How to Inspire Kids to Eat Healthier

By: Mollie Shauger | Thursday, October 17, 2019 | Healthy Living

young girl eating watermelon

With child obesity higher than ever before, it has become increasingly important to encourage healthy eating for kids. As parents, it may seem second nature to reach for those processed or high-sugar foods your kids love. Though this may be an easier, quicker option, over time, it can have many adverse effects on your child’s health. Children are unaware of this process and need adults who will guide them in the right direction when it comes to food. Conscious, healthy eating habits should start in the home so children can make informed decisions about their diet on their own. Here, we will help parents understand ways in which they can inspire their kids to eat healthier.

It All Starts with You

Ultimately, children will mimic what they see their parents doing. If you are coming home with fast food every day, your children will recognize this and begin to want these types of foods as well. If, however, we stock our homes with minimally processed, whole foods that include leafy greens and low sugar content, our kids will naturally follow suit. It is vital as parents to commit to healthy eating so we can expect these same healthy behaviors out of our children. Whether we think so or not, every little thing we do has a significant effect on our child’s overall development. That’s why we need to actively choose to be role models for our kids in all areas of life, especially when maintaining an optimal diet. Healthy meals should incorporate the following:

  1. Protein (beans, nuts, eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat or fat-free dairy)
  2. Whole Grains (brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat pasta or bread)
  3. Fresh Vegetables (zucchini, sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower)
  4. Fresh Fruit (apples, bananas, blueberries, citrus fruits, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple)
  5. Calcium-Rich Foods (seeds, low-fat yogurt, lentils, almonds, kale, spinach, edamame)

Learning how to get kids to eat healthy is easy when you know what a healthy plate should consist of. We all should be eating more whole, minimally processed foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. Additionally, we should incorporate more diversity into our diets! There are plenty of options, and this diversity will make it so your child has more healthy foods to choose from and try out. When we as parents lead by example and incorporate a healthy diet into our lives, our kids will be more likely to do the same.  

Fostering A Healthy Relationship with Food

Getting kids to want to eat healthy is an inside job. As parents, we must foster a healthy relationship around food. Making the home a place where healthy options are easily assessable is a great way to start setting the tone for a healthier lifestyle. Having a variety of healthy snacks available and regularly serving home-cooked, nutritious meals will have your children accustomed to these "norms" and be less likely to overindulge on unhealthy foods when away from the home. With that being said, it is also vital to never demonize unhealthy foods, such as various desserts and other high-sugar foods and drinks. Indulging in pleasure foods should not be shamed; it should simply be explained that these types of foods are a treat and best when eaten in moderation. Heavily enforced rules surrounding unhealthier foods within the home will likely result in kids overindulging when away from parents, like at a friend's house or school. The best way to foster healthy eating for kids is to teach them all the natural benefits that come from eating well. Draw parallels for your child about how eating healthy makes your body feel its best, and they will begin associating healthier options with more energy, stronger bones, better mood, and more!

Ease into It!

For parents and children alike, establishing a healthy diet doesn't just happen overnight. These types of lifestyle choices take time and practice and you should not expect to perfect them right off the bat. Healthy eating for kids should never come across as a punishment. If your child does not take to healthy foods as quickly as you would like, that's okay! Healthy habits take time to build and should come from a place of informed decision making rather than a forced one. Though the choice between apple slices with honey and celery with peanut butter may not seem like much, it actually gives your child the autonomy they crave while still choosing between two nutritional options. Getting them involved in their diet will teach them the fundamentals of healthy eating, as well as make them feel like their choices matter and are acknowledged. You will typically find that children are much more inclined to eat healthier when they feel as though it was their idea to eat this way.

Why Healthy Eating for Kids is So Important

The YMCA understands the importance of nurturing positive youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. When we begin teaching our children early about the importance of a healthy diet and other wellness practices, we send these young minds out into the world with the knowledge to do better. The leading cause of childhood obesity coming from diets containing high levels of fat or sugar and deficient levels of whole foods and nutrients. In knowing this, it means we all have some learning to do when it comes to how to get kids to eat healthy.

Visit Metro YMCA of the Oranges to learn more healthy eating facts for kids! Together we can learn how to get kids to eat healthy and help empower our community to incorporate a more nutritious diet into their family’s lives!


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