8 Ideas to Encourage Kids to Eat Healthier Foods

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Encouraging kids to eat a healthier diet can be tough. Read suggestions from the Partnership for a Healthier America on how to inspire kids to eat healthy food. Bright Horizons has been partnered with the PHA since 2011.

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) works with private companies to eliminate the problem of childhood obesity, and complements the Let’s Move! Initiative started by former First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2011, Bright Horizons was the first early care organization to join PHA. Bright Horizons renewed its PHA commitment in 2017.

Through this partnership, Bright Horizons is committed to providing healthy foods in all its schools and centers, as well as offering resources on healthy eating for families at home. 

Getting kids to eat a healthier diet can be tough; below you’ll find some suggestions from the PHA on making it easier.

Set the example. Children tend to mimic what we do. Make meals a pleasant time and serve a wide variety of healthy foods. Let your children see that you enjoy eating a varied diet, including fruits and vegetables. 

Make food a family affair. Children are more likely to eat meals to which they’ve contributed in some way. This might mean helping make the weekly meal plan, shopping at a farmer’s market, washing vegetables for a salad, or even cooking some of the meal, depending on your child’s age. 

Substitute healthier choices. Replace regular fries with sweet potatoes; try hummus, salsa, or chutney instead of high-fat sauces. Serve yogurt, fruit, or dark chocolate instead of rich desserts. 

Plant a garden. Home-grown vegetables almost always taste better and the accomplishment children feel in growing them is highly motivating. Try easy-to-grow vegetables like compact, determinate tomato varieties, radishes, carrots, peas, or greens. Many of these plants can be grown in containers on a patio if space is limited. 

Try the “polite bite” rule. Like adults, kids aren’t going to like every food you serve, but don’t give up. Studies show that many children don’t like a food until they’ve tried it at least 20 times. So keep serving vegetables and ask your child to take one “polite bite.” This practice respects a child’s preferences while giving them opportunity to try new foods. Still no luck? Serve vegetables in different forms. Many children dislike the texture of steamed vegetables, but they’ll try them raw with a dip, or roasted. Another option is to introduce veggies in a smoothie or sauce. 

Teach healthy attitudes about food. Try to approach food and meals as a joyful part of life; deemphasize conversations that promote certain foods as healthy and other foods as unhealthy. Instead, serve a variety of delicious foods, including occasional sweets or desserts. Don’t use food as a weapon or bribe. Let your child serve herself, taking only as much as she needs. 

Bring back the family dinner. Today’s families are feeling the pinch of busy schedules and routines, but there’s something very special about eating a meal at home as a family. Try to have family dinner at least a couple nights a week, or family breakfast on the weekends. Turn off the television and other distractions, and really focus on the food and each other. 

Be thoughtful about snacks. There’s nothing wrong with an afternoon snack, but don’t let it sabotage dinner. Serve snacks at least two hours before a meal. Offer healthy snacks such as cheese and whole-grain crackers, sliced veggies, or a piece of fruit. Provide water instead of juice or milk between meals. 

Developing good eating habits is a lifelong process that demands a healthy perspective on food, as well as wise practical choices and behaviors. PHA and Bright Horizons are committed to supporting families in this process, ensuring good health for future generations.

Partnership for a Healthier America

Bright Horizons is proud to celebrate our commitment with Partnership for a Healthier America to help children to have a healthy start in life.

More on Healthy Eating for Kids:

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

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