Do you want to raise healthy eaters? Are you frustrated that you can’t get your kids to eat more healthy food? From babies to teens, here are 7 ways you can nurture healthy eating habits in your kids.
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“How do I get my kids to eat healthy food??”
This is a dilemma I’ve seen expressed almost daily on social media, in parenting forums, and in moms groups everywhere. I’ve even been asked this exact question a few times on The Merry Momma.
If you relate to this struggle to raise healthy eaters, know that you are not alone! But also know that it is a struggle you can overcome.
Last week, I wrote a blog post with 25 healthy snack ideas for your kids, but… what if they don’t want to eat them?? What if they turn up their noses at all things healthy?
The good news is that there are absolutely things you can do and steps you can take to encourage your kids to eat healthy food and develop lifelong healthy eating habits.
Here are 7 ways to raise healthy eaters!
7 Ways to Raise Healthy Eaters
1. Start young
If you’re reading this with babies or toddlers, awesome! Tip #1 for raising healthy eaters is to start them young. From their very first foods, introduce them to a wide variety of healthy, wholesome foods.
For those of you with older kids, don’t despair! Simply start wherever you are now. START TODAY. There’s never a “too late” when it comes to developing healthier habits.
Yes, it’s 1,000x easier when they’re a baby, and yes, they’ll
probably definitely put up a fuss, but the only thing worse than a late start is not starting at all.
2. Always keep trying
Whether you’re trying to reprogram firmly entrenched habits or you’re tackling the picky tastes of a toddler — DON’T GIVE UP!
It can take up to a dozen tries for babies to embrace new foods, toddlers are notoriously fickle, and kids’ tastes can (and do) absolutely change if given the chance.
And if this is a pretty new and drastic lifestyle change for them, it may take a while for their bodies to detox and break possible addictions to refined sugar and salt.
So don’t let one or two (or ten) resistant experiences stop you. Keep offering them foods they initially turn down.
3. Don’t make a big deal out of it
On the other hand… while you should absolutely keep trying healthy foods that initially turn up their noses, don’t make a big deal out of it if/when they’re not yet ready to embrace them.
Don’t force, control, or guilt them into healthier eating habits, especially if they’re strong-willed. That will
probably definitely only make them dig their heels in deeper and is even likely to cause long-run toxic attitudes toward healthy food.
4. Involve them in the cooking process
Research has shown that kids who play an active role in the cooking and meal preparation process are more likely to develop healthy eating habits.
For example, this enlightening study from the University of Alberta showed that “children who helped with cooking showed a greater preference for both [fruits and vegetables],” and that “kids who did meal prep and cooking were more confident about the importance of making healthier food choices.”
BONUS TIP: Take this one step further and try your hand at growing your own food! For more insight about how gardening can encourage healthy eating habits and help you raise healthy eaters, read this article from Parent Today.
5. Model healthy eating habits
How do kids develop most of their habits (good and bad)? By watching their parents! *Gulp* Truly, one of the best and most effective ways to raise healthy eaters is to be one yourself.
Make sure your kids see you making healthy food choices and preparing healthy meals for them. (If you need help with getting healthy dinners on the table, I have just the resource for you!)
Go one step further by talking through your decision-making in front of them, letting them hear how and why you choose the foods you do.
6. Watch your language
In the same vein, be intentional about the way you talk about healthy food. Don’t talk about vegetables and other healthy food as something “yucky” that has to be endured.
Instead, talk about the wonderful benefits they provide our bodies and how proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc. make us strong and healthy.
I also want to mention my conviction that we should talk about healthy food in terms of “fueling” or “making us stronger” or being “full of good things for our bodies” NOT in terms of remaining a certain size or avoiding weight gain. The purpose of encouraging our kids to eat healthy food is to strengthen and support their bodies’ functions, not to make them look a certain way.
7. Bone up on the basics
I mean… no one likes to eat bland, unpalatable, tasteless food. So, if you want to encourage your kids to eat healthy food, make sure it tastes good!
And I don’t mean by “masking” them with unhealthy ingredients. Rather, learn how to cook vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains to their full potential. You’d be surprised what you can do with the right seasonings and cooking techniques!
So, get a book (I learned a ton from this one, but there are many others!), take a class, read some blog posts, or make friends with an experienced chef.
Do what you gotta do, but showing your kids that healthy food can and should taste good will go a LONG way toward helping you raise healthy eaters.
Which of these strategies do you need to work on, or which one(s) are you going to start implementing first? Let me know your thoughts and plans in the comments!
And listen… I know it can be hard to get healthy dinners on the table every night. SO hard. But I know you can do it!! And I’m here to help and guide you.
In my book The Every Mom’s Meal Solution Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Feeding Your Family Well in Any Season, Budget, or Lifestyle, I give strategy after strategy and tip after tip for getting dinner on the table in less time, with less energy, and for less money.
If figuring out what to make for dinner every night stresses you out and you’re ready to not dread the 5:00 hour, then check out what this book can do for you!
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