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How Do I Raise a Healthy Eater? 9 Tips to Raise a Healthy Eater

Many parents want to preempt poor eating habits by raising their children to be healthy eaters from the first foods they eat. I think this is a great idea, and with a bit of knowledge, you will be empowered to raise your child to be a healthy eater.

Before giving you any tips, I want you to understand that as parents, we can only do the best we can do--and no better. Our children are not ourselves; they are their own people and make their own choices. The best we can do is optimize them to be open and varied eaters so that when they make their own choices, they have the right background to make healthy choices. Take a look at these tips for raising a healthy eater.

little girl eating from a bowl

Tips for Raising a Healthy Eater

  • Check your attitude about food. Are you expecting your child to dislike certain nutritious foods? Do you voice your dislike for these foods? Children can sense your feelings about food, and they might refuse them for that reason.

  • Keep offering non-preferred foods. If your child took one bite of broccoli and put the rest down, your child is not doomed to be a broccoli hater! Keep offering those foods again and again. Most children will eventually accept a new food.

  • Maintain calm mealtimes. Meals should not turn into fights to get your child to eat a food. Start with a positive attitude in which the child understands they are expected to try new foods, and if they refuse, move on and try again at another meal.

  • Vary cooking methods. If your child refuses steamed broccoli, consider other ways to prepare broccoli: roasted, stir fried, pureed in a soup, or marinated.

  • Allow the meal to end when your child is finished. Avoid forcing your child to eat the amount that you think they need. In general, children will eat the amount they need. Sometimes kids will barely eat at one meal, and make up for it later in the day. Or, kids might eat less for a few days, and more later in the week.

  • Use non-food items for rewards and gifts. Rather than a soda, candy, or a pastry, consider what else your child likes. Maybe a keychain, matchbox car, yoyo, or other dollar store finds could work for your child and your budget.

  • Involve your child in food preparation. Ask your child to choose apples at the grocery store, pick which protein to prepare for dinner, and help out with age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen. This increases your child's interest and ownership in their food.

  • Model the behavior you want to see. When you are hungry for a snack, choose what you would want your child to also choose. You can verbalize to them that you are choosing this food because you are hungry, and this food will give you energy.

  • Don't put foods in the kitchen you don't want your child to eat every day. Soda, juice, candy, ice cream... The goal is not to forbid these foods, just to keep them out of the routine. These foods have a place to be consumed--at parties, a day out, or a special occasion. But if they are always in the home, they will become every day foods.

Start when your child is eating first foods, and incorporate these tips as your child gets older. These tips for raising a healthy eater can put your child on the right track. With a good background, you child can be optimized to be a healthy eater as they get older.

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