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Raising Healthy Eaters: Instilling Healthy Eating Habits in Children

August 21, 2023
A child friendly plate of healthy food items used to create snacks that look like animals. Very appealing way to encourage healthy eating habits in children.

Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits in Children and Navigating Challenges from Oral Sensory Issues to Creative Meal Preparations

Encouraging healthy eating habits in children can be complicated. As a parent, I’ve come to understand this more deeply than I ever thought possible. When most folks talk about “picky eaters,” I can’t help but feel they don’t quite grasp the depth of the challenge some families, including mine, face daily. Our journey isn’t just about likes and dislikes; it’s about oral sensory issues, oral motor fatigue, and navigating a maze of dietary constraints.

But, like many challenges in life, it’s also been a source of profound learning and creative thinking. So, how do we encourage healthy eating habits in children in the middle of all these complexities?

My Toolkit for Nurturing Nutritious Choices

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of the numerous ways you can collaborate with your child on their eating habits, these methods have been immensely effective for my family and me. For us, the key has been simple, yet meaningful, approaches to nutrition and food. Actively involving them in various aspects of their food journey has proven invaluable.

Playfully decorated pancake with blueberries for hair and eyes help encourage healthy eating habits in children.

Designing Food:
Food doesn’t just have to be about eating; it can be about creating too! “Ants on a log” (celery, peanut butter, and raisins) and fruit faces on oatmeal are just two of the playful dishes we love to make. It’s all about making nutritious foods appear approachable and exciting. (BTW, my kids won’t even eat ‘ants on a log’ but it doesn’t matter. It’s the exposure and fun that counts at this point for us!)

Flashcard Food Fun:
We created a set of flashcards featuring different foods, both those traditionally labeled as “healthy” and others that might fall into the “treat” category. Using these cards, we categorize foods by type (fruits, vegetables), frequency of consumption (anytime, sometimes, rare occasions), and even color! This is a fun and interactive way to discuss the concept of “eating the rainbow.”

Exploratory Grocery Shopping:
Instead of dashing through the grocery store with a list, we’ve turned it into an adventure. We explore new foods, discuss the ingredients in our pantry, and really engage with the process of selecting what we’ll consume.

Growing & Cooking Together:
There’s something magical about planting a seed, watching it grow, and then using it in a meal. Growing some of our food has provided a tangible connection to what we eat. Coupled with letting the kids choose meals from recipe books and assisting in the kitchen, it’s a holistic approach to understanding food from farm to table.

The road to instilling nutritious habits in children isn’t a straightforward one. There are bumps, twists, and turns. But with patience, creativity, and persistence, we can guide our kids towards making healthier choices. And who knows? They might just teach us a thing or two along the way!

Join the Conversation!

Every family’s journey with food and nutrition is unique, and there’s so much we can learn from one another. Have you faced challenges in instilling healthy eating habits in your children? Or perhaps you’ve discovered some creative ways to make nutritious foods more appealing?

I’d love to hear your stories and insights! Please share your experiences in the comments below, and let’s create a community where we can all grow, learn, and support each other in raising healthy eaters.

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