9 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Eat Healthier

Mother and daughter in produce section of supermarket

Encouraging healthy food habits in kids is an ongoing job. Their food habits don’t happen in a vacuum, though. They are influenced by other kids, TV ads, and many other influencers, but most importantly, their family. And mothers perhaps have the greatest influence.

Not only because mother may be the main food provider, but because kids notice and pick up on signals she is projecting about food and eating: what is her attitude about eating? Does she eat her fruit and vegetables? Does she  talk about what foods are healthy and what causes sickness? Can you tell she has a “sweet tooth”? These and other observations influence the food habits of kids.

Here are 9 suggestions on ways you can help kids develop healthy eating habits:

1. Set a good example. Children are observant of what you eat and what signs you send about food likes and dislikes. Check to make sure you are sending the right signals.

2. Serve a wide variety of food. You know what children should be eating, so is it available? Are your meals planned to have the adequate kind of nutrients for children?

3. Involve kids in the process. Encourage children to help you with a recipe. Start them early in setting the table and helping prepare the meal for the family. This is a powerful way of getting kids interested in food.       

4. Encourage sampling. When new and different food is offers, encourage them to eat it by telling them how it will help them, what else it tastes like, or what it will do for them. Convince them to try just one bite of the new food. Treat it as a positive experience.

5. No “sitting at the table until you finish this” routine. Food should always be associated with a positive image and approach. We want children to associate food with good feelings. Keep it positive and make it fun.

6. Encourage their goals of eating healthy. As children get older, they become more health conscience. Help them want to improve their athletic performance or body weight through the amount and kind of food to eat. Encourage and give much positive reinforcement.

7. Keep healthy food available. A drawer in the refrigerator could be a special place for their snacks. Food that is nutritious and easily accessible will be eaten more readily.

8. Let children help with meal planning and shopping. If children can have input into the kinds of food they want, they will be more willing to eat it. Many activities can be associated with the shopping experience, such as finding the food in advertisements and working out the cost of items on their shopping list.

9. Help children to be accepting of their own body. Whether they think they are too skinny or too fat, help them to accept their own body. Words such as “I think you are just right” goes a long way in how children feel about themselves.

I’ve written more on this subject in another blog: Who Shapes Healthy Food Choices for Kids Take a look.  

Whether you realize it or not, you are being watched by your kids.  Do you have a success story of how you have worked on any of these? Care to share? Leave a comment. Would love to hear.

Lee Jackson
Home and Family Networking