Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits in Children

A nutritious and well-balanced diet is vital in helping your child develop. However, you may know that encouraging your child to choose healthier options can be difficult, especially if they are a fussy eater. Here are 10 ways you can encourage healthy eating habits in your child.

  1. Limit junk food rather than banning it entirely. If your child is already used to snacking on unhealthy items such as chips or candy, taking that food away completely can lead to meltdowns that can work against you. Instead, reduce the availability of these snacks, and replace them with healthier options.
  2. Start small. When introducing new healthy foods to your child, try doing it slowly. Offering your child a spoonful of peas along with their French fries is less overwhelming to them than replacing the fries entirely with the vegetable.
  3. Try not to use food as a reward or punishment. It can be tempting to tell your child they can have a lollipop if they finish their vegetables, because it often works. However, it can also train your child to view healthy vegetables as undesirable food, and the unhealthy lollipop as the better food.
  4. Get your child involved. Help your child feel a sense of pride and ownership about healthy eating by getting them involved. For example, you can ask your child to help you choose the best apples at the grocery store, or help you stir ingredients in the kitchen (away from hot surfaces).
  5. Lead by example. Try to model healthy eating habits as often as you can. If your child sees you choosing water or juice over soda, or happily finishing all the broccoli on your plate, they will be more likely to take an interest in healthier options.
  6. Keep healthy snacks on hand. A plastic baggie of cut-up apple slices or mini banana muffins in your fridge will give you something healthy to reach for when your child is hungry. Portable snacks such as these are also ideal options for when you and your child are on the go.
  7. Work with what they like. Parents of fussy eaters in particular are well-aware of the unique dietary preferences children often exhibit. While a variety of healthy foods is ideal, sometimes your child may only like one or two kinds of fruits or vegetables. You can use this preference as a building block. For example, if they love the texture of mashed potatoes, you might try slowly incorporating mashed sweet potatoes as well.
  8. Keep mealtimes fun. Even if your child has only managed to eat one carrot stick out of the four that you’ve given them, that’s more than enough reason to praise them. Confidence and positive self-image can go a long way in developing healthy eating habits.
  9. Consult your daycare or preschool. Your child’s daycare or preschool caregivers deal with different dietary restrictions and preferences every day. They can give you general advice for healthy eating, as well as tips that are well-suited to your own child.
  10. Be patient. It may take several attempts before your child is willing to eat a new food. However, remain positive and patient, and soon your child may see that healthy eating can be fun.

With our busy lives, the occasional fast-food meal, cookie, or can of soda can be unavoidable. However, the healthy eating habits that your child learns early on will stick with them in later years. Encouraging healthy eating in your child as soon as possible will ensure that they receive the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.