10 Tips to set the foundation for kids to eat healthy
Updated: Aug 2
1. Lead the Way
Make informed decisions, there are so many food philosophies out there it's hard to keep up. Start simple, What everyone can agree on is eat real food, more veggies, taste the rainbow (not talking skittles here), and watch the salt and sugar.
Be the example, you create the food culture in your home. Our kids are watching and learning from us.
This can start early in infancy. Look for songs, books, youtube videos, toys etc that mimic the eating habits you want to develop. Outside influence will teach kids that veggies are gross and ice cream is where it's at. Be intentional about finding positive healthy reinforcement, its out there. Allow your children to experience all the senses with food when developmentally appropriate and safe. What's their first response? To place things in their mouth... use it to your advantage.
3. Food & Fam
Family style eating provides an opportunity for positive peer modeling your children may be more likely to try new foods if someone they trust/look up to is eating it. See, siblings are good for something ; )
4. Be Particular!
You wouldn't let just anyone watch your kids, there's some type of vetting process, treat your food the same way. Look through your fridge/cabinets/pantry see anything you want to get rid of? Stop buying it, Out of sight out of mind. Look at food labels and decide if they meet your requirements. Minimize the processed foods you allow in. Know the sugar content, what portion of it is added?
5. Get Creative
Sometimes it's not that simple, so what can we do to progress in the direction we want?
Stretch it out, buy less or get the smaller version.
Add to it, take dishes you typically eat and determine what you could include to up-level it.
Swap it, what ingredient(s) could you trade out to boost nutrient density?
6. Eat the Rainbow
Variety of fruits/veggies ensures consumption of different nutrients vital to our health.
7. Get them involved
Determine age appropriate tasks/thought processes to involve them in the process from meal planning to table.
Meal planning: give ideas, discuss food groups, write a grocery list, budgeting...
Grocery shopping: learn/see foods, talk colors, learn the layout, strategize what items to grab first, how to select food, nutrition labels...
Meal prep: safety, wash, clean, cut, explore 5 senses, kitchen gadgets, seasoning/spices...
Cooking: safety, time management, how to know when it's done, how to operate kitchen gadgets, explore 5 senses, revive leftovers...
Table setting/Clean up: If they can walk and follow directions chores are fair game.
I am a huge advocate for empowering our children, It is our job to prepare/expose them to the best of our ability, what they decide to do with that is on them. Everyday is full of lessons! These lessons learned in the kitchen will apply for the rest of their lives. Eating habits, cooking skills, organization, critical thinking, math, creativity, language, memories, cooperation, dexterity, time management, budgeting, I'm sure the list can go on.
9. Continue to show up
There will be certain foods maybe even entire food groups that are not a fan favorite, keep it on the plate, don't force or bribe, but allow it to still be present. Have them try it in different forms; raw, steamed, mixed in, dipped etc. It takes 10-15 attempts before we can truly believe "I don't like it". The more they see it, play with it, watch you eat it hopefully it becomes more familiar.
10. Ultimately, Self-love
There are many factors that play into how we show up in this arena; access, events, culture, budget, stress, time, goals, fear, etc. We can't always control these factors but we do control how we respond. I choose grace, Do the best you can with what you have, take baby steps and celebrate the smallest of wins it adds up.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own health profession team in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health & wellness or the health & wellness of others.