Skip the Food Fights: 10 Ways to Get Kids to Eat Healthier
1. Model healthy eating. One of the most important actions you can take to help your children eat healthier is for you to eat healthier. Parental modeling has been associated with increased milk, fruit juice and vegetable intake.
2. Eat together. Not only are family meals generally more nutritious for children, eating together also offers an opportunity to socialize and model healthy behaviors.
3. Increase exposure to healthy foods. Help children develop healthy eating habits by repeatedly exposing them to a variety of foods. Don’t label a food “rejected” as it may take up to 15 tries before the child will accept it.
4. Let them choose the portion size. Empower your kids to let their internal cues of hunger and fullness guide how much they eat by allowing them to choose their own portion sizes.
5. Don’t use food rewards. Requiring your children to consume a particular food to receive a “reward” such as a dessert is more likely to increase their dislike of the food they are required to eat, while increasing their desire for the typically unhealthy “reward” food.
6. Refuse to be a “short order” cook. Promote healthier eating by refusing to accommodate special requests, while making sure to serve at least one healthy food that the child likes at each mealtime.
7. Limit television time. Tv viewing often includes advertising for unhealthy, sugary and highly processed foods. Exposure to advertisements for food products increases children’s choice of, and preference for, these advertised foods.
8. Exploit similarities. Exploit similarities to develop a taste preference for new foods. Once a food is accepted, find similarly colored or flavored “food bridges” to expand the variety of foods a child will eat. For example, if a child likes pumpkin pie, try mashed sweet potatoes, and then mashed carrots.
9. Make eating healthy fun. Grow healthy foods in the garden or take your kids to a farmer’s market to pick out a new vegetable or fruit to try at home.
10. Skip the food fights. When parents pressure kids to eat certain foods, the kids are less likely to develop a taste for them. To get children wanting to eat healthy foods, use strategies like increasing accessibility and exposure, minimizing the competition, modeling, vowing to not say anything when a child refuses a food, and making food taste good.
American Council on Exercise