Nutrition Tips : 5 Ways to get Children to Eat Healthy
Updated: Feb 3
By : Elizabeth Ray MS RDN LD
As a Dietitian Nutritionist, I get asked a lot of food questions. It’s never a bother, but a honor for me to help others feel good about food.
Most recently I’ve been asked “How do I get my child to eat healthy?”
I have to admit, I had this article written and ready to submit but something didn’t feel right. I’m the “professional expert” however, some of the best tips come from those on the front line. I went to my social media mom friends to ask for suggestions.
I was amazed at the responses I received! Some suggestions aligned with my philosophy, however there were several tips that opened me up to new ideas. Here’s a list of what my friends and I have to say about raising healthy eaters.
Freedom to Choose.
No one at any age likes to be told what to do and how to do it, and this is especially true about food. Even if the food is good for us, we still value the freedom to choose.
“My kids get to pick two produce items each week for the grocery list…this week [they choose] berries, bananas, broccoli, pineapple, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes.” Mary S.
Kim M. writes “moderation is healthy to me.” She purchases lean meats, fresh fruit and vegetables, but also keeps some treats on hand.
Invite and Include.
Did you know that the healthy eaters of today will tell you that some of their most cherished food memories were created in the kitchen with parents and/or grandparents?!?
Jessica T. writes that her teenage daughter bakes every Wednesday not out of obligation, but because she enjoys it! Jessica allowed her “to engage in the meal prepping” process early on, and it has lead to a passion for baking.
Lesley D. adds “my 3 year old helped me make supper last night…he does NOT like tomatoes. I let him use the can opener [for diced tomatoes, and] much to my surprise after opening he wanted to taste…[I later] put some on his plate…he ate them all and asked for seconds.”
Inviting and including your children can also be successful outside the kitchen, for instance,
Sara G. writes “mine eats healthier…when she can walk out to the garden and pick it herself.”
Consistent but More so Patient.
You take a risk when trying new foods, and this can be scary. It can be as frightening as jumping off the high dive, riding a roller coaster, and public speaking! Our children need to know it’s okay to feel scared, moreover, they need to know that you’re in their corner.
Miranda G. writes “I started by saying…try one small bite…I increased that [food] as time when on….[and over time my child learned] she really like other foods, and she began choosing the prepared [dinner] food over her once loved favorites.”
Rachel B. adds “keep putting it on their plate. It may take them 10 years to try it, but keep offering. Don’t shame or yell, just ask them if they’d like to try it tonight and move on.”
Your example matters.
Yes, this is where my list for your children to eat better may get challenging. However, the best way to instill healthy habits, especially those involving food, is your example as the leader of the home. Food is an intimate part of our heritage, identity and legacy. So I invite you to explore your personal food habits, types of foods you are eating, and why you are eating or not eating certain foods.
Mary C. claims “it’s important not to expose children to our own food bias…[for instance] my boys never had peas as a kid because I hated peas!”
Ashley K. adds that they have a rule in their house for adults and children that everyone has to try whatever is on the table. “…Our taste buds are constantly changing. It’s not a fight, just a discussion about food and science, trying new things, and sometimes being surprised.”
One last word about raising healthy eaters : healthy is not about perfection. Healthy is about “we do our best here.” Keri L.
I encourage you to continue to give your best to your children. Continue to show up, listen, embrace and connect with them. They need your presence and attention more than any plate of food.
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Elizabeth Ray, MS RDN LD works as a registered dietitian nutritionist helping people improve their relationship with food and with themselves. Her Instagram handle is @wholefoodbeliever, and she can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/e3trition. Elizabeth has also has a blog at https://www.wholefoodbeliever.net.
For your information only. The statements on this website and/or in this article are opinions. Wholefoodbeliever does not provided medical or nutritional advise, treatment, or diagnosis.