Healthy Eating Choices Are Taught and Caught

— Written By Robin McNeill and last updated by Abi Reid
en Español / em Português

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     Eating healthy is something that can be somewhat of a struggle, but how do we teach our children to eat healthy?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Model healthy eating.
  • Plan and prepare food using MyPlate.
  • Choose recipes together discussing the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy recipe.
  • Choose healthy snack recipes you and your children can make together.
  • Cooking together is one of the best ways to involve your children in the kitchen.

My youngest son in the kitchen helping cook breakfast.

     When my children were small, we would make miniature pizzas with a can of biscuits, pizza quick sauce and assorted toppings such as cheese and pepperoni. They loved it, but even at this age it opened the door for me to speak with them about cooking and healthy eating. Believe me, one was pickier than the other two, one was not willing to try new things and one would eat anything you put in front of them. I tried to include them in the kitchen whether it was helping with a recipe, setting the table and yes, washing dishes. At young ages, they loved doing these tasks, but as they became older, it wasn’t as much fun.

     As they grew older, my younger son really paid attention to watching everything  he was eating. My daughter and other son came more into it from their activities in sports. They realized what they were eating would directly impact their performance. They were making connections, which was great! My younger son started checking every nutrition facts label along with the ingredients list on each food item. He even went through a time where he became a vegetarian. Since the rest of the family was not vegetarian, this made meal planning a challenge. Even though it was a challenge, I was encouraged by the fact he was taking the time to read the nutrition facts label and ingredients list on each food item. 

     As parents, I see this as our goal for our children. We want them to know how to cook, identify what is healthy and care about what they are putting into their bodies. My daughter and older son are still actively exercising regularly which causes them to continue to be mindful of what they consume. While my younger son is no longer a vegetarian, he continues to read nutrition facts labels and eat healthy.

     As our children become older, it may surprise you to learn they were not only hearing you, but actually listening.