Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits for Your Child

Contributed by Brandi Fitch

Do you have a child who hates eating vegetables? Is it a constant struggle to get them to eat healthy? Don’t stress because you’re not alone! There are many tips and “how to’s” that exist about how to address these concerns. With so many suggestions in the world, how do you choose which tips to try? The decision is up to you, as every family (and child) is different, and some exercises may work better for your child than others. The most important thing to remember? Start with small changes!

Preschoolers/Children

  • According to MyPlate, be sure to limit the amount of added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat in your child’s meals, drinks, and snacks. Focus on whole fruits and vegetables and always try to serve a rainbow of choices for your child. Encourage them with the colorful, exciting choices they have!
  • Be sure to limit 100% fruit juice, as it does not contain the dietary fiber found in other forms in fruit. Always choose from fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits. If purchasing canned fruit, look for fruit in water or “100% fruit juice” on the label instead of syrup.
  • Kids love to have fun dipping their foods! Mix up a quick dip for veggies using yogurt and seasonings and serve with raw vegetables.
  • Choose toppings wisely for toast, hot cereals, pasta, and rice. Use vegetable oils, low-fat cheese, or marinara sauce instead of full-fat cheese or butter.
  • Try to limit highly processed poultry, fish, or meat, such as hotdogs, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks
  • If your child has a favorite food, try adding beans or peas to those tacos, casseroles, and pastas!
  • Make a fun smoothie by blending low-fat dairy with bananas and cocoa powder, or try milk, ice cubes, and frozen berries!
  • Instead of high-calorie desserts, make fruit the everyday dessert and try serving frozen juice bars (100% juice)
  • Instead of asking if your child “Do you want broccoli for dinner?”, offer them choices by asking, “Which would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?”. Listen to your child about what they prefer to eat!
  • Make eating healthy fun for kids by allowing them to help make their own food. They may try foods they have avoided in the past if they get to be your helper in the kitchen. Try caterpillar kabobs, bugs on a log, or personalized pizzas! Find more healthy ideas here. You can also find more ideas for kid-friendly kitchen tasks at eatright.org.

 

Always remember to be patient with your child when introducing new foods; children enjoy eating healthy food more when they get to choose what they’re eating. Your child also learns by watching you, and will likely copy your likes, dislikes, and your interest in trying new foods. Be sure to set a good example!

 

Teenagers

  • Keep healthy foods options in the kitchen to let your teenager choose their own snack or pack their lunch
  • Slice vegetables/fruits and keep in the refrigerator with dips, such as hummus or low-calorie dressing for quick, easy snacks!
  • Mix dried fruit, unsalted nuts, and popcorn in a snack-size bag for a quick trail mix
  • To prevent snacks replacing a meal, help your teenager to understand and control serving sizes by storing snack-size bags in the kitchen
  • A single-serving container of low-fat or fat-free yogurt or individually wrapped string cheese is perfect for an after-school snack
  • Try new foods at home so your teenager has new opportunities to explore what they like
  • Instead of keeping soda in the house, reduce sugar intake by adding seltzer water to a ½ cup of 100% fruit juice

Check out MyPlate’s new app that helps parents and caregivers meet their own healthy eating goals one at a time. Pick daily food goals, see real-time progress, and earn badges along the way. Find additional ways to be a healthy role model for your child here.

WellSpan Health is also offering FREE programs throughout the month of March that focus on kid-friendly meals and eating together as a family. See more information below:

Family Friendly Hands-On Cooking Demos: Family Friendly Cooking Demonstrations, where families can learn how to make healthy meals and snacks, will be held on March 11th, 25th, and 31st.  Families will be cooking Power Bowls which will include a grain, vegetables, and meat and/or bean of their choice! Learn how to make quick, easy, kid-friendly meals together. Education on healthy living strategies will also be provided. Click here to register and for more information.

Family Friendly Grocery Store Tours: Parents and caregivers are invited to learn how to shop for family meals and healthy snack options. Led by a registered dietitian, these tours will take place on March 9th, 23rd, and 24th. Click here to register and for more information.