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Sweet Reads! 9 (Sugar-Free) Books That Teach Kids to Eat Better

Photo by Raymond Forbes LLC / Stocksy United / 447595
Photo by Raymond Forbes LLC / Stocksy United

By Rachel Ward

Getting kids to eat healthier can be tough: Kid menus feature things like French fries and chicken fingers, candy is displayed at kid-eye level, and so many foods marketed for children feature sweet ingredients—as if sugar were essential in order to appeal to tiny palates. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a sweet treat once in a while, but to build healthy eating habits, it helps to actually teach kids why, say, pizza isn’t exactly good for you. These nine reads teach sugar heads, chip chompers, and cracker snackers all about why eating well is so important to grow strong bodies.

Edible Colors cover
Text and photographs copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Vogel Bass. Used by permission of Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. All rights reserved.

1. Edible Colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass

Age group: Toddlers and up

Your tot may think all carrots are orange—but does he know carrots (and cauliflower and corn and kale) come in shades of purple? (So cool!) This well-designed photo book introduces kids to a much wider world of fruits and veggies (while helping them learn their colors, too)!

Why Should I Eat Well cover
Copyright © 2001 by Hodder Wayland. Used by permission of Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

2. Why Should I Eat Well? by Claire Llewellyn

Age group: Toddler and up

Burgers, French fries, and pizza filled Monica’s plate every single day until she saw a new girl at school, Rachel, choose a salad for lunch. Rachel teaches Monica that too much unhealthy food can make her sick—and that healthy food like fruits and veggies can actually be pretty tasty!

Green Smoothie Magic cover
Cover for Green Smoothie Magic by Victoria Boutenko, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2013 by Victoria Boutenko. Used by permission of North Atlantic Books.

3. Green Smoothie Magic by Victoria Boutenko

Age group: Preschool

Nic finds out that trees and plants grow big and strong by making a “magic” juice from sunlight (called chlorophyll), and he wants some of that growing power for himself! But lettuce and spinach leaves alone are just too bitter, so his mom buys a blender for a sweeter approach. Their green smoothies are a hit with the whole family—and with the recipe included at the end, it’s sure to be a hit with your family, too! 

Eating the Rainbow cover
Eating the Rainbow by Star Bright Books. Used by permission of Star Bright Books.

4. Eating the Rainbow by Star Bright Books

Age group: Infant and up

Introduce your munchkin to both colors and healthy foods with this sturdy board book. Grouped by color, each page features close-up shots of fruits and veggies—and kids munching happily on them.

Gregory the Terrible Eater cover
Used by permission of Simon & Schuster.

5. Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat

Age group: Toddler and up

Gregory the goat has always been considered a picky eater: He has a revulsion for cardboard and tin cans, instead preferring things like tomatoes and eggs. But when his parents introduce him to proper goat food—with meals like shoelace-noodle spaghetti—Gregory starts eating everything all the time until he just can’t eat anymore. This tale of moderation is great for picky eaters and overeaters alike!

Rah Rah Radishes cover
Used by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

6. Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre

Age group: Toddler and up

It’s time to celebrate our leafy friends! Get your tot amped up about veggies with this fun chant that will put a smile on his face and have him begging for carrots and cauliflower. (Well, maybe.)

The Sugar Story cover
Copyright © 2016 by Emelie Kamp. Used by permission of Worth it Living. All rights reserved.

7. The Sugar Story: Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad for You by Emelie Kamp

Age group: Toddler and up

Sugar and his pals, the superhero fruits and vegetables, have a mission: Work in tandem to keep humans happy, healthy, and fed! Have a hard time explaining why sugar is bad for you? This books should help! Featuring a chatty sugar cube and some fruit and veggie pals, the book explains (with just enough science) why unhealthy treats like brownies and lollipops can make us feel sick and hurt our teeth.

Good Enough to Eat cover
Copyright © 1999 by Lizzy Rockwell. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

8. Good Enough to Eat: A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition by Lizzy Rockwell

Age group: Preschool and up

Food groups, nutrients, vitamins and minerals, calories, and the digestive system, too—yes, your four-year-old can learn these concepts and even more about the basics of nutrition with this guide’s easy-to-understand terminology and cheerful illustrations.

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato cover
Text and illustrations copyright © by Lauren Child. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

9. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

Age group: Toddler and up

Lola knows what she likes and what she doesn’t like when it comes to food, and she won’t change her mind, thank you—especially when it comes to giving tomatoes a chance. When her older brother, Charlie, helps Lola imagine mashed potatoes as cloud fluff and peas as green raindrops from Greenland (and she likes them!), Lola gives tomatoes another chance and a new name: moonsquirters!

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