The struggle is real when it comes to getting kids to eat healthy food. My kids all have different food preferences — from what they like to eat to how they want it prepared — and it can definitely be a challenge to keep everyone happy.
Instilling healthy eating habits and providing the appropriate vitamins and nutrients will not only support kids’ growth and development but also set the tone for their relationship with food, which will carry into their adult years. No pressure, right?
Don’t worry! We put together a list of six tips to help encourage healthy eating habits at home.
Tip 1: Offer (But Don’t Force) Healthy Food
My pediatrician once told me that you cannot control what your kids eat. That really resonated with me, especially during the toddler years when chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese were on repeat.
If your kids are super picky, consider preparing healthier versions of their favorite meals. Encourage your kids to try a variety of foods. Serve up veggies in different ways, like raw, steamed, baked, or grilled. Consistency is key. Your kids might just surprise you and take a bite of broccoli one day!
Tip 2: Start the Day With a Good Breakfast
If your kids eat sugary cereal in the morning, chances are they’ll be hungry again in a few hours. A healthy breakfast is the key to a successful day, especially for kids, because breakfast equals brain power. Research shows that kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities, which are two great ways to help maintain a healthy weight.
But, mornings are hectic (read: chaotic), and it’s sometimes hard to get out the door on time, let alone prepare a nutritious breakfast for your kids. Luckily, good nutrition is easier and less time-consuming than you might think! Steel-cut oatmeal, whole-wheat toast with nut butter, and low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit are great options to keep your kids fueled throughout the day. A smoothie is also a healthy, convenient option on mornings when you are running late.
Tip 3: Encourage Input and Feedback
I normally avoid taking my kids to the grocery store at all costs. That’s because they scatter in three different directions, only coming back to the shopping cart to throw in a box of cookies or highly processed lunch meat. Meanwhile, I’m that mom yelling and racing through the aisles, often forgetting the most important items on my list.
However, experts say getting your kids involved in shopping and preparing meals can be a great way to help them understand why it’s so important to eat nutritious food. Let them pick out a fruit, vegetable, or healthy snack. They’ll feel more invested and less likely to turn their noses up at dinnertime.
Tip 4: Get Organized
Organization is something I am constantly working on. With three active kids, I need to have healthy snacks and beverages on hand. Cut-up fruit, sliced veggies, and bottled water are always in my refrigerator because little hands have a hard time peeling an orange or cutting a cucumber on their own.
Having food readily available is a must in our house. It helps if you arrange snacks in a way that your kids can grab their favorites. Investing in a few inexpensive storage containers to keep snacks more accessible is a good idea for kids on the go.
Tip 5: Talk (And Listen!) To Your Kids
Even as adults, we need reminders about making good food choices. Yes, that chocolate cake looks delicious, but how do you feel after you eat it? Are you tired and cranky? Does your stomach hurt?
Explain to your kids why it’s important to eat healthy and how food affects our body, mood, and energy levels. Show them how to read labels so they know what’s in the food they eat, and teach them how to start being mindful of ingredients.
Tip #6: Be a Role Model
Kids are little sponges. They soak up everything around them and ultimately become a product of their environment. That’s why I try hard to demonstrate good eating habits. And while I wish my kids could go grocery shopping for me, for the most part, they only eat the food I purchase and prepare at home, so I need to choose wisely.
My weekly haul includes plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, organic meat, and convenient snacks. Of course, I’m not ALL business when it comes to food (hey, I’m human!), and I always leave a little wiggle room for some well-deserved treats our family can enjoy.
Here’s to healthy, happy kids!