I never thought I’d be writing a blog post on tips to get your kids to eat healthier, yet here we are. Whenever someone meets my daughter and notices how well she eats, their first question is always: “How do you get her to eat so healthy?” A quick smile and casual brush off was my answer because, in my mind, she had a normal palette. I soon realized that what I considered to be a “normal” palette was actually healthier than most children her age. I decided to write this blog post about some of the things we did to instill healthier eating habits from early on.
Before we get into the tips to get your kids to eat healthier, let me start by saying, I am not a nutritionist or dietician. The tips that I give here are things that worked for my family. I hope they will work for your family too, but please take what you need from this post, and leave what you don’t.
Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into 10 tips to get your kids to eat healthier.
- Start talking about nutrition with your children early. It’s important to discuss the benefits of eating healthy, as well as the downside of unhealthy eating. My daughter will tell you that eating fruits and vegetables will make her healthy and strong. She’ll also tell you that eating too much candy will give her cavities and tummy-aches. Helping kids understand how different foods will impact their bodies is a great way to get your kids to eat healthier.
- Eating healthy starts with you. Think “monkey see, monkey do”- kids model our behavior. The way we eat is no different. If your child sees you eating fruit as a snack, they will likely want fruit as a snack. If they see you eating a chocolate bar, they will likely want some chocolate, too. They key to getting your kids to eat healthier is to model the right behavior. Set a good example so they can follow in your footsteps.
- Try to serve a balanced meal. Remember: protein + carb + fruit or vegetable = a balanced meal. I keep canned and frozen veggies on hand in case I need to add them to a meal. If I have a lazy day and decide we’re having pizza for dinner, I’ll add in some green beans or corn for more balance.
- No electronics when eating. The obvious reason is that dinner time is family time. This is our time to unwind and talk about our day. What some people don’t know is that kids will over or under-eat when they are distracted. If they are eating dinner with a tablet or TV right in front of them, I can assure you the food isn’t their priority. Removing all distractions develops healthier eating habits and helps ensure they are satisfied before leaving the table.
- Introduce your child to new foods when they are hungry. Because doesn’t being hungry somehow improve the taste of things? Imagine when you’re hungover and your stomach is touching your back- isn’t that when food is the best? Introducing foods to your kids while they’re hungry increases the chance of them being receptive to the food.
- Don’t make them clean their plate. I’ll admit, this is one I struggled with. Growing up in a black household, you don’t get up from the table until you finish your plate. Imagine someone forcing you to eat when you’re full- it’s not a good experience. Forcing kids to finish everything on their plates can lead to food aversions and unhealthy relationships with certain foods later on. Be gentle when encouraging them to eat more, but if they say they are done, let them be done.
- Don’t reward with food. This can lead to kids overeating foods that are loaded with sugar, fat, and empty calories. It also sets unrealistic expectations around what rewards should be. Them cleaning their room doesn’t warrant a bag of Oreos. Maybe playtime outside for a few extra minutes. Or a bubble bath on a weekday. Don’t start this bad habit of giving candy for completing chores or homework. Food is for sustenance, not rewards.
- Use healthier snacks as an alternative to unhealthy snacks. Another tip to get your kids to eat healthier is to train their mind to see fruit as a treat vs candy. Kid wants a snack? Great, here’s a banana. Oh, they want something sweeter? Great, here’s some kiwi. If you consider fruit a “treat” versus a piece of candy, your kids will consider fruit a treat, too. If your kids never have McDonald’s, how will they know what they’re missing?
- Allow your children to cook with you. When I invite Sanai into the kitchen, she is eager to eat whatever she has prepared. The kids thinking they made the dish is a great way to get them to eat healthier. Sanai and I once made these delicious muffins using applesauce and I let her be the pastry chef. She happily ate them for breakfast in lieu of sugary Fruit Loops. Win-Win! I even bought her this cute kitchen set from Amazon, so when she’s not eating her veggies, she’s cooking them!
- Start as early as possible. The earlier you start, the easier it is to get your kids to develop healthier eating habits. From the moment Sanai started eating solid foods at 6 months old, I’ve been intentional about her diet and the food I introduced her to. Fun fact: she’s never had store bought baby food. I blended all of her fruits and vegetables and froze them in an ice tray until she could eat solids on her own. Today, she will eat any vegetable under the sun. If she’s never had it, she’s willing to try it because she was introduced to it early on.
I hope this post helps. Let me know which tips resonated with you the most, and pin this image below to reference back to this post. Make sure you follow me on Instagram for more tips!