How to teach children healthy eating habits

Teaching your children healthy eating habits can be hard. Family schedules are often hectic, so grab-and-go meals are convenient, and we all know kids love junk food. There are some effective ways to teach healthy eating habits at home.


Family meals

A meal together gives you the chance to spend together and gives kids a sense of routine. Kids who eat family meals are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains, and less likely to snack on unhealthy foods in between.

Eating together is also a good chance for you to introduce your children to new foods, and model healthy eating habits yourself.

If you’re struggling to get teens to sit down for dinner, let them invite a friend. Get them involved in planning and preparing the meal. Try to keep mealtimes calm. It’s not the time for lectures or arguments.

Aim to provide a nutritious meal at a time that everyone in the family will be in. This might mean moving dinner time to fit around sports practices, but it does help. Shop for dining tables on sale to get your dining room in shape for family mealtime.


Stock up on healthy food

Children will eat what is available at home. Control what you offer, both at mealtimes and as snacks.

  • Make fruits and vegetables routine. Aim for five servings a day, at least. Sever fruit or vegetables at every meal.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables on hand for easy snacking. Other healthy snacks include yogurt, peanut butter and celery, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.
  • Serve lean meats and other sources of protein, like fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.
  • Offer whole-grain bread and cereals for fiber.
  • Reduce the family’s fat intake. Switch frying for broiling, grilling, roasting, or steaming.
  • Limit fast food and snacks that are low on nutrients, like chips or candy. Don’t ban any beloved snacks though. Instead, save them as a treat.
  • Limit sugary drinks, like soda. Encourage water and milk instead.

Be a role model

The best way to encourage healthy eating habits is to practice those habits yourself. Your children will mimic what they see adults do every day. If you eat fruits and vegetables and don’t overindulge in treats, you send the right message to your kids.

Serve appropriate portions and don’t overeat. Talk about feeling full. Say something like, “This is great, but I’m full, so I’m going to stop eating.”

Limit talk about diets (even if you’re on one) and watch negative talk about bodies, as they can create the same worries in your children. Try to model a positive approach and attitude to food.

Don’t argue over food

Food can easily become a source of conflict. Parents might bribe kids to eat healthier food, but it’s a better strategy to give your children a sense of control over what they eat. If you’ve stocked with good choices, let them have some say.

Let them decide if they hungry, what they want to eat from what is being served, and when they’re full.

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