Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits in Kids



Encouraging healthy eating habits in kids. My husband jokingly asked if I’m qualified to write this post. We have processed cereals and I let my kids eat a little sugar every day. We probably could eat more veggies and I don’t think an occasional trip to McDonals is the equivolent of poisoning my kids.

My health mentality with regards to food (and almost everything) is that moderation is the key to a life-time of health. People don’t psychologically respond well to unachievable standards. So, if I can teach my kids to have a relationship to food where perfection isn’t the key, teach them to view food as fuel, not just fun, and help them start making good choices now, I think they’re going to be on the right track for life!

Here’s what I’m doing with my three (soon to be 4 little ones):

1. Model healthy eating yourself. You’re not going to be able to feed your kids healthy foods if you don’t have them in the house! They watch what  we eat. I’ve found that my kids are much more prone to dig into their salads if I’m eating one, too. Or if I pull out a healthy snack, they likely want to try it. The farmer’s market has become a beloved activity where we pick out fresh, local foods together.

2. Give them choices. Kids need to learn to eat what they’re given sometimes, but I also like to provide choices when possible. “Would you like an apple or grapes in your lunch?”


3. Don’t make everything off limits. I went to this birthday party where the kids weren’t allowed to have any cake. The mother gave them a bag of carrots instead. I felt so bad for them and wondered if in the future, when they left their homes if they’d go crazy eating everything they couldn’t eat as kids. I know lots of families are committed to clean eating or limiting sugar or other things and there are varying levels of strictness, and I can understand that perspective. There are different behavioral responses to different food groups that cause parents to be very intentional with their kids’ diets and I understand that as well.

So far, we haven’t struggled with behavioral problems or allergies when it comes to food, so my goal is simply instilling long term healthy eating habits in my kids. My philosophy is that are bodies are resilient, they can handle a little food coloring now and then or a little sugar every day. I’d rather teach my kids to limit their intake of less- than-ideal foods than get them to try and live a life time of trying to avoid all bad food and struggle with guilt and control over it.

4. Make healthy food fun. Picnics in different rooms in the house. Making the vegetables characters that talk. Cutting cut shapes in the sandwich. Whatever it takes…



5. Don’t make food a battle ground. It’s not something I want to fight about. If a child chooses not to eat something I put in front of them, I will say, “This is your dinner option tonight. If you don’t want to eat it, you may be excused. Or I can help you take some bites.” If I’m making something I know they gag on every time, (like my son with peas), I try to make a portion without that food. I try to balance both of those perspectives.

6. Think about food intake over a week not a day. I had a pediatrician tell me this one time and it was freeing and great advice, especially with toddlers or young kids that like something one day and not the next. Keep trying to offer foods and as long as they’re getting enough nutrition over the week, it’s ok if they don’t want meat one day, etc.

7. Rewards for good choices. Maybe some would call this bribing, but here’s what I do. “If you choose to eat all your broccoli, you may pick a cookie or ice cream after dinner.” It’s been something that has helped them learn to eat things they don’t like.

8. Teach them to view food as fuel. This might be my favorite of the tips. As a nurse practitioner, I’ve had a couple nutrition classes but almost everyone knows the basics enough to teach their kids. When it comes to protein based foods like eggs, meat, and nuts I might say something like, “This is what helps your muscles grow strong.” With good carbs, fruits and veggies I’ll say, “These help your body have energy.” When it comes to sugary foods I’ll say, “This tastes good and it’s fun to eat but it doesn’t help our bodies grow so we don’t eat too much of it.” I’ve heard them repeating these sentiments back to me or asking me if a certain kind of food helps them grow or not.

9. Let them help cook! Huge game changer when it comes to getting them to try stuff.


10. Try one bite rule. When it comes to new foods, we have a try one bite rule. You can’t say you don’t like something unless you’ve tried it.

Hope you’ve found a new idea or two and feel free to share yours in the comments!