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8 Tips and Tricks To Get Kids to Eat More Healthy Food

 A survey conducted in 2017 questioned 2000 UK parents on the eating habits of their kids. A whopping 46% of children were found to dislike veggies and refuse to eat them. An American study carried out over the course of 17 years and finally published in 2020, determined that despite many children opting for fruits instead of sugar snacks, 56% of children still eat foods that are inordinately high in sodium and exceptionally low in nutrition. 

Being a parent is already the toughest job on the planet. Add to that the sheer scarcity of healthy foods and 50% of the job becomes nutritionist/chef. With so many children having poor eating habits and instinctively reaching for fast food, a growing concern among parents is, "How do I get my child to eat the healthy food I make for them?". It is most definitely not the easiest task, but few related to parenting ever are. These 8 tips may not seem like much but they can go a long way in building your child's interest in nutritious food and healthy eating habits.

1. Always keep fruits and veggies out for snacking

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Woman offering her daughter salad

There are few midday snacks that give kids the combination of nutrition and yumminess they need, but at the top of the list is cut fruits and vegetables. Your children may not be fans of fruits and veggies so after a day or two of watching them stay untouched, it may seem pointless to keep them out. 

However, just keeping this healthy snack available and in their eye-line at all times, whether or not they eat them, can play a great role in putting veggies and fruits in their head. This also helps to instill a sense of comfort with these foods, almost to the point where the table seems incomplete without a vegetable on it!    

2. Let your child arrange their own plate 

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Toddler with messy hands holding pink plate

This particular trick takes time, but over the long term will help your child develop healthy diet habits on their own. Allowing your child to put their plate together lets them exercise independence and be creative, two forms of positive reinforcement. A child is also more likely to eat what they have selected themselves, and over time, understand their preferences better. 

The challenge falls, as always, on the parents. In the initial phases, you’ll have to ensure that all or at least most of the dishes being made available to them contain a solid variety of nutrients, including veggies, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. At first, they’re likely to only reach for their favorites. Within a short period of time, though, they’ll gain an interest in trying everything.

3. Don’t skimp on the dip! 

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Three bowls of dips, red, yellow and white, on a table

One look at the ingredients of most store-bought dips will tell you that they don’t contain the healthiest ingredients. They are, however, an excellent way to easily make other less-than-appealing but thoroughly nutritious food items a tasty treat. A small amount of dip with a large number of veggies, fruits, or other snacks can ensure your child is getting the nutrition they need.

The next time you put out a tray of chopped carrots and celery, accompany it with a dip and watch as your children begin to feel the itch of temptation. Yogurt-based dips and salad dressing, salsa, and hummus are a few healthier dipping options. To really make the snack wholly healthy, you can even make your own dips, dripping with deliciousness and nourishment. 

4. Sprinkle some sugar over your meals

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Man in white shirt sprinkling sugar over figs

(Flickr)  

It probably sounds a little counterintuitive, adding sugar to meals to get kids to eat healthier, but it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a very small amount for a short period of time. Simply sneak a moderate portion into dishes your child wouldn’t normally enjoy to make it more enjoyable for them. 

Make baked or roasted veggies with a sweetened glaze or sprinkle a hint of brown sugar over the final dish. In case you want your child to enjoy healthier beverages like freshly squeezed juices, adding a dash of root beer can give it a little fun kick. This can help your child become fond of the dishes or drinks, and as you reduce the amount of sugar each time, their craving for the extra sweetness will also reduce. 

5. Make shared meals for the whole family

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Family sitting at dining table eating together

With so many different diet plans and exercise routines out there, nowadays most family members have their own individual preferences within the “healthy food” category. However, as much as possible try and create common dishes for every meal that can be shared by the entire family. 

Preparing dishes family-style instead of restaurant-style may not be everyone’s favorite at first. However, over time it will reinforce the idea of trying and eating everything, nutritious elements included, as your kids watch you reach for the healthy foods. It also has an added bonus of aiding with tip number 2, letting your kids prepare their own plates. 

6. Make grocery shopping a family activity

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Parents and two sons in a shopping cart at a grocery store.

Another seemingly counterintuitive tip, allowing your kids to accompany you while you purchase ingredients for every meal can actually help them feel like they’re a part of the process. Engage your child and ask their opinion as you determine what items to put in each dish. Much like with arranging their plate, allowing them to select the ingredients will increase the likelihood of them enjoying it. 

The worry with taking your kids grocery shopping is that they’ll be tempted by everything unhealthily delicious that they pass. Make your trips to the grocery store targeted searches, looking for specific items for specific dishes to keep your kids engrossed in the task at hand. It also helps to take them to farmers' markets and other places that have largely healthy items on sale. 

7. Let your kids join in on the cooking

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Mother preparing healthy food with son and daughter

Believe it or not, the preparation of the meal is as important as the meal itself. Taking them to the grocery store with you lets them in on the planning stage of the meal. Keeping them by your side as you cook gets them interested in the process behind. Get them asking questions about the meal and how it’s made and offering suggestions. 

It can be an exhausting task, trying to juggle an excitable child while attempting to cook a meal for a family. However, it is an opportunity to get your child interested in cooking, maybe even spark their creativity and appreciate yours. Even for kids too small to help in the kitchen, you can always let them arrange the plates or stir in items. When they feel like they’ve helped to plan and prepare the meal, it makes the task of eating it more exciting. 

8. Play with your food

8 tips and tricks to help children develop healthy eating habits, Faces of elmo and other sesame street characters made out of bowls of fruit

(Reddit)  

Preparing healthy snacks for kids isn’t just about sparking their creativity but also about yours! Turning your food into artwork is a great way to get kids excited about each meal and snack they’re going to have. You can surprise them with different colors and characters, and take suggestions and requests on how to turn a plate of vegetables into a masterpiece.

Not all food art has to be intricately detailed. It simply needs to be something that you and the kids can enjoy together. Wheat pancakes made in funny faces and fruit platters arranged in fun patterns are just a few easy and quick snacks you can roll out for the kids anytime. These will have them absolutely waiting to view and dissect your many works of art.

Be sure to share this and spread the importance of good eating habits

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