Teach your kids to enjoy eating healthy for habits that will last a lifetime.
Making healthy food choices is essential for ensuring that kids get all of the nutrients they need in order to grow and thrive. Equally important is taste, because it doesn’t matter how healthy dinner is if your kids won’t eat it. Follow these tips for feeding your kids nutritious and delicious meals, and teaching them to make healthy food choices for themselves.
Build a healthy plate.
Follow the USDA MyPlate guide by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Then fill one-quarter of the plate with whole grains and one-quarter with lean protein. Add a serving of low-fat dairy for a complete and well-balanced meal.
Involve the kids.
Use the plate strategy to involve your kids in building healthy meals. Allow your child to choose which vegetable to have with dinner, or give them several choices of whole grains to choose for their plate. By involving your kids in the decision-making process, you’ll teach them to make healthy choices for themselves, and they’re more likely to eat the healthy foods on their plates. Involving your kids in cooking equips them with practical skills to cook for themselves later in life.
Try and try again.
When introducing your child to a new healthy food, serve a small portion of the new food first and ask your child to try it before moving on to the rest of the meal. Or try incorporating a new food into one of your child’s favorite dishes. For example, if your child doesn’t like broccoli but loves macaroni and cheese, try adding broccoli to their mac and cheese. Studies have shown that children may need to be exposed to a new food 10 to 15 times before accepting it. So expose your child to new healthy foods multiple times, encouraging them to try it but also asking whether or not they like it, rather than forcing them to eat it.
Related Recipe: Kid-Friendly Macaroni-and-Veggie Bake
Make it fun.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or bland. Experiment with new preparation methods and flavors. Serve vegetables raw, cooked and pureed for a variety of textures. For small children, try cutting vegetables and fruits into sticks, florets or circles or threading them onto skewers, and serve with healthy dips, like salsa, hummus, yogurt or low-fat Ranch dressing for dipping. Many kids love creating their own personalized meals, so try a build-you-own meal bar, like a potato bar, nacho bar or salad bar. Provide a variety of healthy toppings, and let the kids have at it. Try introducing a weekly theme night, like Taco Tuesday, Italian Wednesday, or Asian Friday. This can be a fun way to introduce your child to new foods and flavors and create an enjoyable dinnertime environment.
Enjoy family meals together.
Studies have found that children who eat frequent family meals at home are less likely to be obese, perform better in school, are less likely to drink, smoke or take drugs, and have a greater sense of belonging and connection to their family. Prioritize spending time around the table together for benefits that go far beyond nutrition.
Need help planning family meals? Check out the eMeals Kid-Friendly meal plan and let us do the planning for you.