Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food

posted in: Parenting | 2
Today I’d like to welcome Orlena of Snotty Noses.  Orlena is a British pediatrician who lives in Spain with her husband and four children.  Her website helps parents recognize when their child is ill …and know what to do about it (not meant to replace your doctor’s advice, of course!).

If you’ve ever struggled with getting your kids to eat healthy food, then you’ll definitely want to read on — Orlena gives some great advice for getting kids to make healthy food choices.

— Betsy

Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food

How to Help Your Kids Eat HealthilyKids are, well, what can I say…strange, inexplicable creatures. You’d think that if they all grew up being offered the same food in the same environment, you’d get little replicas of each other who would all eat exactly the same thing. If only! But then,  life wouldn’t be so interesting. I have 4 kids and they’re all different in their eating habits. Some children like some foods, while others don’t.

Take bananas, love them or hate them? I have two who love them and two who won’t touch them. Same with fish, two who can’t get enough of it and two who won’t touch it. And potatoes, I have a baby who doesn’t like potatoes. How does that work? It’s strange. I can’t explain it.

“But, so what?” I hear you cry. “Why not just let them eat what they want to eat?” (If only they could agree what that would be.) We’d live off spaghetti bolagnese (NOT any other type of pasta) and risotto with one child; and pasta (but NOT spaghetti) and cheddar cheese sandwiches with another.

And vegetables? Hmm, they don’t seem to feature much do they?

Is Feeding Our Children Healthy Food Really That Important?

So, THE big question is…Is it possible to feed (and get them to eat) your child a diet of healthy food AND enjoy life at the same time? Or perhaps, “why bother, is it actually that important”?

Is feeding our children a healthy diet really that important? Well, yes and no. It’s not important in the sense that they will get nasty illnesses like high cholesterol and bowel cancer (both linked to diet) if they don’t eat their veggies (those typically come later in life).  They might end up with constipation, which is really common in children. And we’re seeing an increase in weight problems in children and type 2 diabetes (which is normally seen in adults.)

Most children are thin, poo a lot and don’t like vegetables.  They aren’t in any immediate danger.

The problem is, when children grow older, they’ll still be eating the same stuff …and then they will be at increased risk of all those nasty illnesses. As adults, we can hugely reduce our chances of getting nasty illness by eating healthy food and exercising regularly, and if our kids are already in those habits, they’ll reap the benefits.

Acclimating Kids to Eating Healthy Food

So how do we go about doing that as parents? Well, as there’s no immediate danger, you can relax on the whole “eat your vegetables thing.” Yes, you do want them to eat their greens, but don’t worry about it, don’t stress about it. Keep working at it and they’ll get there in the end.

My main advice is to eat a healthy home-cooked family meal together whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Kids like fresh and simple. Vegetable pasta (or vegetable pasta sauce!) is a great way to start.  Teach your kids to enjoy food, to think of it as a time to spend with family and friends.

Orlena's kids enjoying healthy foods
Orlena’s kids enjoying healthy food (vegetable pasta – check out her recipe!)

Make food fun. There are loads of ways to make healthy food different and enjoyable for kids. You don’t have to be artistic or overly creative. Try eating in different places, or with different things, like chopsticks or toothpicks.

If you really want to go overboard, why not have a themed dinner “party,” all dressed up as pirates? Or cowboys. OK, so this isn’t going to directly make them eat their vegetables or other healthy foods, but it will help them enjoy mealtimes and think of it as a special time.

Conversely, if you’re constantly nagging them to eat their veggies, they’ll push their plate away, dig in their heels and ultimately stop enjoying eating and the fun family time that goes with it.


Phases of Fussiness Are Normal

Many parents despair when they see their previously good eater turn into the fussiest toddler on the block.

It’s normal.

Children go through phases (some longer than others) and hopefully they come out the other side unscathed. Try to work around their fussiness without pandering too much to their demands. Getting the balance right can be tricky, but once you’ve let go of the idea that they have to eat what’s on their plate, life should be much less stressful.

If you’d like more tips on how to help your kids eat their veggies, why not sign up for my great pdf: 30 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat and LOVE Vegetables?

– Orlena

Have Tips For Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food?

Orlena makes some great points, doesn’t she?  I also find it interesting how, even with the same child, a particular food can be a favorite (or a no-go) given the day and the circumstances.

Our son typically is a great eater.  In fact, he loves veggies (most of them).  If he is dubious about trying a particular healthy food, he’s usually convinced to take a taste when you tell him where it came from.  Veggies come from a garden, steak comes from a cow, venison comes from a deer — that sort of thing.  Odd, maybe.  But it works for us.   We also have a two bite rule that has worked wonders for the “no, I don’t like it” response to trying a new food.

Do you have any tips for getting your kids to eat healthy food?  Or stories to share about the struggles of getting kids to be interested in healthy choices?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

2 Responses

  1. Kate Williams

    I have one child who will eat anything and one who pretty much lives on toast and fruit. Ho hum!! Thanks for linking with Tuesday Tutorials #pintorials

  2. Betsy Finn

    Yeah, it totally depends on the kid, huh, Kate? We’ve been blessed with an adventurous eater (my toddler’s favorite food is sushi, he even likes roe)… it will be interesting to see whether my second boy follows in his brother’s footsteps or not.