Is your toddler or preschooler refusing to eat anything but junk food? It’s no secret that many parents struggle with their kids’ food preferences, which have a profound effect on their overall physical and mental health.
Whether you’re dealing with a picky eater or looking to promote healthy eating behaviors, here’s how to get kids to eat healthy.
What Are the Benefits of Healthy Eating for Children?
A diet that includes a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods and avoids excess carbohydrates, especially highly processed carbs and sugar, helps to lower their chances of getting childhood obesity and diabetes.[*][*] Additionally, this reduces their cravings for unhealthy foods as they grow older.
Keep in mind that as parents, we play a huge role in influencing our children’s food choices — on top of the fact that children naturally prefer sweet tastes and reject bitter-tasting foods like veggies, for example.[*]
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to encourage healthy eating while maintaining a positive, calm environment at home.
How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods
With these strategies and more patience, you can raise healthy eaters over time.
1. Involve them in grocery shopping.
Take your kids with you on your next trip to the grocery. It will be a wonderful opportunity to show them various nutritious options from each food section and how to read nutrition facts labels. Focus on things like protein, healthy fats, and slow-acting carbohydrates. Allow them to pick from a selection of nutritious foods to prepare at home.
2. Model good eating habits.
Teaching healthy eating to preschoolers is more effective when they see you practicing it. In other words, you can’t eat candies and chocolates and trust your child to not do the same. Understand that it may take several times before they start imitating your behavior. Moreover, it helps to show that you’re enjoying those eggs and veggies while eating them.
3. Make healthy snacks readily available.
Cheese is one of the best low-carb snacks that provide protein, fats, calcium, and potassium. Including cheese as part of your kids’ diet can support normal bone growth and promote heart health aside from increasing their satiety.[*][*]
Käze has ready-to-consume cheddar cheese bites and other flavors for convenient and healthy snacking anytime, whether at home or during outdoor activities.
4. Let them choose their food.
The key is to offer your child options while keeping these options healthy. For example, showing them strawberries, almond nuts, and meatballs, and letting them choose which one to add to their plate. It’s a great way to encourage them to exercise their independence with foods that benefit their bodies.
5. Learn some food styling tips.
Instead of nagging your kids to eat healthily, get creative! Present nutritious foods in new ways, such as cutting watermelons into hearts or stars using shaped cookie cutters. Or you could top a tomato soup with one of Käze’s crunchy and flavorful cheese bites. Make it fun!
6. Be patient when introducing new foods.
Since a child’s appetite may change from day to day, it can be challenging for moms to get their children to accept new foods. In addition to making meals and snacks visually appealing, start giving new foods in bite-sized portions. Not only does this prevent them from feeling anxious about new sights and flavors, but it also reduces leftover food.
7. Plan and cook family meals together.
Recruit your child’s help in the kitchen. Let them break cauliflower or broccoli into smaller pieces using their hands, peel eggs, sprinkle chopped nuts on salads, and set the table. While helping you out with a specific food, you can start a conversation about what makes that food healthy and how it goes well with other foods.
8. Avoid using food as a reward.
A 2020 study found that using food as a reward when kids cooperate may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors and emotional overeating. It can also negatively affect a child’s independence on when and what to eat.[*] Instead of food, use praise or compliments to reward good behavior — for example, earning a sticker or playing their favorite game together.
9. Stick to a routine.
Keeping your mealtimes and snack times consistent lets your child know what to expect. It also encourages them to eat the healthy foods you’ve prepared within that time frame instead of grazing throughout the day. As much as possible, keep family meals pleasant and distraction-free. Have your meals at the table and the television turned off.
10. Don’t force it.
While implementing these healthy eating strategies, learn to accept that kids may not eat as much as you do or may leave some healthy foods untouched. Kids use hunger as their guide, so trust them when they say that they’re full. Over time, their eating behaviors and appetite will level out.
Healthy Eating Starts at a Young Age
The benefits of healthy eating for children include optimal growth and overall well-being. While there’s no one definitive way to raise a healthy eater, you can use a combination of strategies starting with the ones we shared in this article.
As long as you keep it positive, fun, and consistent, you’ll be able to set your kids up for success. Speaking of healthy eating, you might be interested in our keto-friendly and gluten-free snacks made with real cheese. Discover delicious options here!