator
Each week, one classroom takes their turn to push the Healthy Food Program snack cart around from room to room, offering healthy snacks.

The students love picking veggies and fruits from the cart when offered by their peers. The students whose turn it is love pushing and asking friends if they want to try celery, cucumbers, bananas, and so on.

Last week it was Room 4’s turn, and they were so cute in the elevator! The teachers asked the students to push number 2 for the second floor, giving the boys a chance to work on identifying numbers. Then, the doors shut and the elevator started to go up as the number was pushed. The adorable facial expressions were just priceless!

Crossroads remains ever thankful for the grants that fund this important program. The Schenectady Foundation has been a long-time funder of our Healthy Food Program and this  year, a grant from the Allen Foundation is also supporting this work.

10/12/18:  Yummy Applesauce.

Yummy applesauce! A recent Healthy Food Program activity in Room 13 involved practice with cutting, measuring, and putting the ingredients together into the miniature crock-pot.

Then stirring, and waiting for the time to taste it! All it takes is a few apples, a little bit of cinnamon, sugar or honey and water to make this delicious and healthy snack or side. Supervision for safety was very important; that said, this is a great activity to try at home! Please let your child’s teacher know if you do, and how your child enjoyed the prep and the food!

Sep 11, 2018 – Off to a Healthy Food Start

The start of the school year, which started last week, means many things, including gearing up the Healthy Food Program in each classroom. It’s a program to target the many food difficulties that many of our students experience, and a way to get them eating good things from an early age.

Here is Room 14 last week enjoying a Healthy Food Program activity of making their own fruit salad. Making choices, trying new foods, using functional communication and behavior to tolerate new items in proximity and more!

This program area is funded by grants! Thank you to The Schenectady Foundation and the Allen Family Foundation for this year’s support.

Looking back – a post from Dec 21, 2017

Did you ever make a waffle Christmas tree? Room 6 did recently!


As part of their Healthy Food Group, they made their waffle mix together and added green food coloring to the bowl. The teachers used a waffle maker while the kids watched in awe, and when the cooking part was done, triangles were cut and the children got to place them to create trees!  Next came decorating their trees with m&m “ornaments” and a bit of maple syrup.       Since trying new foods is a goal, some children in the class needed some coaxing to try this, but everyone took a bite and several of the children finished their plates. How much fun was for the students and what a creative way to tie in the season!  

The Healthy Food Program is goal-oriented to bring about healthy eating patterns for all of our children here, and carry over to home when many parents try the recipes or ingredients that were made in the classroom at home. Most of our teachers agree that repeated attempts are necessary to get children who have food difficulties to tolerate and try new foods, so the more tries the better. This grant-funded program has been strongly supported by The Schenectady Foundation this year, and is greatly appreciated!

Room 6 is one of the seven classrooms for preschool and nursery children. Crossroads Center for Children also has three school-aged classrooms and is getting ready to open a fourth. Students come from many districts and counties in the surrounding region. Many of our nursery and daycare students come right from the local vicinity.

5/2017 Our Healthy Snack Cart is a huge hit with the kids each Thursday!

Here, a young man from Room 12 is cutting up oranges to put on the cart. He sets it up each week for the classroom in charge of pushing it around each week. Every week he has grown more and more independent in the tasks, like getting the fruit and vegetables, finding a board or plate to cut on, getting a bag open to put the foods in, and putting the sign on the cart to tell everyone what’s being offered that day.

He is also getting great at going to the classroom of the week and telling the teacher that the cart is all set up and ready for her class to push. That is a lot of skills! A lot of progress!

********************************************************************************* We are ever grateful for the support we receive from grants that are sustaining our Healthy Food Program (HFP). This year, funding from The Schenectady Foundation and The Allen Foundation is making the program possible.

3/2017 The Healthy Food Program, so important for our children, is funded solely through grants from foundations. So far, we’ve gotten wonderful support from The Schenectady Foundation, in Schenectady County, and The Hawley Foundation, in Saratoga County.

This program is designed to help our students – most of whom experience aversions and difficulties with foods – become more tolerant of new and different foods. Our teachers do a miraculous job of weaving cute food activities into their lesson plans, incorporating themes, and the very foods their students find most challenging.

Here, Room 1 is eating all green foods! They have peppers, grapes, pickles broccoli, and just a little taste is a big goal for some!

Want to volunteer to help with our Healthy Food Program? Be a Classroom Helper! Please contact for information about volunteering.

2/ 27/2017

Our Healthy Food and Nutrition Development Program has a new way of reaching our students!

About a month ago we started a weekly Healthy Snack Cart, and it’s been going really well!

On Wednesdays, what we’ve ordered from Capital Roots Veggie Mobile comes in. Some of our students sorting out the fresh veggies and fruits, and delivering to each teacher’s classroom what she’s ordered for that week’s Healthy Food Program.

This young man takes great pride in doing this job, and then on Thursdays, also washing the items and setting up the Healthy Snack Cart.

The Snack Cart goes out from room to room offering the students an opportunity to make choices. There are usually 2 or 3 healthy items to choose from. The classrooms rotate, so that each classroom can have a turn to be the deliverer.

There are many benefits to this program. One is that it enhances the in-classroom program by offering additional healthy foods. Another is that for many students the options on the cart are more attractive because of the novelty of the cart, than they are when offered by the teachers or their parents. Yet another is that this gives our students yet another arena in which to practice their communication skills, such as manding for the items they want, and scripting to offer items to each other. There are also the job skills such as setting up the cart, pushing the cart, and organizing it.

We think it’s just awesome. We couldn’t do it without the help of the two foundations who have supported this program with grants – The Schenectady Foundation and The Hawley Foundation. Thank you to both of these amazing organizations for their help!

3/2017 The Healthy Food Program, so important for our children, is funded solely through grants from foundations. So far, we’ve gotten wonderful support from The Schenectady Foundation, in Schenectady County, and The Hawley Foundation, in Saratoga County.

This program is designed to help our students – most of whom experience aversions and difficulties with foods – become more tolerant of new and different foods. Our teachers do a miraculous job of weaving cute food activities into their lesson plans, incorporating themes, and the very foods their students find most challenging.

Here, Room 1 is eating all green foods! They have peppers, grapes, pickles broccoli, and just a little taste is a big goal for some!

Want to volunteer to help with our Healthy Food Program? Be a Classroom Helper! Please contact for information about volunteering.

1/9/17 What is the Healthy Food Program all about?

The healthy food program, which is funded by grants from The Schenectady Foundation and The Hawley Foundation, gives all classrooms at Crossroads the resources to plan and implement activities and lessons for healthy food and nutrition development. Each teacher develops a program to help the students in her particular classroom to gain interest in new and healthy foods, to increase intake of healthy foods, to decrease food rigidity, and to help develop lifelong eating patterns that are healthy and varied. This program is working to help combat the problems with poor nutrition that are present today with individuals on the autism spectrum. A very important aspect of the program is the high level of parent – teacher communication regarding which foods are being tolerated that might not have been previously, and certain strategies that are helping.

This program is having all kinds of great success. Watch for our Happenings! updates here on our website to see some of the things that our classrooms are doing to help!

12/18/16 Banana Snowmen

Having the opportunity and experience to make your own snack makes eating healthy foods more motivating! And when you make your own snack look like a Snowman, well, who wouldn’t want to try eating that! The students in Room 4 made these banana snowmen in their Healthy Food Program.

Our Healthy Food Program is an important aspect every week in all of our classrooms, helping our students develop healthy nutrition, through cooking and food prep activities, hygiene and life skills, and lessons about nutrition and fitness that are geared to the needs and abilities of the classroom. Our teaching teams do a fantastic job planning and implementing these lessons and activities in their classrooms. Teachers are seeing so much progress in their classrooms!

Through their weekly parent newsletters, teachers communicate what they will be making. More individual information is written on the home-notes. As well, parents who might want to come in during their child’s Healthy Food group time are encouraged to communicate this interest with their child’s teacher to schedule a time.

Our Healthy Food Program is funded by 2 grants – one from The Schenectady Foundation, the other from the Hawley Foundation. We are so thankful for this support for all the progress we see with our students.

12/1/16 Name that reindeer!!!

Reindeer Treats for Room 6 – they used graham crackers, peanut butter “glue”, raisin eyes, pretzel antlers, and an M&M red nose!

Teachers and many parents are commenting that the students are more likely to try something new when they make it or help to make it. Also, modeling their peers helps some children tolerate new things.

We are thankful to The Schenectady Foundation, and the Hawley Foundation for this grant-funded program that allows every teacher to plan and implement exciting Healthy Food projects in each class every week.

10/2016 – Healthy eating is super fun!

What color is this vegetable? What is it called? Is it bigger or smaller than this vegetable? Taste it – yay!!

Ms. Deanna and her Room 7 team introduced steamed veggies last week with great success. Everyone had a try at each of the foods, and almost everyone kept eating. Room 7 has seen some excellent success this year in healthy eating goals, relays Ms. Deanna! The group gives them lots of opportunities for social interactions as well.

This program, so important for our children, is funded solely through grants from two foundations this school year -The Schenectady Foundation, in Schenectady County, and The Hawley Foundation, in Saratoga County.

Group activities in the classroom can help form skills for school, home and life.The Carlilian Foundation supports Crossroads Center for Children