How Do I Get My Kids to Eat Healthier Meals?

A Healthier Michigan

| 4 min read

It can feel like a constant effort to keep your kids eating healthy meals. Many kids’ meal options are low-quality in the Unites States, although children’s diets have improved over the last 20 years, according to a Tufts University study. Kids can also be notoriously picky, for a variety of reasons, according to a study in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. Read on for some ideas for creating healthy meals for your kids and tips on getting kids to eat healthier.

The Importance of Healthy Eating for Kids

Kids dietary intake impacts every other area of their health, and children’s eating habits are likely to continue into adulthood, according to a 2021 study in Nutrients. A healthy balanced diet for kids includes: 
  • a high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains 
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • lean proteins
  • fiber
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • low in both refined grains as well as saturated fatty acids
Having healthy options on hand and available and accessible to kids can increase a kid’s intake of healthy foods. Having food available to kids is important but also making healthy food choices accessible to them to choose to eat for themselves is also important.

Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Healthier

Even when healthy food is available, kids may be picky or uninterested in healthy food choices for a variety of reasons, including parental behaviors around food, according to the Nutrients study. Here are a few tips to get kids more involved and excited about eating healthy foods, and more likely to eat and enjoy the healthy foods you make available for them. 

Involve them in cooking and food preparation

Involving kids in cooking and preparing meals and snacks can be fun, educational, and may interest the kids in the food and cooking process and make them less apprehensive or scared of new foods. You can even involve kids in the meal planning and shopping process as well to get them to understand creating a balanced diet. Many kids carry on eating habits into adulthood, so this is a great habit to help form young, according to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Eat healthy with them

A major influence on kids’ diets and attitudes toward food can mirror or be built by the adults around them, and how they eat, act and talk about food, according to a study in Nutrition Reviews. Make sure you are setting a good example for the kids and are showing them healthy eating habits. It is also helpful if you are eating the same healthy meals or ingredients as the kids. Even the act of eating together with your kids can help to set up healthy eating habits as they grow up, according to a study in the Journal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics.

Listen to kids, their likes and their bodies

Kids can be picky, but that doesn’t mean that healthy foods are a lost cause. Also, portion sizes and balancing of kids' diets are also important elements and choices to make besides simply what to eat. Making your child clean their plate is likely not going to an effective method to encourage healthy eating, according to a 2013 study in Pediatrics.
If a kid doesn’t like what is being served, it’s also important not to always make a different meal for them. This doesn’t encourage healthy eating and can add to aversions or fears of foods if the kid is a fussy eater for a variety of reasons, according to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. According to the same study, this can also add to negative atmosphere or emotional energy which is important to avoid while keeping mealtime healthy for kids. Giving your child a choice between two vegetables may help them feel in control and encourage them to consume them.

Make mealtime fun for kids

If you are your kids are used to fussing over meals over making compromises after arguing or trying to convince your child to eat healthy foods, it can add to the stress and fear surrounding mealtime for everyone involved. Ways to make food preparation and mealtime fun include:
  • involving kids in the choice-making and food prep and cooking processes
  • find fun ways to prepare or plate kids foods like ants on a log, designing healthy pizzas together
  • making foods fun and easy to eat in bite-sizes
  • listen to your kids likes’ and prepare their favorite healthy foods
  • keep foods colorful and vibrant – fresh fruits and veggies are great for leaning shapes and colors

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