Developing Healthy Habits in Children (Part 2)

By Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN

In this two-part series, we are discussing how to raise a child to eat a healthful diet with variety and flavor. Just to recap the first four tips:

Tip #1 – Start early

Tip #2 – Variety is the spice of life

Tip #3 – Emphasize non-sweet flavors

Tip #4 – Encourage but don’t force

Tip #5 – Remain persistent

It is common for kids to reject a new food for the first few times. After a long day at work, the last thing you have the energy for is fighting with your child to eat something. I get it!! However, studies have shown that it can take up to 15 exposures before acceptance of a new food. Be persistent and offer the food you think they may not like but don’t force it. Forcing may do more damage than good. Try to make it fun or pair the new item with something you know they already enjoy. A little persistence now will be well worth it for when they are teenagers!

Tip #6 – Engage all their senses

Try to include other senses such as smell, touch, and visual appeal. Include strong smelling seasonings, cut foods into different shapes and sizes, let them feel and touch the food. This keeps it interesting and exciting.

Tip #7 – Be a good role model

Remember, kids are always watching. Set the example for them by making healthful food choices and let them try from your own plate. One of the best pieces of advice is to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad” as these terms can create disordered eating habits later in life.

Tip #8 – Be consistent with healthful habits

There will be plenty of opportunities to expand and develop your child’s plate, from school lunches, family dinners, eating out, and more.

Remember nearly all kids will go through a picky phase at some point, such behaviors are likely temporary, just keep doing what you are doing and stay the course. You’ve got this!


Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN
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