7 Ways To Get Your Kids Trained Into Good Eating Habits


Childhood obesity is a huge problem in many countries today.  Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States, triple the rate from just one generation ago. Children in Mexico have the highest rates in the world for obesity, as defined by having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of more than 30. Statistics from the most recent large-scale survey in the UK shockingly reveal that 25 percent of boys and 33 percent of girls aged between two and 19 years are overweight or obese – and there’s little sign the incidence is slowing.

So we don’t need Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! program or HBO’s “Weight Of The Nation” to tell us what we know already: our children are at risk.

So what can we do to help our children develop better eating habits?

1.  Start early. It’s never too soon to begin. (Conversely, it’s also never too late, so don’t despair if your teenager seems to prefer a diet of pizza and soda.) Simply don’t have junk food around the house. Give children the options of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. You can’t stop them eating chips at their friend’s house, but you are in charge of the foods that enter your home.

2.  Have fun. The more creative the meal is, the greater the variety of foods kids will eat. You can use cookie-cutters to turn toast into hearts and stars, or make happy-face pancakes. Get your kids cooking early on: they’ll be much more interested in eating something they’ve prepared themselves. As a teenager, my son cooked dinner once a week and was very proud of his creations.

3.  Take kids shopping. When shopping, take kids with you, and let them help make decisions. Together, compare products and look for those that are the most environmentally responsible. For example, look at food labels and avoid products with chemical additives. Look for labels like fair trade and organic. No kid wants to be eating nasty additives!

4.  Pick your battles. If your kids are used to eating fast food, for example, it may be difficult to completely ban it. Instead, arm them with information about the environmental and health costs associated with fast food and work out an agreement to reduce the number of fast-food meals you eat. Choose your battles wisely, focus on raising awareness and keep a positive attitude. (As with all parenting issues!)

5.  Enjoy treats. Eating one or two cupcakes for a friend’s birthday isn’t going to result in massive weight gain. What your kids eat over time is what counts. When my son was younger, we would go to McDonalds once a month — a big treat for him. Keeping cookies and candy as “forbidden foods” will only make them more appealing, so try eating these less healthy foods just occasionally.

6.  Be a great role model. Actions really do speak far louder than words. If your kids see you constantly snacking on unhealthy foods, or pursuing one crash diet after another, they will assume that this kind of behavior is normal. Kids often mimic the behavior of their parents and caregivers, so make sure you are sending the right food message.

7.  Don’t be a short-order cook. I remember visiting my sister and her two toddlers several years ago, and was horrified when the eldest rejected the first two dinners her mother prepared. Only at the third attempt did Catharine agree to eat her meal. Aside from learning that she could get her mom to do whatever she wanted, my niece was denied the pleasure of trying new foods.

And don’t fall for this one: as a fifth grade teacher, I had a severely overweight boy in my class. I was horrified to notice one day that his lunch consisted of Snickers bars. When I called his mom to let her know, she assured me that her son was allergic to vegetables, and that chocolate was one of the few things he could tolerate. How on earth did he make her believe that one?

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Photo Credit: istock


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Laurie T.
Laurie T5 years ago

I use my own history of raising my family as an example of what worked well, in teaching healthy eating habits. Those included not introducing sugary, salty or fatty foods from day one of pablum to solid foods..so my child never procured a "taste" of these foods to begin with. My child is now 25 years old and still looks on mangos' as a candy treat and dislikes the taste of junk foods. I can only assume that early intervention has it's merits when parents work on establishing a foundation of good eating habits. I was creative in preparing foods and believe that making healthy foods look fun has it's good points! A healthy eating environment goes a long way to. Making meal times a shared daily occasion that includes a real interest in the child's day to day life, helps to establish a connection between good healthy foods and good healthy mental states of mind. Dedicating and committing oneself to their children's well being is a demonstration of genuine love for your child. Proof isn't in the "pudding" but in that young life's overall health!

Brian Steele
Brian Steele5 years ago

No problem with a bit of fast food or junk now and again, but if you are the caterer, then surely you are in charge of what is catered? My wife cooks most of the meals in our house and what she serves up is what we all get for dinner (subject to a limited number of specific dislikes). If they don't like it, they don't eat it, but they don't get anything else and they don't get any pudding until they have eaten a reasonable amount of main course.

No kid ever voluntarily starved to death. If they are hungry, they will eat it. End of.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Julie H.
Julie Hoffman5 years ago

awsome article

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

it is so simple and obvious to get kids to eat right (at least through two and a half anyways) My son is 2 and I havent ever had an issue. He occasionally asks for cookies or candy, so i give him the healthier version... juice sweetened and organic. He hasn't ever seemed to notice, and isn't even aware that its healthy

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson5 years ago

Lead by example. Eating heathy is a way of life not a fad diet. Spend more time cooking and loving and living with your family. The job isn't you life( that would make you owned by who you work for) you family should be you life. Take better car of them than you do your car.

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks, glad someone can use the words train and children in the same sentence still.