Four Ways to Help Your Kids Eat Healthier

   By rlerner  Nov 27, 2009

Kids, especially younger ones, will eat mostly what’s available to them at home. That’s why it’s important to control the supply lines. Afterall, the foods that you serve for meals and have on hand for snacks can help set kids up for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Here are some delicious, easy-to-follow, kid-friendly tips to promote healthy eating habits.

Stock Up On Healthy Foods

-Workfruits and vegetables into the daily routine, aiming for the goal of at least five servings a day. Try to serve fruit or vegetables at every meal.
-Make it easy for kids to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Other good snacks include low-fat plain yogurt, all-natural peanut butter and celery, whole-grain crackers and cheese or homemade trail mix.
-Serve lean meats and other good sources of protein, such as fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. Choose whole-grain breads and cereals so kids get more fiber.
-Limit fat intake by avoiding deep-fried foods and choosing healthier cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting, and steaming. Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
-Limit fast food and low-nutrient snacks, such as chips and candy. But don’t completely ban favorite snacks from your home. Instead, make them "once-in-a-while" foods, so kids don’t feel deprived.  You can also introduce healthier alternatives.
-Limit sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit-flavored drinks. Serve water, organic (if possible) low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice instead. 

Lead By Example

The best way for you to encourage healthy eating is to eat well yourself. Kids will follow the lead of the adults they see every day. By eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in the less nutritious stuff, you’ll be sending the right message.

Another way to be a good role model is to serve appropriate portions and not overeat. Also parents who are always dieting or complaining about their bodies may foster these same negative feelings in their kids. Try to keep a positive approach about food and incorporate some of these tips:

-Make a colorful plate, it looks more enticing.
-Put a healthy twist on conventional meals; for spaghetti and meatballs try using lean turkey instead of beef
-Make small, subtle changes at first; substitute half whole wheat pasta for regular pasta, half brown rice for white rice or sweet potato fries for french fries

Don’t Battle Over Food

It’s easy for food to become a source of conflict. Well-intentioned parents might find themselves bargaining or bribing kids so they eat the healthy food in front of them. A better strategy is to give kids some control, but to also limit the kind of foods available at home.

Kids should decide if they’re hungry, what they will eat from the foods served, and when they’re full and parents control which foods are available to the child, both at mealtime and between meals. Here are some guidelines:

-Establish a predictable schedule of meals and snacks.  It helps to establish snack and meal patterns
-Don’t force kids to clean their plates. Doing so teaches kids to override feelings of fullness.
-Don’t bribe or reward kids with food. Avoid using dessert as the prize for eating the meal.
-Don’t use food as a way of showing love. When you want to show love, give kids a hug, some of your time, or praise.
-Don’t divulge too much information.  When children know something is good for them they think it can’t possibly taste good, even if it really does.

 Get Kids Involved

Most kids will enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. Talk to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Some might even want to help shop for ingredients and prepare the meal. At the store, teach kids to check out food labels to begin understanding what to look for. In the kitchen, select age-appropriate tasks so kids can play a part without getting injured or feeling overwhelmed.

Please feel free to contact Rachel Lerner directly at . 

Make a Comment

texasmomma by texasmomma | Bee Cave, TX
Jul 15, 2010

My son is on the autism spectrum and this is one of the constant battles we fight in our home. Tastes and textures are such and aversion that we can seldom even get him to try something new. He gets daily vitamins to supplement his diet, but I'm afraid it's not enough. I've tried "hiding" pureed veggies in the food, but the slightest change in color or smell is usually detected and can't even get him to try it. Very frustrated...

c5dcc1 by c5dcc1 | BUFORD, GA
Dec 29, 2009

yeah you can get them involved but they will still refuse things. can force a kid or persno to eat things they dont want to.. that the key .. try me bites.

rlerner by rlerner | Rye Brook, NY
Dec 10, 2009

While I am unsure what medications your stepson is on, unfortunately we are not always made aware of the unwanted side effects of many drugs, including weight gain. Obviously there are ways to manage this properly through lifestyle. I would be happy to discuss some of the possibilities I offer. Please feel free to contact me directly. I help clients nationally and would love to help you and your stepson manage his weight before it is an even bigger problem.

deligirl191 by deligirl191 | Fredericktown, PA
Dec 09, 2009

my stepson has gained 20 pounds in one month since being on a new meds what do I do

CindyF by CindyF | AMSTON, CT
Dec 09, 2009

Thanks for sharing the great advice. It is so important kids learn healthy eating at a young age

rlerner by rlerner | Rye Brook, NY
Dec 01, 2009

I think pjclayton57's advice is terrific. I also think educating your daughter about the importance of nutritious foods would help. For example: explain to her how she needs protein (found in chicken, fish, eggs, etc.) for her muscles to grow properly. Make it fun and appropriate for her age. Hope that helps and good luck!

yousefloli by yousefloli | Spring Hill, FL
Dec 01, 2009

Letting my children help with our meals and shopping was really great. My kids love it and we get to spend more time together.

pjclayton57 by pjclayton57 | Oceanport, NJ
Nov 30, 2009

Lovewhitetigers3, maybe getting your daughter involved in the menu selection and preparation will help! It worked for my children and they were more apt to eat what was on the table. Just a thought!

cheflisa by cheflisa | waunakee, WI
Nov 30, 2009

We garden with the children , they get excited about food they grow .I do agree you lead by example ,if mom & dad are not eating healthy children think it is a punishment when they HAVE to .We did have a rule that you had to try everything served sometimes it takes multiple tastings to adjust the palate to new flavors. We also make a big deal when we try something new like .Wow this is jicama its from Mexico , i wonder what its like raw ,what if we cook it how do you think it might be good..etc

lovewhitetigers3 by lovewhitetigers3 | Manlius, NY
Nov 29, 2009

I try not to force my daughter to eat everything on her plate, but feel that sometimes it is becoming a game for her to not eat what is being served..... how do I get her to understand that she needs to eat what we are eating and not getting something different?

texashowdy by texashowdy | Willis, TX
Nov 29, 2009

Getting kids involved IS the key!

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
Nov 28, 2009

My family always had an organic garden. I remember as a kid dragging my tiny table out in the front yard and having a vegetable stand. We never had junk food or soda in the house, and nearest fast food was several towns over. Once in a great great while if we'd been real good my parents would take us for an ice cream cone...sprinkles for extra good kids or my dad would bring home on a Friday a roll of LifeSavers from the newsstand. I never missed not having those things and as an adult I still love, and prefer, my veggies. We've continued this though the entire family and all the generations.

pjclayton57 by pjclayton57 | Oceanport, NJ
Nov 28, 2009

I think that getting children involved in the shopping, preparing and cooking process encourages them to try more things. This is a good way to incorporate healthy choices into the mix and is a great bonding experience! My children always helped me with the food planning, selection and preparation when they were young. They now are all excellent cooks and share this with their children as well.