As a Registered Dietitian, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “How can I get my child to eat healthy?”. Here are five of my favorite tips to inspire kids to eat healthy.
Tip # 1 – Enjoy Family Meals Together as Often as Possible!
Family meals can be challenging to do in today’s busy environment, but the payoff for eating together when possible is worth it! Eating together offers a chance for family members to connect, and can set the state for more open communication between parents and kids. Try to make mealtime enjoyable with pleasant conversation (save the lectures for another time!). Also, children feel more secure when they have the predictability of a routine, which promotes their overall wellbeing and development.
Tip # 2 – Be a Positive Role Model
Children often grow up to follow their parents’ eating habits. When they see you regularly eating healthy foods and appropriate portions you are laying out an example of what they will likely do later in life. Additionally, the likelihood of kids trying new and healthy foods increases when they observe someone else eating those foods.
Tip # 3 – Leave the Junk Food in the Store
Or at least keep it out of sight! Sugary drinks and junk food taste good, and if they are easily accessible your kids will ask for them regularly. Eating these low-nutrient foods and beverages can fill kids up, leaving less room for nutritious, nutrient-dense food needed for development and growth. Stock your kitchen with a variety of healthy foods.
Tip # 4 – Let Kids Choose when to Stop Eating
Avoid “the clean plate club” mindset, which teaches kids to ignore their inner signals of satiety. Letting them choose when to stop eating helps them become more in-tune to their inner cues and not overeat.
Tip # 5 – Give Some Control to the Kids
Choosing to give kids age-appropriate tasks can build confidence, skills, and also take a task off of your plate!
One option, since you have already decided how to stock the kitchen and what to serve at meal time, is to try letting kids serve themselves. Let them choose exactly what to put on their plate and just how much.
Another option is to involve kids in the planning and preparation of food. Just ask your kids for help. Kids will enjoy feeling some control if they can occasionally choose the family meal and this can get them excited about healthy eating. They are also more likely to eat a food if they are involved in preparing it.