I’m by no means a dietitian or a doctor who can tell you what is right for your family, but I am a mom to 5 young kids who has served a heck-of-a-lot of meals to kids. I feel like my experience with feeding young people has been a great teacher and I’d love to share some of my best tips and tricks on how to get kids to eat healthy food.
There is no secret potion, no magical wand to wave, and my own dinner times aren’t without their share of whining over food or cries of disgust. For the most part though, my kids are pretty great eaters.
Tips and Tricks on How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy Food
I loved this article from from Kidshealth.org and am sharing some of it here. You can find the whole article titled Toddlers at the Table: Avoiding Power Struggles by following the link. It’s a great read and worth the time if you are struggling with getting you kids to eat healthy food.
Here’s my favorite excerpt from the article.
Don’t Bargain for Bites
You want your child to eat the spinach you serve; your child drops it on the floor. Your well-meaning impulse may be to start talking up nutritious foods, saying how big and strong spinach will make your child. Or you might start bargaining: “Well, if you eat three more bites, I’ll give you a cookie.” The problem is that these tactics don’t work in the long run.
Who hasn’t used the line about spinach making you strong? But this approach may build dislike for the healthy food rather than acceptance. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t teach kids about the benefits of healthy foods, but don’t push too much by celebrating every bite of spinach your toddler eats or disapproving when he or she refuses.
For some kids, dinner becomes a negotiation session from the very start, and parents have been using dessert as an incentive for decades. But this doesn’t encourage healthy eating. Instead it creates the impression that “treats” are more valuable than mealtime food. Foods like candy and cookies are not essential to a child’s diet and it’s not a deprivation to not serve them during the toddler years.
Threatening a punishment, much like bribing a child with dessert, ultimately isn’t effective either. It creates a power struggle.
- To encourage healthy eating, continue offering your child an array of nutritious choices — and keep the mealtime mood upbeat. Also try these tips:
- Serve right-sized portions. Parents often overestimate how much food a child should eat. Especially with foods that aren’t yet favorites, a couple of tablespoons is plenty to start with. Small portions are less overwhelming, while bigger portions may encourage overeating.
- Don’t negotiate. It’s fine to encourage kids to “try one bite” but don’t fall into the negotiating trap. Prepare and serve healthy meals and let them decide what to eat.
- Have family meals together. Set your toddler’s place at the family table — it’s good for kids of this age to see their parents and siblings eating together and eating healthy foods. Kids eat a more nutritious diet, with more fruits and vegetables, when they regularly have family meals.
- Create positive peer pressure. Toddlers are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they see their peers eating them, so look for opportunities where they can eat healthy with friends.
Fellow parents you are struggling to get your kids to eat. You are not alone. Take courage and continue feeding your family foods that make you feel good inside. I promise that one day, soon than later, they’ll be eating those foods right along with you. You can do this!
As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.