Top 5 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters

Little girl leaning on the table with a bowl of vegetables - isolated

How can I get my child to eat healthy? This is a question I’ve heard from many concerned parents who would like to see their children improve their eating habits. After years of cooking for my daughter, grandson and 12 years as a professional chef I’ve learned a lot about what kids like and how to encourage them to be healthy eaters. Here in this post I’ll share with you my top 5 recommendations for raising healthy eaters…

Real food and simplicity…
Serving foods that are made with ingredients you can pronounce, foods you can identify as real food and eliminating artificial ingredients is a great place to start. As an adult my daughter now says that she can taste the chemicals in food because her palate is not used to them. Simplify things by incorporating more whole foods into meal planning and read labels to make purchases based on a real food philosophy. If possible stick with organic and non-GMO food choices to avoid unnecessary toxic chemicals. Sometimes the 5 ingredients or less rule can make this process easier. Food additives and flavorings are only going to sabotage our children’s taste buds and create cravings for artificial foods. Stocking your fridge and pantry with the real food philosophy will give your family real nutrition and set healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.

Don’t mix foods…
Kids like to be in control of what they put on their fork and in the order of how much they like or dislike the items offered. When I make a salad, side vegetable medley or stir fry I keep vegetables of like kind separate on my grandsons’ plate. By taking this route in my home we always seem to provoke less meltdowns at the table. Kids seem to have some aversion to foods touching other foods. By simply assembling a plate of separate helpings of various vegetables your child can be in control of what he/she eats when. Kids like to have some control over their food choices and although you may be asking them to eat what is on their plate they are still in control of what they choose to eat first and last.

Textures play a big role…
Textures play a big role for many children and even plenty of adults I know. Some kids may like the crunch a raw pepper but not the experience of biting through the skin of a cooked pepper. They may prefer soft well steamed broccoli vs broccoli that still has a bit of crunch. Take the time to experiment serving vegetables in different ways that will change their texture – raw, lightly steamed, fully steamed, sautéed and oven roasted. Keep in mind that cutting vegetables in uniform sizes will help them all cook to the same desired tenderness. Whether a vegetable is cooked, over cooked or even just kept raw it can make a big difference on your little one giving it a thumbs up or not. We’re all unique and what tastes great to one of us may be different for another.

Introduce new foods slowly…
You are on board with getting your family eating healthy. What if the rest of your family is not? Find a few vegetables that are their favorites and stick with them as your main staple vegetable. Slowly introduce new vegetables by adding just a small amount of them to the meal. If your family loves broccoli and you want to introduce carrots do so by just adding one cooked, sliced carrot to the broccoli. This is not as drastic as serving an entire bowl of cooked carrots. There is still familiarity on the table with the cooked broccoli but your gradually introducing a new vegetable to them as well. It may take several times of introducing a new vegetable before your child becomes familiar with the new texture and taste. Go slow and easy the results will be rewarding.

Polite bite…
In my house I have always found that the polite bite or 3 bites rule is an easy way of introducing new foods to little ones. Many times they surprise themselves and like what was served. Having a rule like this in place ensures that they will gradually become used to eating a certain food and it’s texture. I find that the more real food emphasis a family has on their meals and snacks the more success they will have in their child enjoying a variety of foods. As I shared in the real food and simplicity paragraph, artificial foods can have a negative affect by producing cravings for them thus hindering your child’s ability to enjoy healthier food choices.

To sum up my top 5 recommendations for raising healthy eaters I emphasize stocking your kitchen with real food, keep it simple, have understanding for individuality and allow time for your little one to become familiar with new tastes and textures. Wishing you and your family a lifetime of happy, healthy eating!