How to encourage kids to eat healthy

By Erin Browder RD,CD,CDE
Nutritionist with the Diabetes Education & Nutrition Clinic at VMC

Young boy eating yogurtEating habits are a learned behavior and follow children into adulthood. Help your kids choose wisely. Here's a baker's dozen tips to get your kids to eat healthier.

  1. Plan meals with your kids. They'll be more apt to eat healthier choices when they've made some decisions about the meals.
  2. Look for children's cookbooks with kid-friendly recipes and simple cooking lessons.
  3. Plant a garden with your kids. They'll likely want to eat what they harvest. (Container gardens are just as effective for small yards.)
  4. Keep introducing fruits and veggies. Nutritionists say kids need to see new food 4-5 times before they'll try it.
  5. Make casseroles with pasta, cheese and sauce and gradually introduce more minced vegetables in the sauce.
  6. Add chopped carrots or zucchini to spaghetti sauce.
  7. Provide sweeter "healthy foods" like corn, strawberries, mandarin oranges, blueberries and sweet peas.
  8. Purée spinach and add to ground beef in hamburgers, gradually increasing the amount each time.
  9. Serve mac and cheese made with rice or wheat pasta. Choose a brand that isn't overly dark, so they won't notice.
  10. Finely chop red bell peppers and tomatoes and mix into meatloaf and Sloppy Joes.
  11. Blend bananas and anti-oxidant-rich blueberries into smoothies for a healthier dessert.
  12. Use whole grain bread for grilled cheese sandwiches and french toast. Your children won't notice the darker color.
  13. Be a role model. If you eat healthy, your kids will more likely follow suit.