Dad and two daughters making salad together

Encouraging Healthy Habits in Our Kids

“I try to encourage healthy eating habits for my family, but nutritious choices don’t seem to be appealing.” I hear this time and time again from parents who are trying to get their kids to eat healthier. Yes, it can be a challenge, but we must not give up.

Whether they’re toddlers or in their teens, children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy the most.

It’s important to remember that our kids aren’t born with a craving for French fries and pizza and an aversion to broccoli and carrots. When we get right down to it, this conditioning happens over time as kids are exposed to unhealthier food choices. The good news? It is without a doubt possible to reprogram your children’s food cravings so they crave healthier foods instead. So mom and dad, the sooner you introduce wholesome, more nutritious choices into our kids’ diets, the easier they’ll be able to develop a healthy relationship with food that can last them a lifetime. Now I know you’re going to jump up and say, “But I’ve tried and tried again and again but my kids still only want to have cookies and cake.”  Or some other child-friendly, gluttonous “treat.” I implore you to be patient. This change won’t happen overnight. In fact, your kids will be complaining that there is no food in the house if you take away their favorite snacks. You need to trust me when I say that over time when all that’s available to them is an apple, they WILL eat it. Slowly but surely their tastes buds will begin to change and there will be a blissful craving for healthier snacks.

So now you want to get started… try a few of these tips and tricks to start moving those cravings to something so sweet, yet crunchy, so satisfying, your child looks you straight in the eye and says, “apple please!”

Focus on overall diet rather than specific foods.

Kids should be eating more whole, minimally processed food. Food that is as close to its natural form as possible and less packaged and processed food.

Be a role model

The childhood impulse to imitate is strong, (even for teens) so don’t ask your child to eat fruits and vegetables while you gorge on potato chips and chocolate cake.

Disguise the taste of healthier foods

Add vegetables to a beef stew, for example, or mash carrots up with mashed potatoes, or add a sweet dip like honey to slices of apple.

Cook more meals at home

Restaurant and takeout meals have more added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fat, so cooking at home can have a huge impact on your kids’ health. If you make large batches, cooking just a few times can be enough to feed your family for the whole week.

Get kids involved

Get your kids involved in shopping for groceries and preparing meals. You can even teach them about different foods and how to read food labels.

Make healthy snacks available

Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) on hand so kids avoid unhealthy snacks like soda, chips, and cookies.

Limit portion sizes

Don’t insist your child cleans the plate, and never use food as a reward or bribe.

Once you start healthy habits, healthy habits will begin to form.