How to Raise Your Children to Be Healthy Eaters

If your child hates broccoli, you're not alone. But that doesn't mean you should give up on the veggies. Nutrition is so important to health and longevity, and every meal matters.

So, what’s a parent to do?

With conflicting studies emerging daily, nutrition can seem like a mystery. It’s actually quite simple: We need the nutrients from food that nature provides for us. Feed your kids a variety of whole foods and they’ll get the nutrients they need to be healthy.

Sounds easy, right?

Well, there are a few things that can go wrong. First, kids don’t always eat what we feed them. And second, you’re not going to be there to feed them for the rest of their lives.

Your children must learn how to make their own healthy choices.


Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Here are a few tips to help raise your children to be healthy eaters:

Start early

The foods you feed to your growing infant may help shape their eating patterns as they get older. If you only give them sweet things like bananas, apples and sweet potatoes, that’s what they will develop a taste for. Try starting with something like broccoli or spinach before you introduce the sweet stuff. There’s certainly nothing wrong with fruit, but you don’t want your kids to get hooked on the sweet stuff.

As your child grows, try to continue the trend of feeding more vegetables than fruits and sweets. Every child’s tastes are different, so it’ll be easier for some than others, but it’s worth the effort.

Cook with them

Many kids show an interest in cooking at a very young age. When they’re infants, you can sit them in the kitchen with you and let them play with pots and spatulas. As they grow, so can their responsibilities in the kitchen. Toddlers are great at adding ingredients and stirring things. As your child learns to read, you can put him in charge of reading the recipe. Then, you can teach them about cutting and kitchen safety. Before you know it, they’ll be able to cook a healthy meal for the entire family.

A research review published in the CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy found that children who were exposed to cooking programs were more likely to try new foods and were more confident in their own cooking abilities.

Teach them about nutritional landmines

Certain foods can really sabotage an otherwise healthy diet. For the most part, these foods are sugary. Most of us have a natural propensity to crave sweetness, and that's where we get into trouble. Sugar addiction is a real thing, and it’s not something we want for our children. Our brains run on sugar, and it also sees sugar as a reward. Because of this, it works similarly to drugs in the brain. When sugar impacts the brain’s reward center, you will crave more. This may not be a major issue if you’re binging on natural strawberries, but things like candy and cupcakes provide too much sugar without any nutritional benefit. This can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.

Getting your kids to eat healthy can sometimes be a struggle, but it is one you can win over time. Keep serving healthy foods, cooking with your children and teaching them about the importance of eating healthy. Even if it seems like nothing is sinking in, they’re absorbing more than you realize. In the end, all you can do is your best.

What’s your favorite trick for getting your kids to eat their vegetables? Let us know in the comments below, and check out this post on the 10 "rules" of picky-free parenting, where we chat with DR. NATALIE DIGATE MUTH, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP on her go-to hacks that offer an approach-based solution on effective parenting practices in helping to raise healthy eaters.