It’s not as tricky as you’d think! Teach your kids to love healthy food without battles or bribes! Sponsored by Habitz.
I’ve got to admit, my girls are much better at eating their vegetables than I was as a kid! In fact, there are many veggies that they love and request regularly.
What’s the secret?
Well, it’s not exactly a secret, and with these simple steps you too can teach your kids to love healthy food! (The sooner you start the easier it will be, and it’s never too late!)
How to Teach Your Kids to Love Healthy Food
Growing up, things like soda were not on our weekly grocery list. I used to whine to my mom that “other kids” always had soda at home (they did!), so why couldn’t we?
I don’t know if I’ve ever actually said “thank you” to my mom, but I’m so grateful because today I don’t have much taste for sodas. And that’s a good thing when the average soft drink packs a whopping 40 grams of sugar per serving and 150 empty calories!
Which brings me to our number one…
1. Don’t Keep Junk Food in the House
Just like in my childhood home, junk food is considered a “treat” and not on our grocery list.
If unhealthy food isn’t available, kids can’t eat it!
While we don’t exclude junk food from our children’s lives completely, we do limit our consumption and we don’t keep it in the house.
We try to teach our kids to have a realistic view of food: a little treat here and there is just fine (and fun!) However, taking care of our bodies is important, which is why we don’t eat those junk foods every day.
Limited exposure to junk foods means that kids are less likely to develop a taste for it (and this may continue into adulthood!)
2. Positive Reinforcement with Habitz
Sometimes a little extra incentive is helpful for getting kids on the right track, especially if healthy choices are not quite a daily habit yet.
Since kids these days are all about apps, we tried something a little different than the usual paper “star chart” to make healthy choices fun.
The Habitz app allows kids to earn virtual coins for positive living choices they make on a daily basis, and those coins can be redeemed for real-life rewards, like favorite toy or book on Amazon (kids make a request in Habitz and parents can choose whether or not purchase a reward).
There are also reward options that are completely free for parents, like redeeming coins for activities such as extra screen time or a family game night.
I absolutely love that there are rewards that aren’t just “things,” but that encourage family time!
How Habitz works:
1. Parents download the free app from the App Store and create a profile for each child participating (recommended ages are 6-13).
2. Parents set a list of daily goals for each child, for example, “drink 2 cups of water.” We chose a few goals that would be easy to meet, as well as some that might be a challenge.
3. Each day, kids mark off goals as they complete them, earning coins as they go.
4. Kids redeem points for prizes and/or activities.
We found the Habitz app easy to use and engaging — my oldest daughter asks every day if we could check what we’d done in Habitz. It took zero convincing to get her on board and she loves the fact that she has her own profile that she can navigate by herself.
In addition to being an easy tool to help teach kids to love healthy food, Habitz reinforces other positive choices, like teeth brushing and going to bed on time.
There are even funny stories kids can read with helpful hints – with more added regularly.
3. Involve Kids in Grocery Shopping
My husband is the chef in our family, and he loves to grocery shop (good thing, because I sure don’t!) I swear, I think he finds an excuse to hit the supermarket every single day!
Our youngest daughter loves to accompany her daddy on these daily runs to the store, so she gets a first-hand look at what we buy and why.
Grocery shopping provides an easy opportunity to talk to kids in a practical setting about the different foods available, plus it gives them a chance to help with the family menu (and sometimes taste some free samples!)
When kids are involved in the decision-making, even just a little bit, they’re much more likely to take it seriously as it gives them a sense of accountability.
4. Cook ONE Meal for Dinner
Our house is not a restaurant — we don’t take individual dinner orders!
We’re busy enough as parents that we don’t need to make things harder on ourselves by trying to cater to everyone’s individual whims.
There’s a difference between asking the family for weekly dinner suggestions and being a short order cook. My husband and I like to involve the girls in our menu planning, because it helps teach them life skills. The girls know the drill and suggest their favorite meals that my husband cooks.
Because we’ve stuck to this rule from the beginning, the girls know that what’s for dinner is what’s for dinner. Period. They don’t even try to ask for alternate options when dinner is served.
5. Limit Snacking
Even healthy-ish snacks can ruin an appetite if enjoyed too close to dinner. We enjoy protein-rich snacks like cashews or energy balls, and while they have lots of nutritional benefits, they are definitely filling!
Our snacking “rules” –
- No junk food snacks (we try not to keep those types of items in the house)
- Only one helping at snack time
- No snacks within an hour before mealtime
Try these healthy snack recipes:
6. Make Veggies Taste Good
Growing up we ate a lot of frozen vegetables — and it was a chore finishing a whole helping of frozen peas!
As we got older, my mom grew more adventurous with her cooking and started preparing quite a few delicious veggie options. (I especially loved her ginger green beans!)
My husband also has a knack for making vegetables taste amazing — in fact, my girls call his sautéed carrots “Candy Carrots” because they taste so good!
Some of our favorite flavorful vegetable side dish recipes:
Kids really aren’t that hard to please — if something tastes good, they’ll eat it. And you don’t have to douse vegetables in butter or cheese to make them palatable!
Branch out with your side dish options and you might be surprised when “eat your veggies” becomes a good thing to your kids!
7. Allow them to Dislike Some Things
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s ok if kids legitimately don’t like everything. There are probably a few certain foods that you simply don’t enjoy yourself!
My rule of thumb: take two full bites before you judge. Still don’t like it? Give me an explanation that makes sense, and be sure to eat the other vegetable that’s on your plate. (We almost always have at least two vegetables for dinner, that way there’s no excuse not to eat any veggies).
Neither one of my girls like avocados (probably a texture thing), but I didn’t either at that age. And that’s ok! We don’t force them to eat foods that they dislike, but we do revisit them later down the road (perhaps with a different preparation).
Giving children the ability to communicate their tastes actually helps you because you can better plan meals where every item is a hit, ending dinnertime battles.
Furthermore, if kids know that you’re actually listening to their opinion, they’re more likely to answer honestly instead simply saying “I don’t like it” before they even taste something.
Teach Your Kids to Love Healthy Food — and They’ll Love it for LIFE!
Because my mom made healthy eating a priority in our family growing up, I prefer those same foods today. Thanks mom!
Teaching kids healthy habits young means that they’re more likely to continue those same lifestyle choices as adults.
Getting kids to eat healthy food doesn’t have to be a battle. If you make it fun and involve them in some of the decision-making, you might be surprised to find just how willing they are to try new things, and make better choices.
Disclosure: The preceding is a sponsored post on behalf of Habitz. All opinions are my own – we take care to recommend products that we use and love in our own lives.