Inspiring Healthy Eating Habits for Children

Food is a necessary and joyful part of life, a time to nourish bodies and relationships. But if your family meals don’t feel especially joyful, we’re here to help. Building healthy food habits is a lifelong process that starts with simple foods, realistic expectations, and plenty of autonomy for children.


Encourage Your Children to Eat Healthy Food

Developing good eating habits is a lifelong process that demands a healthy perspective on food, as well as wise practical choices and behaviours.

Getting children to consume a healthier diet can be tough, but the ten suggestions below should help make it a bit easier.

  1. Set the example. Children tend to mimic what we do. Make meals a pleasant time and serve a wide variety of healthy foods. Let your children see that you enjoy eating a varied diet, including fruits and vegetables.

  2. Make food a family affair. Children are more likely to eat meals to which they’ve contributed in some way. This might mean helping make the weekly meal plan, shopping at a farmer’s market, washing vegetables for a salad, or even preparing or cooking some of the meal, depending on your child’s age.

  3. Substitute healthier choices. Replace regular fries with sweet potatoes or try hummus, salsa, or chutney instead of high-fat sauces. Serve yogurt, fruit, or dark chocolate instead of rich desserts.

  4. Plant a garden. Home-grown vegetables almost always taste better, and the accomplishment children feel in growing them is highly motivating. Try easy-to-grow vegetables like radishes, carrots, peas, greens, or compact, determinate tomato varieties. Many of these plants can be grown in containers on a patio if space is limited.

  5. Try the ‘polite bite’ rule. Studies show that many children don’t like a food until they’ve tried it at least 20 times. So, keep serving vegetables and ask your child to take one “polite bite.” This practice respects a child’s preferences while giving them opportunity to try new foods. Still no luck? Many children dislike the texture of steamed vegetables, but they’ll try them raw with a dip, or roasted. Another option is to introduce veggies in a smoothie or sauce.

  6. Teach healthy attitudes about food. Try to approach food and meals as a joyful part of life; de-emphasise conversations that promote certain foods as healthy and other foods as unhealthy. Instead, serve a variety of delicious foods, including occasional sweets or desserts. Don’t use food as a weapon or bribe. Let your child serve themself, taking just the right portion.

  7. Bring back the family dinner. Today’s families are feeling the pinch of busy schedules and routines, but there’s something very special about eating a meal at home as a family. Try to have family dinner at least a couple nights a week, or family breakfast on the weekends. Turn off the television and other distractions, and really focus on the food and each other.

  8. Be thoughtful about snacks. There’s nothing wrong with an afternoon snack, but don’t let it sabotage dinner. Serve snacks at least two hours before a meal. Offer healthy snacks such as cheese and whole-grain crackers, sliced veggies, or a piece of fruit. Provide water instead of juice or milk between meals.

  9. Learn to love water. Liquids don’t offer the same sense of fullness that solid foods do, so it’s easy to consume a lot of calories through them. Skip juice, soda, and even milk for most meals and offer water instead.

  10. Respect food preferences. Some researchers theorise that picky eating is an evolutionary response going back to a time when overly adventurous young children could actually die from eating poisonous berries or plants. Take picky eating in stride, don’t make a big deal out of it, and don’t use food as a bribe or reward.