How to Get Children Involved in Healthy Eating

How to Get Children Involved in Healthy Eating

We have a unique opportunity to teach our children about the importance of nutrition and healthy living. In doing so, we have the potential to prevent countless chronic diseases that are rapidly increasing (in both children and adults). 

A few sobering statistics about the health of our children in America:

  • 54% of children have at least one chronic disease (asthma, allergies, obesity, etc)
  • 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. This has tripled in the last 40 years!

Because of the rapidly increasing rates of childhood obesity, “this is the first generation of children to live shorter lives than their parents”. (1)

I absolutely love it when my clients are mothers because the health of the mother shapes not only the lives of her children, but their children, and so many future generations.

What a mom eats before conception, during pregnancy, and after birth influences the health of the child tremendously, which is why it’s so important to focus on your health if you are a mother reading this! Remember: it is never too late to start focusing on your health or your child’s health!

You are setting an example for your children, not only with what you serve them, but what you eat as well. Even if it seems like they may be too young to notice, they notice everything and are looking up to you as their example.

Your childrens’ diet shapes their health forever. Research clearly states that the first few years of life are dramatically important in setting the stage for their entire life, especially because this is when their microbiome (which is responsible for their immune system) is established – for life!

With nearly 80% of the prevalent chronic diseases in western culture being preventable with nutrition and lifestyle, it only makes sense to teach our children about this and set them on the right paths.

This article is geared for mothers with younger children, but it is never too late to start incorporating healthy habits for you and your family!

Here are 3 ways to get kids involved (and actually excited about) healthy eating!

  1. Teach them about real food at an early age.

    As soon as they start interacting with food, begin to teach them about the foods they’re eating and how each food benefits them. This will be simplified, of course! The colors, textures, and tastes of various foods are like a brand new world to children – so let them experience the variety and make it adventurous!

  2. Make them part of the grocery shopping experience.

    Better yet, take them to farmer’s markets and nearby farms to pick fresh fruit. Most children love this! They need to learn that food grows in the ground and on trees, not in the grocery store 😉 This is not only fun for them as they get to pick their own fruit (and maybe even eat it right from the tree) but also reinforces in their minds where food really comes from.

    If you hold up an apple and ask your child where it comes from and they say the grocery store, it’s time to take them to a farm or farmers market!

  3. Let them feel the difference between healthy and unhealthy food.

    This strategy applies more to younger children who have not had a lot of experience with junky-food items. This is also a bit more controversial and every parent will ultimately have to make individual decisions about how they want to go about this, but one strategy that many parents have used is to allow their children to experience how junk food/fast food, etc makes them feel.

    Children will be very excited to eat something like cake, candy, pizza, yet will almost always complain afterwards about their tummy hurting. This is your golden opportunity to teach them about the power they have in choosing between food that makes them feel good or food that makes them feel bad.

    Rather than always saying “no! you can’t eat this” you’re saying “you can eat this but remember how it made your tummy hurt last time? You could choose this instead that won’t make your tummy hurt”.

    This won’t work for every family and child since there are many factors at play, but it’s worth a consideration.

What are some ways that you’ve taught your children about real food? Share below!

Hannah Smith

Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.

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  1. I absolutely love the topic of this blog post! I have one picky eater and one who will try everything. We’ve found that instead of fighting and trying to force healthy eating, we’ve gotten much farther by getting them involved. When they help cook a healthy meal they seem to enjoy it much more too. This is such a great post — thank you so much for sharing!!