Want Your Kids to Eat Healthy?  Speak Their Language!


I have a problem with encouraging moms to get healthy foods into their kids by hiding, masking and concealing it.

When I first started reading this perspective it was like sand in my shoe…something was so irritating about it but I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what bothered me so much.

I mean, I am totally on board with bolstering the nutrient content of our meals.  Go ahead add pureed cauliflower to the mac and cheese…load up the chili with diced veggies.

I have no problem including more fruits and veggies into our meals…its the underlying assumption we make about our children when that is the only way we serve vegetables to them.

To me it says-

  • I assume you don’t want to learn about the whole incredible spectrum of foods there are to eat.
  • I assume you have no interest in caring for your health through eating well.
  • I assume you don’t need to know what foods are good for you so you can be equipped in later years to make healthy choices.

I don’t have my head stuck completely in the sand.  I know that if given the option between cheetos or carrot sticks most kids will go with the junk.  I get it.

But why do we have to make the assumption that if kids are given healthy choices and are taught why different foods are good for them they will automatically revolt?

Why not use a child’s innate nature to our benefit when we make eating healthy foods a priority in our family?

5 Natures

Here are 5 natural traits of children and ways to use them in the healthy food arena.

1.  Kids Are Inquisitive

We all know kids are sponges for information.  All day long my kids are asking questions and learning about the world around them– it is just the nature of these little guys.

I’ve begun to capitalize on this by talking to them about the foods they are eating (or that are on their plate).

Here’s how I’ve been doing it–

When we sit down to eat.  I will point out the healthy carbohydrate on their plate and say (for example), “The bread gives us ENERGY! (and we run our arms in place like we are running super fast).

The I’ll point out the protein and say, “The turkey and cheese in our sandwich keeps us STRONG! (and we make super strong muscles).

Then I’ll point to the fruit and vegetables and say, “The blueberries and peppers makes us HEALTHY! (and we raise our arms in victory).

We keep it simple.  What gives us ENERGY, what keeps us STRONG, and what makes us HEALTHY.

{Sometimes if there is a healthy fat – nuts, seeds, coconut or olives I’ll say that food keeps us SMART!}

It’s been a blast– and it also keeps me focused on well rounded meals.

2.  Kids Are Imaginative

Children love stories.  Storytelling and make believe are essential parts of how they understand their world and experience it.  Try weaving a story into the meal.

Could plate of spaghetti be a bale of hay in a barn?  The pureed vegetable soup a magical lake with a dragon living in it?  Your morning smoothie could be a Superhero Smoothie with special powers.  It doesn’t take much to start making up some fantastical scenarios that foods can be part of.

For older children, perhaps you can engage them in imagining where the food came from.  What is it like for the farmer that harvested the food?  What might have happened as the food was transported to the market.  You could take turns each adding one line to the story adventure.

3.  Kid Are Visually Stimulated

Kids are really keyed into how things look visually. Put some thought into the presentation of their plates. It could be as simple as arranging carrot sticks in a large circle and sandwich squares in the middle.  If I serve macaroni and cheese in a bowl the pepper slices get placed straight up like candles on a cake.

I’m amazed at the little effort that is required to make the kids feel the meal is special.  And this excitement helps them try new things.

4.  Kids Are Easily Overstimulated

There is always a ying and yang with children.  I’ve found that while they need to be visually stimulated with food, there is also a fine line when they shut down because things are too complicated.

This is most often the case when I serve too much food on their plates. What works best for me is to give them very small portions…so that most of the time they ask for seconds.  Maybe it is setting them up for success, so they look at the plate and feel they could handle that amount.

5.  Kids Learn by Modeling

As much as I wish my kids would just learn by what I say, I know that they are actually learning by what I do.  If you want your kids to eat healthy, you must be that model for them. We have fruits and vegetables with every meal- and every member of our family gets them on the plate to eat.

I’m not suggesting that you eat what you don’t like- nor do I think kids should be forced to eat what they don’t like.  But I do feel if we model eating healthy foods and snacks to our children throughout the day, they will come to know that as normal.

6.  Kids Need Repetition

I can’t tell you how many times a food they swore they didn’t like one day, was a food they were happily devouring the next day. Just like anything else we teach our children, rarely do they “get it” on the first try– it takes patience, consistency and repetition to help new things become assimilated into the routine.

Keep putting the healthy foods out.  Keep trying new ways to prepare them.  Keep encouraging your children to try healthy foods.  Recognize healthy eating is a life-long process, just like our preferences in tastes are always changing.

Don’t give up, but also don’t sweat it too much.  Too much energy and attention on foods they won’t eat will likely keep them resistant.  A gentle approach is far better in the long term.

Teach your children about the food they are eating.  They are more hungry for this information than you know!

Tell me, what has been your experience in feeding your children healthy foods? What has worked? What is still a challenge?