How to Encourage your Little Ones to Eat Healthy

“If only chicken nuggets, French fries, cookies, and cake was the composition of a nutritious, healthy meal! My kids would be the healthiest kids in the world!”  This mom’s statement resonates with so many of us who struggle with getting our kids to eat balanced meals in which they are getting a good amount of vegetables, fruits, and protein. We attempt, that’s for sure. But lunchboxes return back full with leftover carrot sticks and apple slices and dinner plates are pushed to the side with perfect lines of leftover peas and beans decorating the sides. It can be very frustrating and just for the sake of SOME food going into our little one’s tummies – we end up giving in and purchasing that dreaded McDonald’s Happy Meal and calling it day.

With a 7 and 5-year-old at home, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that have helped me over the years to get my kids to take interest and actually enjoy eating a variety of food. There isn’t a set of rules that applies to all kids, but sharing experiences is always beneficial because you just never know what might work!

  1. Lead by example. This is the first thing that I learned and I think it is one of the most important. If you are having a can of Coke with your meal, how can you expect your kids not to want the same? If you are snacking on bag of chips while you’re working, how can you expect your kids not to want some when they are watching TV? Before you attempt working on your kids eating habits, fix your own!
  2. Give your kids a behind-the-scenes look. Invite your kids into the kitchen while you are cooking. Let them help you mix and pour. Give them some insight into how food is prepared. I can assure you, if your child has helped you make a salad or mixed together ingredients – they will be more inclined to at least give it a taste.
  3. A personalized plate. Help your child pick out a fun plate that is only theirs. My kids love sectional plates where there is a small section for each type of food. During meal times, allow your kids the independence to make their own plate out of the options that are on the table. It may take some time, but eventually they will start opting for the healthier things once they start enjoying the autonomy.
  4. Provide them with choices, but not too many. Allow your picky-eaters to have a choice in what they would like to eat, but not a non-exhaustive list. If it is snack time, let them choose between 2 healthy snacks. Glass of milk or orange juice? Pick one. Cheese and Crackers or Cucumber sticks? Choose between the two. Your little one might be more excited to try a new food or healthy dish if they feel as though it was their idea.
  5. Don’t force it. If despite your many efforts and attempts, your child is just refusing to eat at any given meal, don’t force it on them. Think about yourself, would you like it if someone was forcing you to eat something? By force-feeding or threatening/getting angry, it will cause meal-times to become tense and stress-inducing for both you and your child. This may lead to your child forming a revulsion towards healthy food and other long-term negative effects. Be gentle – coax, encourage and continue doing so.

If you feel your child actually has an issue with eating the right foods and it is effecting their health, please consult your child’s physician. Parents, hang on, your kids will eventually open up to trying new foods and enjoying different cuisines – until then, we can only try our best by limiting the junk food we bring into the house and providing our families with nutritious options.