6 Tips to Help Your Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Raising children is hard enough without them refusing to eat anything resembling a vegetable, but the unfortunate fact is that most kids start out as picky eaters. As a parent, the trick is to instill healthy eating habits in your kids early while they’re still impressionable, but this can seem like an impossible task when they demand pizza or chicken nuggets every night. To help you out, here are six tips for teaching healthy eating habits to even the pickiest of children:

1. Make Your Own Snacks

Kids who regularly snack on junk food are likely to develop a sweet tooth and other unhealthy eating habits, but it’s not like you can forbid them from eating snacks. The solution, then, is to get your kids used to eating healthy snacks, and the best way to do this is to make snacks yourself. Try baking whole wheat chocolate-chip granola bars or making homemade trail mix to allow your kids to indulge in occasional sweets without loading up on artificial sweeteners, and alternate these snacks with healthier options like apple slices with peanut butter.

2. Avoid Fast Food

Even if your schedule is packed and you have multiple kids to keep track of, avoid giving in to the convenience of fast food. Fast food can be addicting for children and adults alike, but your kids won’t crave fast food if they’re never exposed to it. In fact, it’s best to avoid eating out at all as much as possible, as most restaurants make it easy for your kids to select nutritionally lacking ‘comfort foods.’

3. Let the Kids Decide

Another way to promote healthy eating is to give your kids input into what the family eats. When planning meals for the week, try making a list of healthy options and letting your kids pick the dishes or ingredients that sound best to them. Even if the list is made up entirely of foods they’re normally reluctant to eat, they’ll be more likely to try them if they feel that the meal was their decision.

4. Don’t Demonize Junk Food

As easy as it seems to tell your kids that healthy foods are ‘good’ and unhealthy foods are ‘bad’, doing this is likely to promote poor eating habits. Anyone who’s raised kids before will tell you that they love to do the exact opposite of what their parents say, which is why demonizing junk food will usually backfire. Instead, introduce your kids to a wide variety of foods and keep them all ‘neutral’. If you let your kids decide for themselves, they’ll probably find that they actually enjoy some healthier options.

5. Start Them on Vegetables Early

Another mistake that many parents make is waiting too long to introduce fruits and vegetables to their kids’ diets. Keep in mind that your kids are unlikely to enjoy spinach or broccoli when you first transition them to solid food, but if you keep feeding them different fruits and vegetables, they’ll develop a taste for them by the time they’re a bit older. The absolute worst thing you can do is let your kids overindulge in simple carbohydrates until they’re past their toddler years.

6. Stress the Benefits of Healthy Eating

One final tip for helping your kids develop healthy eating habits is to explain to them why they should eat healthy in terms that they can understand. If you tell them that healthy eating habits will make them grow taller and stronger (this tactic is especially effective if they have older siblings to look up to) they’ll have an incentive to eat foods that might not be their favorites. Giving them a reason to eat healthier aside from, “because it’s good for you,” works wonders.

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