One of my most-asked questions is “how do I get my kids to eat like yours do?” I wrote this blog post about two years ago, but I filmed a video about it and wanted to update this blog too! So, how do you get your kid to eat healthy foods? Both of my daughters eat all sorts of delicious things, and most of them are extremely nutritious, so that makes me happy, of course! Keep reading to see some comprehensive tips on how to raise your kids to be healthy eaters. (And no, my tips aren’t “hide your veggies in smoothies” because we know that trick already!)
HOW TO RAISE YOUR KIDS TO BE HEALTHY EATERS
Note: I am obviously not a pediatrician. This post is NOT medical advice. This is just my experience with feeding my children. If you have a serious problem with feedings, or your child really isn’t eating, you absolutely need to consult advice from your doctor.
*G’s bib is from Bapron Baby (c/o)! These are great for baby led weaning! I used them with N too 🙂
How to Raise Your Kids to Be Healthy Eaters
The first two things I want to mention are, make sure to start them young…this will help you SO much if you start from the get-go! It isn’t impossible to change your child’s food preferences/habits, but the older they are the more difficult it can be.
The second is, “healthy” is a relative term here. When I say “healthy” I really just mean, how to get your child to eat a variety of nutritious foods without a fight. I don’t mean they can’t indulge in sweets or eat fried foods. Check out this book on intuitive eating if you’re at all interested in the learning more about language around food and how careful we must be when talking about food with our kids! There’s no “good” and “bad” food, so please know that as you read these tips!
1 // Eat healthy foods yourself.
I cannot stress this enough. You’ve got to practice what you preach. Eating something different in front of your kids that they can’t have because “it’s for grown-ups” just doesn’t work well. It makes them resent you. That being said, absolutely indulge. You are an adult – but remember that you’re setting a good example for what real, whole foods do for your body and for your child’s. Children learn what they live! So be a good example. Plus, there’s added benefits for your nourishing body too!
2 // The Golden Rule: You decide what. Your child decides how much.
So if I could only recommend one tip, this would be it. This is the golden rule of feeding a toddler. No more “I don’t like ______.” You serve them a plate of food (I usually do 3 options of foods; a main dish with two side options) for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and if they eat all of their cherry tomatoes, but none of their quiche, that’s okay. If G asks for more tomatoes I give them to her. I don’t argue with her about how “she needs eat more ____ or more ____.”
If we’re having avocado toast for lunch with apples, sometimes G won’t be in the mood for apples. She’ll eat all of the avocado toast, and sometimes ask for seconds. I give her more avocado toast, even if she hasn’t eaten anything else. So you see, you decide what to serve them (within reason… spinach, brussel sprouts, and kale together as a meal isn’t recommended – I try to aim for 2-3 colors of veggies/fruits), and they decide how much or how little they eat.
3 // Avoid snacks 1 hour before mealtime and 1 hour after (unless it’s a veggie tray).
I’ve fallen victim to being enslaved by snacks before. Especially when G started eating lots more between 2-3. Luckily, I’ve been able to reign it in a little. The easiest way to do that? Don’t buy snacks. If you keep you house stocked with unhealthy junk like goldfish, graham crackers, and twinkies, your children won’t be able to resist. I notice when I buy any sort of sweet, Grace remembers it and asks for it every hour until I give in and give it to her.
Simply not buying snacks helps so much. But let’s be realistic… they’re kids. They will want to snack!
Try these snacks out instead… (AKA the only snacks I buy for our house)
-freeze dried fruit
-yogurt (unsweetened) we do nondairy Kite Hill brand
-apples (serve with peanut butter as a treat!)
And that’s it… I do not buy snacks other than these, and it’s cut down on Grace’s snacking tremendously!
If you are going to have your kiddo snack, I try really hard not to let Gracie snack before or after meals. This way, she is hungry when she sits down to eat. She also doesn’t snack 1 hour after dinner, that way she isn’t expecting not to eat what I served her for dinner, then ask for some yogurt as soon as we get up from the table.
4 // Change up how you serve them their food w/ these handy food cutters & plates.
These kid-safe knives are a wonderful option for helping your child “help” cut their healthy foods: https://amzn.to/2UUC1FH
Food Shape Cutters: https://amzn.to/2AOe9wLc
Crinkle Cutter: https://amzn.to/3dfEaC5
Food organizers: https://amzn.to/3fBQRJ0
Avenchy Bamboo Plate: https://amzn.to/3hzQpge
5 // Avoid common, classic parenting pitfalls, like “mmmm” as your kids eat new foods or eat any foods.
Avoid the “one more bite of broccoli” or “take three more bites before dessert” pitfalls.
When you say “Mmmm” when your child takes a bite, you’re forming an opinion for them about the food. The best way to not do this is to not say anything at all. In fact, I’ve started talking to G like I would my husband at the dinner table.
Would you tell your husband, “okay but one more bite!” or would you let him eat what he wants to and let him be? It’s worked wonders for us. By all means, get excited when your kiddo starts shoveling broccoli in their mouth, but try to do it silently!
Along these same lines — if you’re going to decide what your kid eats, and they decide how much, definitely don’t say “just one more bite of _____”. They decide how much they eat, remember? It’s been proven that forcing your child to eat certain foods, or “just one more bite” doesn’t do anything. See the study on this here.
Bonus Tip: Avoid using food as a reward for good behavior.
This is something I didn’t know would be problematic before I became a parent. I also had no clue how difficult it would be to not use food as a reward. It’s REALLY hard, and I want you to know that I’m not perfect and I’ve definitely slipped before.
I’m working on it, because I don’t ever want G to think of food as a reward. Try to use experiences as rewards. I’ll be able to read two books with you instead of just one at bedtime! Etc.
I hope this blog post and video about how to raise your kids to be healthy eaters was helpful to you!
Thank you so much for reading!