Eight ways you can encourage your children to eat healthily

Love to extend your children’s favourite foods beyond pizza or nuggets and chips? Here are eight ideas to help you encourage them to eat more healthily.

It’s never too early to start teaching children the value of nutrition. Kids can be notoriously fussy eaters, but with a gentle nudge in the right direction, they can learn to stop seeing healthy food as the enemy, and even learn to enjoy trying new dishes.

Eight ways you can encourage your children to eat healthily

To help you introduce the idea that eating healthily can be fun, here are eight tips to encourage healthy eating habits.

1) Take them to the supermarket

Make the supermarket run a social event. Ask your child to help you think of ingredients to buy, and invite them to accompany you to the store to pick them up. With enough repetition and a little luck, your child will shelve the idea that food magically arrives on a plate at supper time.

2) Lead by example

Be mindful of the way you eat and drink at home, because your habits will rub off on your kids. This includes the snacks you keep around the house – have healthier options on hand to encourage good eating habits.

3) Break the spell of sugar

If you can, keep sweet treats to a minimum. Rear your child on fibrous whole foods rather than sugary snacks and stay away from soft drinks. Try adding fruit to still water instead – it’s wholesome and delicious!

4) Ask for help in the kitchen

When it comes to meal times, get your child involved in the prep work. Ask them to add pre-chopped vegetables to the frying pan and stir. Let them choose the plates you’ll eat on, set the table, switch on the kettle etc. Your child’s confidence will grow as their familiarity with the kitchen increases.

5) Don’t force enjoyment

Pressure only makes children self-conscious and stubborn about food. Rewards for finishing food are a bad idea too, as this suggests that those peas/sprouts/lentils are not worth enjoying on their own. Favour a laid-back approach instead by enjoying the food on your own plate. Your children will soon look to imitate you.

Or, like mum-of-three Lucy Mason, you can introduce some excitement into trying new foods with ideas like Adventurous eating Wednesdays. As Lucy says of the results:

“This week we had chicken fajitas which were even more popular, plus the kids discovered they all love guacamole. By taking the emphasis off forcing them to eat, and making them curious about the food in front of them, the usual rows were forgotten and we actually had a peaceful, dare I say fun dinner.”

6) Keep takeaways to a minimum

Young or old, we all love a juicy pizza delivered to the door piping hot. And after a long day at work, it can be tempting to rely on a delivery service to ease the strain. But, try not to indulge these occasions too often or make them overly memorable. This will only give takeaways a desirable image and make home-cooked foods feel like a chore.

Stuck for ideas for new things to try? Here are five healthy – and easy – summer recipes your kids should love.

7) Put a new spin on fast food

In lieu of a pizza takeaway, why not make pizza with your young one instead? One weekend, have them come up with an idea for a set of delicious toppings.

Kids love to be creative and you can always gently steer them in the right direction if they start losing momentum. As this Currys PC World campaign demonstrated, kids can cook up a storm at almost any age.

8) Eat as a family

This is a big one. By emphasising the social aspect of cooking and eating, your child is more likely to carry these good habits forward as they grow up, including taking the time to prepare home-cooked meals later in life.

Start a lifetime of good habits now

So many of us today live hectic lifestyles, and in the midst of all other other commitments, it’s all too easy to let mealtimes fall by the wayside. But poor eating habits can crystallise at a young age, so encouraging your child to eat healthily could make a lasting difference to their future. As the old maxim goes, ‘you are what you eat’.

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Photo by Patrick Fore