10 Tips for Improving Your Child's Diet

10 Tips for Improving Your Child's Diet

Do you have a tough time getting your kids to eat more vegetables or try healthier snacks? The following tips may help get your kids' diets back on track.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Staff Nutritionist, myOptumHealth

Are you tired of dinnertime battles and bargaining with your kids to eat "just two more bites" of their veggies? Even if they prefer soda to milk, or would rather snack on cookies than an apple, all is not lost. The following tips can help get your kids' diets back on track.

  1. Add healthy ingredients to foods your kids already like. For instance, add blueberries to pancakes or frozen fruits to smoothies. Try shredded carrots or zucchini in pasta sauces or muffins.

  2. Let your kids help you plan the menu, shop for food and prepare meals. Have them pick a recipe out of a healthy cookbook or Internet cooking site. Ask them to help you mix up a salad dressing, peel a carrot or measure out ingredients. The more involved they are, the more likely they will be to try new things.

  3. Watch what you buy. Your kids can't eat unhealthy foods if you don't have them around the house. Without hoards of chips or cookies to tempt them, they'll be more likely to pick up a carrot stick or an orange when they get hungry. Don't buy soda or other sweet drinks. Offer water or an occasional cup of 100 percent fruit juice. Even drinking too much fruit juice has been linked to childhood obesity.

  4. Keep to a snack schedule. Kids will also be hungry enough to eat what you offer them if you keep snacks spaced apart. Encourage healthier snacks that will offer some nutrition. Try cheese with whole-grain crackers, apple slices with low-fat yogurt, or peanut butter on whole-wheat bread. Finger foods are also appealing, so you can try tempting them with low-fat string cheese and sliced fruit.

  5. Strike while the iron's hot. Kids are usually hungriest right before dinner. While they are waiting, silently place a tray of raw veggies such as carrot and celery sticks, sliced cucumber, crunchy jicama and/or sweet red pepper nearby. They may just work in a veggie serving or two without realizing it.

  6. Don't force your kids to "eat all their veggies." Children may rebel if forced to eat. It may take several (up to 15) attempts for a child to warm up to a new food. Just keep offering, without pressure. Some things they will eventually come around to.

  7. Make it a game for your kids to "eat their colors." This encourages variety, which helps kids get a range of nutrients. It's also a good way to introduce new fruits and vegetables. Some good choices include:

    • Red peppers and watermelon
    • Orange carrots, mango or cantaloupe
    • Purple grapes or cabbage
    • Yellow peppers or squash
    • Green snap peas, honeydew or kiwi

    Reward them for just trying something new.

  8. Keep meals at the table and not in front of the TV. Eating while watching TV can distract kids from realizing how much they're actually eating. Meal time is also an important time for busy families to catch up.

  9. Keep everything in moderation. If your kids are deprived of a scoop of ice cream or slice of cake once in a while, they'll be more likely to overeat when they do get them. Moderation, not deprivation, is the key.

  10. Set a good example. Show your kids you walk the talk by eating a balanced diet yourself. If you don't eat right, your kids won't either.

Finally, be patient and stay positive. Kids' habits, just like grown-ups', don't change overnight.

Sources:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for parents: ideas to help children maintain a healthy weight. Accessed: 08/11/2010
  • Let's Move. Healthy families. Accessed: 08/11/2010

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