50 Best Healthy Eating Habits For Kids

50 Best Healthy Eating Habits For Kids

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my kids have had their fair share of indulgent meals and sweet treats, and most of their healthy eating habits went right out the window.

There were dinners with family and holiday parties at school.

At church, there was birthday cake for Jesus—and even a goody bag of sweets to take home.

There were Christmas cookies, hot chocolate and candy canes almost everywhere we went.

I tried my best to make sure my kids didn’t go overboard, but I also didn’t make a big deal about it because then food could become a power struggle.

Although there were definitely the sugar highs, meltdowns and at least one stomach ache, it was also an opportunity to teach them how what you eat can affect how you feel physically and emotionally.

Now that the holidays are almost behind us, and we look ahead to 2020, making healthy eating habits a priority for your family this year—and throughout their lives—is a great New Year’s resolution to make.

If you’re looking for easy, realistic ways to get started, here are 60. 

BEST HEALTHY EATING TIPS FOR KIDS

1. Make time for breakfast.

2. Get enough sleep because lack of sleep can cause overeating.

3. Serve new foods—up to 15 times!—to get your kids to accept them.

4. Eat meals together—it doesn’t have to be dinner!

5. Avoid using food as a bribe or a reward.

6. Cook with your kids.

7. Go grocery shopping together and let your kids pick out a new vegetable to try.

8. Let your kids pick out new recipes they want to cook with you.

9. Pay attention to portion sizes—and teach them to your kids.

10. Let kids have dessert—even if they didn’t eat their vegetables.

 

MORE BEST HEALTHY EATING TIPS FOR KIDS…

11. Eat at the dinner table—not in the car or on the run.

12. Offer fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack.

13. Serve whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc.) instead of refined grains (white bread, white pasta, etc.)

14. Include protein at every meal and snack.

15. Serve more plant-based foods.

16. Include healthy fats in every meal.

17. Learn 10 ways to prevent childhood obesity.

18. Serve fish and seafood—it’s good for your kid’s brain.

19. Cut down on sugar foods, sweetened drinks, chocolate milk, juice and added sugars.

20. Read food labels and compare brands.

21. Eat more whole foods.

22. Avoid high-sodium foods.

23. Have a no-TV, no-phone, no-device rule at the dinner table.

24. Teach kids what it feels like to be hungry, satisfied and full.

25. Teach kids how to eat mindfully.

26. Don’t sneak vegetables but find new ways to incorporate them into meals, snacks and desserts.

27. Serve eggs for breakfast—everyday is A-OK!

28. Don’t swear off processed foods entirely but teach balance.

29. Encourage kids to drink plenty of water.

30. Plant a garden.

31. Bring your kids to the farmers’ market.

32. Encourage your kids to eat salad.

33. Teach your kids how to bake healthy.

34. Swap out sugary cereal for healthier versions.

35. Pack healthy school lunches instead of buying lunch.

36. Eat more meals at home.

37. Serve vegetables with breakfast.

38. Avoid labeling foods “healthy” and “unhealthy” and “good” or “bad,” which can make forbidden foods even more desirable.

39. Grow herbs indoors.

40. Teach kids how eating certain foods make you feel energized vs. sluggish or sick.

41. Set aside healthy snacks kids can grab themselves.

42. Serve birthday treats that aren’t cupcakes.

43. Offer high-fiber foods your kids will love.

44. Teach kids that they can enjoy everything in moderation.

45. Teach kids how to cope with tough emotions without turning to food.

46. Don’t order off the kids’ menu: order healthy appetizers instead or share a healthy meal.

47. Plant vegetables in a community garden.

48. Make vegetables healthy and delicious.

49. Be mindful of weekend eating.

50. Know how to deal when your kid refuses to eat.

5 Signs You’re Overfeeding Your Kids

5 Signs You’re Overfeeding Your Kids

Although most parents struggle to get their kids to eat and worry they aren’t eating enough, you might be one who worries you’re overfeeding your kids.

With rates of childhood obesity still at an all time high and other conditions like type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) on the rise in kids, your cause for concern is justified.

What’s more, raising kids who have healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food now can help lower their risk for obesity-related diseases and emotional eating when they’re adults.

Although you shouldn’t put your kids on a diet, count calories or make an issue out of how much they’re eating, it can be tough to tell whether you’re giving them enough or too much.

Here, learn 5 signs that might mean you’re overfeeding your kids.

1. Your child’s plate is the same size as your plate

My kids eat a healthy diet, but although I try to be mindful of portion sizes, there are many times that I think they eat too much.

I have to remind myself that that kids aren’t adults.

Kids have smaller stomachs and their nutritional needs can be met with much smaller portions than you’d expect.

Instead of using large dinner-sized plates to serve your child’s meals, use kid-sized plates or appetizer plates to keep portion sizes at bay.

Related: How To Teach Kids Portion Control


2. Your kid is always in the bathroom

 

My daughter loves to eat fruit, which isn’t a bad thing of course, but when she eats too much sometimes it lands her in the bathroom with a stomachache.

This was true for me as a kid too, although it was usually Sunday dinner (French toast, pasta, meatballs, coffee cake, etc.) that did it.

If you notice your kid is constantly in the bathroom, or he complains of stomachaches, it could mean he’s eating too much.


3. You’re overfeeding your kids if there’s food left behind


If your kid is a picky eater, chances are you’re always worried if he’s eating enough.

Although your expectation is that he at least try everything, and at most eat everything you serve, it’s not always going to be the case—if at all.

According to Ellyn Satter, an authority on eating and feeding, it’s the parent’s responsibility to decide the whatwhen and where of feeding, and the child’s responsibility to decide how much and whether to eat.

Kids shouldn’t be expected to eat everything on their plates. 

Instead of encouraging your kids, “take 3 more bites,” or setting a rule that they have to clean their plates before dessert or before being excused from the table, let them decide when they’ve had enough.

Give your kids plenty of opportunities to explore, taste, touch and smell food, and

time to develop their food preferences and learn what it feels like to be hungry and satisfied. 


4. Your kid loves snacks


Another sign you’re overfeeding your kids is that they’re eating too many snacks.

According to a March 2010 study in Health Affairs, kids reach for snacks 3 times a day and consume up to 600 calories from foods like chips, crackers and candy.

What’s more, the largest increase in snacking over the years is among kids between ages 2 and 6, the same study found.

Filling up on processed, packaged snacks in particular can crowd out calories and opportunities to serve up healthy, whole foods like fruits and vegetables. The same goes for juice or too much milk.

Although there’s no hard and fast rule about how often kids should snack, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest toddlers need 2 to 3 snacks a day, while pre-schoolers need 1 to 2 snacks per day—healthy snacks that give them the nutrition they need.

If you cut back on the amount of snacks but you still find that there is food left on your child’s plate, consider making snacks smaller, adjusting the time between meals and snacks, or eliminating snack all together.


5. Your kid’s clothes are getting small


When you have young kids, it’s amazing to see how fast they grow.

It seems one minute you buy a bunch of new clothes and the next, they’ve grown out of them.

If you notice that your kid’s clothes are getting small in a short amount of time, it might be that he’s eating too much.

If your child’s BMI is high however, or he’s suddenly gaining too much weight, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern because sometimes their height hasn’t yet caught up with their weight.

However, it’s always a good idea to bring it up with your child’s pediatrician who will chart his growth trends every year and make sure he’s growing taller and gaining weight at a consistent pace.

You might also consider speaking to a registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) who can evaluate your child’s diet and help you with things like portion control, meal planning and recipes.

Do you think you’re overfeeding your kids? What have you done to curb the habit? Let me know in the comments!

5 Reasons Not To Be A Short Order Cook  Being a short order cook makes meal times easier, but can create habits that are hard to break in the long run.

5 Reasons Not To Be A Short Order Cook

Being a short order cook makes meal times easier, but can create habits that are hard to break in the long run.

Although my kids eat just about anything I put on their plates today, when my younger daughter was a toddler—and a picky eater—I fell into the trap of being a short order cook.

If she didn’t eat the food I served, or didn’t eat what I thought was “enough,” there were times when I’d pull something different out of the refrigerator that I knew she would eat.

Although this short order cooking made my life a lot easier, I realized that if I made it a habit, it would be a tough one to break.

And more importantly, I wanted her to learn that what I served was the only option, and she could choose to eat it or not.

If you have toddlers or young children who are picky eaters or flat out refuse to eat, chances are, you’ve become a short order cook too.

Here, I’d like you to consider 5 reasons why you should nip it in the bud ASAP.

1. Your child misses out on opportunities to try new foods

The key to raising kids who are healthy and adventurous eaters is giving them plenty of opportunities to try new foods.

The reality is that we can’t expect our kids to instantly love broccoli or take to carrots on the first try.

In fact, studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times before kids will even take a bite.

Related: Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

If kids eat the same foods over and over again, they’ll never expand their preferences for new foods they may actually come to love.

2. Being a short order cook is too time consuming

Whether you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between, life is hectic and you’re exhausted after a long day.

Although short order cooking can make dinnertime less stressful, making one meal for the whole family and an additional meal for your picky eater takes more time—even if it is only opening a package of frozen chicken nuggets.

Something else to consider is that preparing a second meal for your child can also make your life stressful if you have to constantly make sure you have foods on hand that your kid will eat.

If you go to a family or friend’s house for dinner and they serve something you know your kid will refuse, you’ll have to pack foods for him which only reinforces the picky eating.

You start to believe, “my kid is a picky eater,” and will only eat a handful of foods, when in reality, you can’t expect any different when that’s all he’s being served in the first place.

3. Short order cooking creates power struggles

It’s normal for toddlers to be picky eaters and a part of that is their desire for control.

So if you continue to be a short order cook, your child learns that no matter what he wants, you’ll give in.

According to Ellyn Satter, an authority on eating and feeding, it’s the parent’s responsibility to decide the what, when and where of feeding, and the child’s responsibility to decide how much and whether to eat.

4. Short order cooking usually means less nutritious food

I think it’s safe to say that kids who eat separate meals from the rest of the family usually eat foods that aren’t the healthiest.

Boxed macaroni and cheese, kid-friendly frozen meals, pasta with butter, and processed snack foods are usually easy, go-to foods while fruits and vegetables rarely make their way on kids’ plates.

5. Kids may grow up to be picky eating adults

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons not to be a short order cook is that you want to raise kids who will be healthy throughout their lives.

According to an article in the New York Times, 75 percent of adults who call themselves picky eaters say the behaviors started in childhood.

In the U.S., we’re facing sky-high rates of obesity, chronic health conditions like type-2 diabetes, heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD), autoimmunity and depression and anxiety.

Not to mention, we have a nation of people who turn to food when they’re stressed, bored or frustrated instead of finding healthy, more effective ways to cope.

Teaching our kids how to eat healthy and have healthy eating habits is important because their lives depend on it now and well into the future.

How Not to Be a Short Order Cook

Offer choices

While scrambled eggs and toast is all you’ll be able to pull together for dinner certain nights, when you do cook meals, try to offer choices.

When kids feel that eating is in their control, they’ll be more likely to make healthy

choices—as long as those choices are offered.

Put out a cooked vegetable and a salad, serve one of your kid’s favorite foods along with a new food, or serve a type of fruit you know your kid will eat—even if he eats nothing else.

Eat meals together

Family dinners may not happen every night, but sitting down as a family to eat any meal can prevent short order cooking.

In fact, children who eat with their families at least 3 times a week are more likely to eat healthy foods, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found.

Cook with your kids

When kids take part in cooking meals, they learn each step of the process and they feel empowered to eat healthy because they had a hand in making the meal.

Cooking with your kids provides another opportunity to expand their palates and try new flavors, tastes and textures.

Stay consistent

Teaching kids about healthy foods and healthy eating habits takes consistency—and plenty of patience—at every meal.

Kids who are picky eaters aren’t going to change their ways overnight—and we can’t expect them to.

It’s also important to realize that everyone has their own food preferences so he won’t love what’s being served all of the time.

Just like with anything else that you have rules about or teach your children, they may not like it but that’s the way it goes!

Did you used to be a short order cook? How were you able to put an end to it? 

8 Tips for Getting Toddlers To Eat

8 Tips for Getting Toddlers To Eat

When your baby started solids, chances are, he was a happy, adventurous eater—willing to taste anything you put on his plate. Getting toddlers to eat however is an entirely different ball game.

One week your toddler seems to be eating enough, while the next, he takes two bites and declares “I’m not hungry.”

Or maybe your toddler never seems to be hungry or refuses to eat altogether—meal after meal or even for several days at a time.

Take heed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most toddlers are picky eaters and it’s completely normal.

Still, if you’re worried that your toddler isn’t eating enough and getting the nutrition he needs, there are some possible reasons behind his picky eating behaviors, and some ways to encourage him to eat.

 

1. Look at what your toddler is eating


Your toddler might not eat what you serve for dinner, but chances are he’s eating something throughout the day so it’s important to look at what that is and how often he’s eating.

If your toddler is loading up on snacks like crackers, chips and cookies, he’s probably not going to be hungry at meals.

Filling up on processed, packaged snacks can also crowd out calories and opportunities to serve up healthy, whole foods like fruits and vegetables. The same goes for juice or too much milk.

Also, feeding toddlers processed snacks that are high in sugar and sodium trains their taste buds to prefer those foods so when it comes time to eating real food, they refuse to.

Related: Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

2. Offer tiny amounts for a tiny toddler

When it comes to getting toddlers to eat, it’s also important to look at portion sizes.

Instead of overwhelming your toddler with an entire plate, or even a kid-sized portion of vegetables, try serving a tiny amount, such as a broccoli floret, a bean, or a piece of a shredded carrot.

It sounds silly, but serving small amounts is often a no-pressure ways for toddlers to eat.

But don’t expect success on the first try either. Studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times before kids will even take a bite, so stay consistent and be patient.

3. Take advantage of snack time

If your toddler loves to snack, take advantage of those opportunities to serve up the same healthy, whole foods you want them to eat at meal time.

Snacks should fill the void between meals, but if these mini-meals are the only way your toddler will eat until his appetite eventually improves, so be it.

4. Let your toddler decide when he’s hungry

Bribing, pleading, negotiating and other pressure tactics don’t work long-term and only create power struggles at the dinner table. 

When we constantly beg toddlers, “just take one more bite,” or “you can’t leave until you eat,” they never have the opportunity to recognize when they’re hungry, when they’re satisfied, and when they’ve had too much.

Just think about how many adults overeat or are emotional eaters because they never learned this lesson.

Related: 6 Tips to Help Moms Stop Emotional Eating

Eating meals with your toddler should be a positive experience, so serve healthy foods at meals and snacks, in age-appropriate portion sizes (see the AAP’s helpful guide) and let your child decide what—and how much—he wants to eat.

“Kids usually eat as much as they need. Your child’s brain will make sure they eat enough calories,” Cynthia L.E. Gellner, a pediatrician at the University of Utah said in this interview.

5. Add a dip

Not only do toddlers love finger foods they can dip in a sauce or dressing, but offering a dip makes plain ‘ol fruits and vegetables more palatable and interesting.

Pair cut up vegetables with hummus, a bean dip or a guacamole. Or serve apple slices with yogurt or peanut butter.

6. Let toddlers play with their food

Smelling food, pushing food around their plates or playing with their food are all considered poor table manners, but allowing it can encourage toddlers to eat.

In fact, kids who play with their food are more likely to try new flavors and a wider variety of foods, a July 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests.

Encourage your toddler to touch, smell, and play with his food. Talk about the shapes, colors, texture and aroma of the foods on his plate.

If he takes a bite, that’s great, but the goal is to let him explore his food without feeling pressure to eat.

7. Don’t give up

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen parents make is labeling their toddlers picky eaters the second they refuse to eat.

Once they believe that to be true, they become desperate to get their kids to eat anything so they turn to easy, quick, processed foods and frozen kid-friendly meals.

I totally understand this is a real frustration for most parents.

Sometimes you’re so fed up with the picky eating behaviors or you’re tired from a long day that making something you know your kid will eat is your saving grace until bedtime.

Although this can be a quick fix, over time, it actually reinforces picky eating because kids don’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, whole foods.

Consistency is key, so do your best to offer healthy foods and the right portion sizes as much as possible. Let your toddler feed himself—whether he wants a small bite, the whole meal or nothing at all.

8. Talk to your toddler’s pediatrician

Just because most toddlers are picky eaters doesn’t mean your toddler’s picky eating is normal.

Some toddlers may have sensory issues or feeding problems that should be addressed by a doctor or specialist.

Put a call into your pediatrician to talk about your concerns and next steps.

5 Reasons You Should Bring Your Kids to the Farmers’ Market

5 Reasons You Should Bring Your Kids to the Farmers’ Market

Summer is all about soaking in the sunshine, dining al fresco and savoring the healthy superfoods the season has to offer.

Just like planting a garden or joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, going to the farmers’ market is a great way to encourage healthy eating and get your kids out of their picky eating habits. 

Here are 5 reasons you should consider bringing your kids to a farmers’ market this summer.

1. Cool, new fruits and vegetables

With several types of green leafy vegetables, and foods like heirloom tomatoes, yellow and purple carrots, and donut peaches, the variety of fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market is enough to spark your kid’s interest in healthy eating.

Let your kids pick out something new and then learn how to prepare and cook it together at home.

Related: 5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids

Most farmers’ markets also sell other products like eggs, cheese, local honey, grass-fed beef, herbs and flowers, breads and baked goods, and personal care products.

2. Get local and organic produce


Grocery stores sell organic produce, but since it’s picked weeks before it hits grocery store shelves, it’s not the freshest.

Unlike grocery stores, produce sold at the farmers’ market aren’t stored for long periods of time, treated with chemicals that extend their shelf life, or shipped long distances.

In fact, more than half of farmers travel less than 6 miles, according to a report by the USDA.

When you shop the famers’ market, you’re getting fruits and vegetables that are ripe, and picked and sold the same day.

As a result, they’re fresher and tastier than store-bought produce and more nutritious, Preston Andrews, PhD, a plant researcher stated in this article.

In addition, although not all famers sell organic produce, 47 percent do sell some type of organic products.

Although prices vary at farmers’ markets, you might get a better deal on organic produce than you would at the grocery store, one report found.

3. Kids get to meet the farmers

When you bring your kids to the farmers’ market, they have a unique opportunity to meet the farmers who grow the food.

Kids can learn about new varieties of produce from the farmer, learn how and where the food is grown, and for speciality vendors, how the products are made.

Meeting the local farmers is also a great opportunity to get personalized recommendations about how to prepare and cook foods and get recipes.

4. Encourages healthy eating

When you bring your child to the farmers’ market and let them pick out new fruits and vegetables, they feel empowered to make their own healthy eating choices.

In fact, a 2018 study found that when kids were given $15 to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at a farmers’ market, their diets improved.

The kids were also more likely to shop at the famers’ market than those who didn’t receive the stipend.

5. Farmers’ markets are fun for kids

Select farmers’ markets across the country have implemented programs to teach kids about healthy eating and make their visits a fun experience.

Take the Power of Produce (POP) Club at the Oregon City Farmers Market.

There, kids get $2 every time they visit the farm to purchase their own fruits and vegetables, and they lean how to plant sunflower seeds, and make salads and jam, for example.

Some farmers’ markets also have cooking demonstrations and classes, entertainment, and other fun activities, for example.

Do you bring your kids to the farmers’ market? In what ways has it encouraged healthy eating?

6 Best Healthy Summer Eating Tips For Kids

6 Best Healthy Summer Eating Tips For Kids

 

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There’s an abundance of healthy super foods for kids during the summer, and while it may be a great opportunity to get your kids out of their picky eating habits and transform them into super-healthy kids, studies show summer may actually be the worst time of year to make that a reality.

According to a July 2015 study in the American Journal of Public Health, body mass index (BMI) for kindergarteners and first graders increased two to three times as fast during the summer than the school year.

More opportunities for grab-and-go foods at the pool, the boardwalk and the carnival, trips to the ice cream shop, longer, less structured days, and more time spent on devices are likely culprits.

If you plan ahead, make some simple swaps and use a few easy strategies however, your family can stay on track.

Here are 5 of my best healthy summer eating tips for kids.


1. Avoid sugary drinks


Long, hot summer days mean your kids will be drinking more fluids anyway, but what they drink is important.

According to a 2015 poll by the YMCA, about 75 percent of kids drink sugar-sweetened beverages at least weekly during the summer, and about 25 percent kids consume one or more sweetened beverages every day or almost every day.

Instead of soda, juice, sugar-sweetened beverages like lemonade, ice tea and sports drinks which are high in empty calories and sugar, spike blood sugar and may encourage cravings for other sugary fare, stick with plan H2O.

Since dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger—which is one of the reasons your kid is always hungry—it’s even more important that they make a point to drink plenty of water. 

Encourage your kids to drink water first thing in the morning, when they’re most likely to be dehydrated, sip throughout the day and before meals.

If water is too plain for them, add cut up cucumbers or strawberries for some flavor.


2. Take advantage of grilling season

 

When you grill up your hamburgers, chicken or fish, add zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, onions and peppers which your kids may be more willing to eat because it’s simply a different way to serve them.

Or put out several types of vegetables and let them make their own vegetable kabobs to grill.

When kids have a hand in making a meal, they’ll be more likely to eat it.

You can also grill fruit like peaches, pineapples and melon which make for a  healthy dessert.


3. Stick to a schedule

If your kids aren’t in camp and there’s no set schedule to your days, there may also be less consistency when it comes to regular meals.

Your kids might skip meals, eat meals at different times each day and ask for snacks—all habits that can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Although vacations or day trips can definitely throw off your schedule, one of the best summer healthy eating tips is to do your best to have regular meal and snack times, make sure your kids eat a healthy breakfast, and try to prevent grazing and mindless snacking.


4. Use your cutting board


During the summer, kids eat more vegetables, but they still don’t eat enough, the same YMCA poll found.

Kids need 2 to 3 servings of vegetables each day, but the serving sizes vary by age.

Check out this chart from the American Academy of Pediatrics to see portion sizes for your kid.

Do your best to include vegetables at every meal and snack, which will give your kids the nutrition they need, help satisfy their hunger, prevent overeating, and cure constipation.

The good news is that you don’t have to turn on the oven or spend too much time preparing them.

Kids love bite-sized and finger foods, so cut up raw vegetables like celery, cucumbers, and bell peppers to add to meals or serve as a snack with a healthy dip.


5. Put healthy food at eye level

According to the 2010 White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report, “children’s choices depend on what is most visible and easily accessible.”

So resist the urge to stock your pantry with chips, crackers and cookies and other types of fake food and put healthy food at eye level.

Spend 30 minutes or so on the weekend to wash and cut up fruits and vegetables and store them in clear glass containers front and center in the refrigerator.

Make individual portions of smoothie ingredients or set aside portions of nuts, seeds and dried fruit that are easy to grab, especially when you’re on the go.


6. Get kids in the kitchen

With more time to spend together, the summer is an ideal time to get kids in the kitchen, which encourages them to eat healthy because they feel empowered to do so.

Read: 5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Kid

Get your kids a set of kid-friendly knives and a chopping board and show them how to wash, prep and chop fruits and veggies.

Or make a salad together using my favorite chopping bowl.

If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse. Check out her video: 

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

When I tell people that my kids devour salads, love lentils, and ask for anchovies, they’re shocked.

During the holidays, at family parties and get-togethers with friends, when other parents are worrying what their kids will eat—and if they’ll eat—my husband and I never give it a second thought.

Our kids not only eat just like we do, but they’re little foodies who crave healthy food.

What may surprise you is that we don’t bribe them with dessert, negotiate meals or force them to eat.

They’re not easygoing kids who go with the flow either—it’s actually quite the contrary.

While it’s true that most kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters, and they have their own food preferences and food aversions, it’s totally possible to raise kids who like to eat healthy.

Here’s how we did it and you can too.

Make homemade baby food

It’s rare that we ask my daughters if they want to try new foods. Rather, they have a natural curiosity and interest in doing so.

One of the reasons I think that’s the case is because I made homemade baby food for them.

Although store-bought baby food is easy and convenient especially when you’re on the go, we can’t expect our kids to prefer real food if we start out by feeding them food that looks and  smells anything but.

When you make your own baby food, you control the ingredients and can offer a wide variety of flavors and textures which helps kids develop their own preference for healthy foods. 

Stick with it

Parents often tell me how they’ve tried cooking with their kids, serving new vegetables, or making green smoothies, but nothing they did changed their kids’ picky eating habits.

Although there were definitely occasions where we’d offer a new food and my kids were willing to try it immediately, getting them to eat everything took a concerted effort at every meal, every day.

As parents, we always want a quick, easy fix, but a one-time effort isn’t going to transform your kids into foodies overnight.

Whether it’s potty training, getting your kids to sleep through the night or changing an annoying behavior, everything takes time, effort and consistency.

Keep meals interesting

I’ve found that eating the same foods every day has been key for me to lose the baby weight and maintain it.

Although this also makes meal planning easier for my family, I often fell into the same pattern with my kids and I realized there were so many more foods they could try.

So I decided to switch it up a bit.

When I’d bring my kids to the grocery store and they’d spot dragon fruit, star fruit or something they had never tried before, I’d buy it for us all to enjoy at home.

My husband, who also sensed our food rut, would cook new types of fish and vegetables and add new types of spices to our meals.

Although we never forced our kids to eat, we always encouraged them to have a taste of what was being served so they’d have opportunities to figure out which foods they liked and which ones they didn’t.

Cook meals together

Cooking with my kids has proven to be one of the best ways to get them to eat healthy.

Kids want to be just like their parents and my daughters were always excited to learn how to peel and chop produce, mix ingredients, stir on the stovetop and use the oven.

When kids help to prepare meals, they feel empowered and proud and are more likely to eat what’s being served.

If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse. Check out her video: 

Forget the kids’ table

When we had dinner with our extended family, were invited to a friend’s house, or attended a party or celebration, my kids always ate with the adults, unless of course, the host had a kids’ table set up for them.

I never brought a separate meal for them and we didn’t ask the host to prepare something different. They could eat what was served—or not—but that was the only option.

Don’t order off the kids’ menu

Most kids’ menus at restaurants are all the same: hot dogs, chicken fingers, burgers and fries.

It’s rare that you’ll find salads, green leafy vegetables or roasted salmon, for example.

When we went out to eat, we’d usually order an entree my daughters could split, modify an item such as adding broccoli to pizza, or order appetizers and salads we all could share.

[VIDEO] 6 Crazy Easy Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy

[VIDEO] 6 Crazy Easy Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy

All parents want their kids to eat healthy, but when it comes to actually making it happen, most are left feeling frustrated, stressed out and exhausted.

Perhaps you’ve tried to make vegetables into fun shapes or works of art.

Or you’ve pureed and snuck them into meals.

I bet you’ve also begged, bribed and negotiated with your kids but all of your efforts fell flat.

Although it can be really frustrating to get your kids to even take a bite, it actually doesn’t have to be.

Here are 6 crazy easy ways to get your kids to eat healthy.

Short on time? Watch my video where I give you my 3 top tips.

 

1. Start early

If you have an infant, making homemade baby food and exposing him to a wide variety of flavors and textures is an almost sure-fire way to get him to enjoy eating healthy now and throughout his life.

In fact, studies show that children like and consume foods that are familiar to them and the earlier and more foods they’re exposed to, the healthier their diets will be.

I’m convinced that’s one of the reasons my kids eat foods like lentils and broccoli today because I served them up regularly from the moment they started solids.

 2. Give kids choices

Whether it’s a toy, a favorite pair of shoes, or which apps they’re allowed to use, kids love choices and food is no different.

Food choices make kids feel empowered and in control—even when you’re the one calling the shots and deciding which foods to buy and when to serve them.

I’d argue that it’s the lack of choices at meals that makes them such a big power struggle with our kids.

While I’m not suggesting you let your kid decide what he’ll eat for dinner, you can give him plenty of opportunities to make choices you both can live with.

For example, offer broccoli and cabbage and let him pick one or both. Or put out a few types of vegetables for him to choose from and do a make your own pasta or taco night.

3. Go shopping together

Another way to give kids choices is to bring them to the grocery store or the farmer’s market and let them pick out a new vegetable they’d like to try.

When you come back home, wash, prepare and cook it together.

They’ll be more like to eat (or at least try) what’s being served because they had a say and a hand in making it.

If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse


4. Get cool gear

Teaching your kids how to cook is an easy way to get your kids to eat healthy.

According to a November 2014 review in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, kids who cooked at home or took cooking classes consumed more fiber-rich foods and fruits and vegetables, were more willing to try new foods, and had an increased confidence in their ability to prepare meals.

What’s more, a May 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior  found young adults who had cooking skills and felt confident in the kitchen were more likely to be healthy eaters. 

One of the best ways to make cooking with your kids fun is to get some cool gear.

Whether it’s a kid’s personalized apron, a chopping board and safe, kid-friendly knives, or a cool chef’s set, your kids will get excited about cooking.


5. Make smoothies or juices

I don’t advocate for hiding vegetables in meals, but making green smoothies or juices is a great way to get several servings of fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet and because they’re green, it’s a non-sneaky way to get your kids to eat healthy.

Even better—let your kid choose the types of green vegetables and fruits and let them help you blend it up.


6. Keep it small

When you were a kid, how likely were you to sit down to an entire plate of asparagus—or worse—Brussels sprouts and eagerly eat it up?

I didn’t think so.

Although it’s true that kids don’t eat enough vegetables, it’s unrealistic to expect kids, especially toddlers, to eat an entire portion of a new food, or a food they’ve previously shunned.

Kids need to have the freedom to smell, taste and explore foods without feeling pressured so serve a teaspoon of broccoli florets or a few baby carrots, for example.

Stay consistent and continue to serve small portions at every meal, every day, and eventually your kids may surprise you.

[VIDEO] 6 Reasons Cooking Can Save Your Kid’s Life

[VIDEO] 6 Reasons Cooking Can Save Your Kid’s Life

When it comes to cooking healthy, homemade meals, most people aren’t on board.

They either don’t like to cook, or think cooking is too difficult, too time consuming or isn’t worth the effort especially after factoring in work, kids’ after-school activities and sports, and everything else that has to get done each day.

In fact, according to data collected by Eddie Yoon, a researcher and consultant for the consumer packaged goods industry, a whopping 45 percent of people hate to cook and 35 are lukewarm about it.

Our dislike for cooking however, is surprising considering the surge in meal kit subscriptions, food delivery apps, restaurants who offer on-the-go ordering, the popularity of cooking shows and Tasty-style videos and the rise of cookbook sales in 2018.

Despite our near-obsession with food and cooking, Americans still spend more money eating out than they do on groceries.

Dining out and ordering in may be quicker, easier, and tastier, but the reality is that doing so is slowly killing our kids.

Not only are we facing a childhood obesity epidemic and more kids than ever are being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, but studies show our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than older generations.

Fat or skinny however, all kids are at risk.

According to a May 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics, 37 percent of kids who have a normal weight have one or more cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar.

One of the reasons kids are sicker than ever is because they’re not given enough opportunities to learn how to cook and actually see what a healthy meal looks like.

The truth is that cooking can save your kid’s life. Here are 6 reasons why. 

Short on time? Check out my video.

1. Cooking makes kids healthier—physically and mentally

Studies show kids who consistently eat meals with their families are healthier kids overall.

In fact, according to a February 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, kids who share family meals together have higher fitness levels, drink less sugary soft drinks, and seem to have better social skills.

Studies also show that kids who eat with their families are less likely to have an eating disorder or become obese and family meals are linked to lower rates of depression, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, better grades and higher levels of self-esteem.

Conversations had around the table may even improve a child’s vocabulary and help them become more resilient.

2. Cooking puts an end to picky eating

If your kid is a picky eater, eating out may seem like an easy solution especially if the restaurant you’re dining in has a kid’s menu.

But feeding kids what they want instead of what they need only reinforces the picky eating pattern.

We tell ourselves (and others), “my kid will only eat X,Y, and Z,” or “there’s no way my kid will eat that,” and that’s exactly what ends up happening.

Dinner may not always be peaceful but when your kids eat a homemade meal and there are no other options, it’s one of the best ways to get them out of their picky eating behaviors.

The more opportunities kids have to enjoy healthy meals and the only choice is what’s being served, they’re more likely to at least try it.

3. Cooking shows kids what real food looks like

Instead of eating out where French fries is the side dish, meals aren’t served with vegetables and everything is smothered in cheese or a sauce, cooking at home gives kids plenty of opportunities to learn what real, fresh food and healthy, balanced meals actually look like.

Cooking means meals are healthier and portions are smaller

A December 2016 study in Nutrition Today found most items on kid’s menus at the top 200 restaurant chains in the U.S. contained 147 more calories than what experts recommend.

When you eat out with your kids, you could avoid the kids menu and instead order a salad and a healthy appetizer, for example.

But since most restaurant meals are 2 to 3 times larger than what they should be, chances are the portions will still be too large. What’s more, most restaurant meals are high in calories, sodium and unhealthy fats. 

Cooking at home lets you control the ingredients, the cooking method and the portion sizes.


4. Cooking strengthens family bonds

Life gets hectic when you have kids and families don’t spend nearly as much time as they’d like.

In fact, a March 2018 study commissioned by Visit Anaheim found Americans spend just 37 minutes of “quality” time together during the week.

The more time you spend together around the dinner table, the more opportunities there are to share stories, resolve conflict, share positive moments from your day and strengthen family bonds.

5. Cooking prepares kids for real life

You may not like to cook, but cooking is a life skill your kids will need, just like doing laundry and cleaning a home.

Sure, you can hire someone to do just about any errand or chore, but if you want to raise kids who are self-sufficient and not lean on mom or dad for everything, teaching them how to cook is key.

Teaching kids basic cooking skills like how to measure ingredients, chop vegetables, use appliances and follow a recipe, are skills that will carry them through life and ensure they’ll put their health first.

If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse

6. Cooking keeps kids with food allergies safe

If you have a child with food allergies, you know that going out to eat—or eating anywhere other than your home—is seriously nerve-wracking.

Although you’ll tell your server about your kid’s food allergies, ask the kitchen to use a clean pan and urge them to avoid cross contamination, anything can happen and unfortunately, you can’t put the onus on the restaurant.

When you cook at home, you don’t have to worry about food allergies, and you know your kid will be safe.

9 Healthy Holiday Tips for Your Family

9 Healthy Holiday Tips for Your Family

With countless opportunities to enjoy sweet, savory and decadent dishes at family gatherings, holiday parties and special events, combined with treats tempting us at virtually every store (food or otherwise), it’s no wonder most people overindulge during the holidays.

Blame it on food marketing, the societal draw or stress, but 87 percent of Americans say they have an increase in food cravings this time of year and 75 percent experience guilt after giving into their cravings, a recent poll found.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and food is a big part of that enjoyment, but overindulging from now until New Year’s Eve can cause weight gain, affect mood, interfere with sleep and make your family more likely to get sick.

With a bit of planning and some simple strategies however, you can enjoy all the season has to offer without all the pitfalls. Consider these 7 healthy holiday tips for your family.

 

1. Don’t arrive hungry

If you know your family will eat a large holiday meal later on in the day, you might be tempted to skip meals.

If you arrive feeling famished however, you’ll be more likely to overeat when the meal is served.

Skipping breakfast in particular is a mistake. Studies show people who eat breakfast, especially one that’s high in protein, eat less calories throughout the day.

Do your best to serve healthy meals and snacks at the same times you and your family usually eat.

The same goes if dinner will be served in the middle of the day, although you may want to have a snack instead of a meal. A combination of protein and fiber like celery sticks and hummus or an apple with almond butter is ideal.

2. Bake healthy

Between pumpkin pie, eggnog and all those Christmas cookies, there will be plenty of sweets to go around, but that doesn’t mean everything you make has to be high in calories, fat and sugar.

With a few simple substitutions, there are several ways to bake healthy during the holidays and still enjoy all the desserts.

Check out my healthy holiday baking tips here.

3. Bring a healthy dish

If you’ll be attending a holiday event at someone else’s home, offer to bring a healthy dish that everyone can enjoy.

If your kids have food allergies or someone in the family has specific dietary restrictions or preferences, bringing a healthy dish is also a great way to keep them safe and ensure they have something to eat as well.

4. Model healthy eating habits

You can teach your kids how to enjoy all the delicious food without going overboard by taking small, healthy portions, making choices about what goes on your plate and enjoying everything in moderation.

When most people are reaching for second and third portions, you can show your child that it’s possible to enjoy the food without stuffing your face.

5. Get moving

To help burn off excess calories, combat stress and keep everyone on an even keel, carve out time before or after a holiday celebration to do something active.

This can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, a game of catch in the backyard, an indoor dance party or a game of Twister.

6. Make sleep a priority

Irregular schedules and later-than-usual bedtimes can throw everyone in the family off schedule.

Without enough sleep, everyone will be more irritable and more likely to reach for food and make unhealthy food choices.

In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11pm were 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.

8. Give kids a kids-sized plate

Kids don’t need the same size dinner plate as adults, and may end up eating more because of it.

Make sure your kid has a kid-sized plate or an appetizer plate to keep portions healthy.

9. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues

When food is in abundance during the holidays, it’s easy to overeat. Paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues however, can prevent you from reaching for seconds.

If your kids tend to overeat on special occasions too, depending on their ages, you can talk to them about eating when they’re hungry and to stop when they’re not hungry.

Sure, there’s always room for dessert but teaching them how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues can prevent them from eating just because the food is there.

10. Strike a balance

Raising kids to be healthy eaters includes teaching them how to enjoy delicious food, not be deprived of it.

Allow treats, but also strike a balance by serving plenty of healthy, whole foods including plenty of vegetables when you’re not celebrating.

8 Tips For Teaching Kids How To Cook

8 Tips For Teaching Kids How To Cook

One of the best ways to get your kids to eat healthy now and throughout their lives is to teach them how to cook healthy meals.

My kids have been helping me in the kitchen since they were toddlers and we all have a lot of fun cooking and baking together.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I’ve got the cooking chops of Martha Stewart and my kids are little chefs who follow suite, however.

Not even close.

Most of the time when we cook together, I try to strike a balance between teaching and keeping them busy and avoiding messes, mishaps and meltdowns.

Last week, I even let my 5-year-old use a vegetable peeler and pairing knife to prepare carrots for a large family dinner.

I nearly had a heart attack worrying that she might lose a finger, but I showed her how to cut away from her fingers and I watched carefully.

Benefits of Cooking With Kids

When kids learn how to cook, it’s an invaluable—and one might argue—essential life skill.

Kids not only learn how to prepare meals, they also learn about nutrition, portion control, math, science, and food safety.

Cooking improves their literacy, critical thinking and fine motor skills.

Studies show people who cook at home eat healthier, eat less, and have better control of their weight, so it’s also a healthy habit to teach now.

Need more reasons? Check out  5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids.

Tips To Teach Kids How To Cook

Cooking with your kids can be a fun, valuable activity for the whole family. Here are some tips to help you make the most of it.

1. Review the safety rules

Before you can teach your kids how to chop vegetables, sauté garlic and beat eggs, they’ll need to learn some food and kitchen safety rules.

Make sure they wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before prepping food and after handling raw meat, poultry and fish.

Teach them to avoid eating uncooked food (licking the spatula counts!) and putting their hands in their mouth.

Lastly, teach your kids to be careful around knives and kitchen appliances with sharp blades, use caution around a hot stove and oven, use oven mitts and how to hold a pot handle.

2. Keep it age appropriate

When teaching your kids how to cook, think about their age and maturity level.

Three to 5-year-olds can help pour and mix, turn on the food processor, wash produce and add seasonings, while older kids can break eggs, peel and chop vegetables, measure ingredients, read recipes, stir food on the stovetop and put food in the oven.

3. Let them choose

When kids feel empowered to make their own food choices, they’re more likely to eat healthy.

When you’re not in a rush to get dinner on the table and you have time to experiment, let your kids pick out a new recipe or decide on the type of meal they’d like to make.

Make a list of ingredients and go grocery shopping together, which teaches them all the steps that are required to pull a meal together.

4. Make it more fun

Professional chefs are creative, know how to experiment, and problem solve in the kitchen—skills you can teach your kids no matter how inexperienced you think you are.

Try new recipes, swap an ingredient, substitute a spice or change the cooking method. Your kids may surprise you with new ideas too.

5. Clean up together

Teaching kids how to properly clean the kitchen is just as important as teaching them how to cook.

Little kids can (gently!) put bowls and cooking utensils in the sink, while older kids can load the dishwasher, wash and dry pots and pans and clean and disinfect cutting boards and countertops.

6. Get some cool gear

You can make cooking even more fun but buying your kids their own aprons, kid-sized cutting boards and utensils or a colorful stool to reach the counter.

7. Spread the joy

Cooking will bring your family together but it’s also a good opportunity to teach your kids about contributing to a family meal and helping others.

Let them help you prepare Thanksgiving dinner, bake treats for the school fundraiser or cook a meal for a friend in need.

They’ll feel so proud that they had a hand in making the meal and making others happy. Of course, the memories you’ll make will be priceless.

8. Let it go

 Cooking with your kids will definitely take longer than when you cook alone and you’re guaranteed a mess afterwards.

I’ll admit, this is a #momfail for me. I like to clean the kitchen as I go, and when something spills, I sigh.

When I relax however, and don’t make a big deal when soup splatters or some flour spills on the floor, it’s a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.

5 Things I Tell My Kids About Healthy Eating, Plus 1 Thing I Never Say

5 Things I Tell My Kids About Healthy Eating, Plus 1 Thing I Never Say

Raising kids who are healthy eaters takes more than just feeding them healthy foods—it’s an ongoing conversation about healthy eating and healthy habits.

Here are some things I tell my kids about healthy eating practically every week, plus one that I’m always mum about.

#1. “Watch your portions.”

Teaching kids about portion sizes isn’t a lesson most parents teach their kids but it’s a really important one.

In the U.S., portion sizes are double—even triple what they should be. Whether you’re picking up a coffee at Starbucks or eating out, we come to expect large portions. Inflated portion sizes are also one of the reasons we’re facing an obesity epidemic.

Although my kids are allowed to have seconds at dinner, I often talk to them about portion sizes. Whether it’s a serving of beans, fruit, or cookies, my kids often ask, “is this enough?”

Most of the time, it’s too much but I use it as an opportunity to teach them what a healthy portion size looks like. Sometimes I’ll have them dish out a snack in a measuring bowl or I’ll explain that an ounce of raisins is the size of their palm, for example.

When kids learn how to read and can understand basic math, you can teach them how to read food labels and see how many servings are in a container and what an actual serving size is.

#2. “Green leafy vegetables are great.”

When my kids ask about healthy vegetables, I tell them they should eat the rainbow but green leafy vegetables should make up a majority of their diet.

Although vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, and squash are healthy, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, salad greens, and asparagus are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and one of the best super foods that should be included in your kid’s diet.

#3. “You need protein.”

Oatmeal for breakfast can be a healthy option, but without some protein, I know my kids won’t have the energy to go all morning.

I do my best to make sure my kids get protein at every meal and snack—whether it’s yogurt, eggs or sunflower seeds. Protein is important for all of the cells in their bodies, helps to keep them satiated and is vital for their growth and development.

#4. “There are no ‘bad’ foods.”

My kids often ask me about specific foods and whether they’re healthy or not but I try to explain that food isn’t ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Although refined, white pasta isn’t something they eat regularly and not a food I’d consider healthy for example, I never call it unhealthy.

Labeling foods can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food later on in life. Just think about how many people you know who eliminate whole food groups because they think they’re “bad.”

The lesson I try to teach my kids is that fresh, whole, and healthy foods should make their way onto their plates a majority of the time, and nothing is off-limits.

#5. “Sure, you can have a treat.”

I don’t carry candy in my bag or keep the pantry stocked with junk food, but my kids know treats are OK to eat and balance is key. Although I’d love to control and keep tabs on everything they eat, I have learned that if I’m too restrictive, they’ll overindulge at other times. I also recognize that I can’t prevent them from being kids, especially when they’re with other kids for special occasions–not at school.

Since my kids eat healthy 90 percent of the time, they know when they’ve overindulged on treats on the weekends or at parties, so I don’t necessarily have to point it out. Besides, raising a child who is a healthy eater means helping them learn how to eat healthy while also having the freedom to enjoy treats.

The One Word I Never Speak To My Kids

“You Could Gain Weight”

Children pick up on everything we say and do, and “weight” is one thing I don’t talk to my kids about.

As a child myself, I can remember thinking about my weight a lot, whether it was because of models in magazines or my mom—like most moms—who were on diets.

Don’t get me wrong—when I’m talking to my kids about how much they’re eating, I’ve nearly blurted out the W word. I know that if I ever do say it, it could do lasting damage to the perception of themselves and their self-esteem, and stick with them throughout their lives. So instead of talking about weight, I always focus on their health.