Raising Healthy Eaters… Easier Said Than Done?

A healthy diet is critical to strong bodies, smart brains, and successful lives.

Easier said than done, right? We know that kids don’t naturally gravitate towards healthy foods, especially with all the junk food temptation available on TV commercials, marketing, and at our fingertips from a quick stroll down the isle of any grocery/convenience store. Temptation, coupled with our rapid paced lifestyles, makes promoting healthy eating habits difficult. But with persistence the reward of raising healthy eaters goes a long way.

Here are seven tips to help you instill healthy eating habits:

  • Plan meals ahead of time.
    • This doesn’t mean you have to have a home cooked meal for every night of the week, but knowing what you’re going to do for dinner ahead of time makes it easier to ensure you’re providing a balanced diet.
  • Get the kids involved.
    • Get them involved in the cooking process. Something as simple as letting them wash or season the vegetables will make them more likely to give the food a try.
  • Serve the food, no exceptions.
    • Often, parents plan meals around what the kids will eat.  Don’t give them an alternative. Instead, just serve the meal and the kids will eat what they want.
  • Don’t nag about unhealthy eating.
    • When they do decide to go for the junk food (because let’s face it, it’s inevitable), don’t nag them. Instead try redirecting them to a healthier alternative.
  • Don’t set unrealistic expectations.
    • Healthy habits don’t form overnight, so introduce change slowly. Don’t overload their plate with foods they have never tried before. Instead, slowly add more variation to their meals.
  • Give the kids some control.
    • While introducing new healthy foods to their diet, ask them their opinion of the food. If they prefer broccoli over brussels sprouts, serve more broccoli dishes.
  • Practice what you preach.
    • This is usually one of the hardest parts of getting your kids to make deathly choices. Kids pick up habits based on what they observe, much more than what they are told. If you want your kids to be healthy eaters, make sure you’re making the same healthy choices you expect of them.

While these tips are helpful, always remember: don’t force it.

If kids feel pressured into eating something they don’t like, it will make your battle to healthy eating habits that much harder. It can take up to 15 tries to a child to start liking a new food. You don’t have to completely overhaul your entire diet to encourage healthy eating. Start by making small changes that will lead to healthy habits over time.