Do’s and Don’ts of Encouraging Children to Become Healthy Eaters

By in Food & Nutrition on 02 June 2010

If you’re a parent, you want your children to be healthy. To accomplish this goal, you encourage them to be active, avoid too many fatty and sweet foods, take baths and wash their hands. However, you may have a picky eater. Here are some do’s and don’ts of encouraging children to become healthy eaters.

It’s not unusual for children to have bad diets, unfortunately. When they’re little and we can control what they eat, we can ensure they’re eating healthy foods. As they grow up, however, they develop their own tastes as far as food is concerned. They may only like to eat macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How do you get them to eat fruits and vegetables, too?

Children learn by example in almost everything. If they see parents, siblings, and friends eating potato chips and drinking soft drinks, they’ll want to eat those as well. The reverse is true; if they see everyone eating fresh fruits and vegetables they’ll be more likely to follow suit. So, if you want your children to become healthy eaters, the adults in the family will want to set the pace.

Offer your child healthy foods for snacks. Rather than giving them cookies or candy for a snack, offer fresh fruit like apples, oranges, or grapes, depending upon your child’s age. If you don’t have junk food in your home, your child won’t learn to eat it.

Experts say to offer your child a new food at least twenty times before they’ll eat it. If you’re introducing a new food, put just a bite on their plate. Ask them to taste it; if they don’t want to try it immediately, don’t push them. Each meal you serve that food, continue to put a bite on their plate and ask them to taste it. Before too long they’ll do at least that.

Be sure you’re not introducing too many new foods at once. In fact, it’s better if you only introduce one new food at a time until your child starts eating it. This means that if you’re trying to get your child to eat peas, wait until you’ve had success with those before you introduce Brussels sprouts.

If the food is on their plate, let them play with the food. They may roll the food around on their plate, make faces in it by putting other food into it, or some other creative idea. If you allow them to play with the food, it won’t seem so intimidating.

Even though you might be tempted, don’t hide vegetables in something you fix. This might backfire on you. Although your intention to get your child to eat vegetables is good, they may decide to stop eating whatever you’ve hidden the vegetables in from now on.

Your own parents probably made you finish everything on your plate “because there are poor, malnourished children all over the world.” You don’t have to follow in your parent’s eating style. If your child doesn’t want to eat anymore, don’t make them finish their plate.

Give them what they like, to a point. If they like eating hot dogs, look for ones that have lower fat content. If they want ice cream buy the single serving sizes so they won’t be tempted to eat more than they need.

It’s not easy having a child who’s a picky eater, but you can survive it. Follow these do’s and don’ts of encouraging children to become healthy eaters. It may not happen overnight, but if you’re persistent it will happen.

3 Comments For This Post

  1. Drew says:

    I like the idea of allowing kids to play with their food. By nature they are curious creatures and it’s more like they are studying the food, not playing with it. As the babies grow older and can understand human interaction better a good way to get them to eat healthy is to make food entertaining. I found this video that helps better explain what I’m getting at:

    Engaging the kids and letting them build their snacks is a wonderful way for them to gain nutritional knowledge and actually eat fruits and veggies. What do you think?

  2. I am having unprotected sex for 2 years but I am failed in the process of getting pregnancy. I am getting pretty down that I haven’t become pregnant yet…I always figured it would be SUPER easy to get pregnant, but now I see that is not true. Help me please…

  3. When my daughter started going to school – sugar and junk food started to become a huge problem.

    Thank goodness for people like Jamie Oliver!


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