How Can You Encourage Children to Make Healthier Food Choices?

How Can You Encourage Children to Make Healthier Food Choices?

In the quest for fostering healthier eating habits among the young ones, we've gathered insights from nutrition experts on innovative methods to guide children and adolescents. From teaching body awareness through food to communicating real health consequences, explore the four creative strategies shared by Registered Dietitians and Certified Nutrition Coaches.

  • Teach Body Awareness Through Food
  • Set Up a DIY Snack Station
  • Play the 'Traffic Light' Food Game
  • Communicate Real Health Consequences

Teach Body Awareness Through Food

One creative approach I use as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in gastrointestinal diseases is to guide children and adolescents in paying attention to how different foods make them feel, focusing on energy levels and any digestive or physical symptoms they might experience. By teaching them to honor their body's responses to various foods, they become more in tune with their needs and preferences. This practice helps them understand the connection between their diet and overall well-being, making them more likely to choose nutritious options that make them feel good.

Danielle Gaffen
Danielle GaffenRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Eat Well Crohn's Colitis

Set Up a DIY Snack Station

I have worked with adults and children to help them make healthy food choices. One thing is sure: working with children and adolescents can be a bit challenging, but at the same time, it was fun for me.

Adolescents listen to their taste buds rather than their health. They might not yet know that their body is their temple. It's not a trash can where you throw whatever comes to your plate. That is why you need to start from scratch when it comes to working with adolescents.

The first thing that I did with one of my clients was to tell them to set up a DIY snack station at home. In my opinion, when someone makes their own snacks, they understand the nutrition better.

To make a DIY snack station, one needs to:

- Stock up their kitchen with fruits and vegetables like apples, berries, grapes, carrots, cucumbers, and other greens and fruits.

- Have whole-grain options like crackers, whole-grain pita bread, and others.

- Keep protein sources like hummus, cheese cubes, Greek yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs.

Choose healthy spreads and toppings like nut butter, mashed avocado, and low-fat cream. The next thing one needs to do is make sure their kids get involved.

I ensured that making a snack was a fun activity in which the whole family participated. If you want your children to eat healthy, it will start with you. Take the help of your children to wash and prep the fruits and vegetables.

The other thing parents should ensure is that their children choose a variety of healthy foods to get a sufficient amount of nutrition. To begin with, make a veggie platter with colorful bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli. Or a fruit platter. Once you get used to using and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, start experimenting with them and explore new recipes.

The most important part for me was to educate and encourage her to incorporate healthy food into their lives. For instance, the child knew that carrots were good for her eye health because that is what she was being told. But I told her why carrots are considered so important for eye health and about other foods that have vitamin A in them that are good for her eye health.

This family that I was working with saw significant changes in their child's choices of food and eating habits. The child started asking for more healthy options in their diet and would experiment with healthy foods as well.

Gurmohan Singh
Gurmohan SinghCertified Nutrition Coach, Desi Nutrition

Play the 'Traffic Light' Food Game

One creative way to encourage children to make healthier choices is through interactive games. I recommend setting up a "traffic light" food game where kids sort foods into three categories: green "go" foods that are nutritious options, yellow "slow down" foods that are okay in moderation, and red "stop" foods that are reserved for special occasions. Children love sorting and organizing, so this visual and interactive game can help illustrate which foods fit into a balanced diet and which ones should be limited. They gain an understanding of portion sizes and moderation while having fun at the same time.

Huma Shaikh
Huma ShaikhDietitian and Health Advocate

Communicate Real Health Consequences

I think communicating the importance of eating healthy food and being real about the health factors of an unhealthy lifestyle are the two biggest things you can teach your children about wellness.

Since going through a lot of loss because of illness and disease already, they know how important healthy food choices are to me. And I'm very real about the outcome of a poor diet. Eventually, you must let them decide for themselves, as they are teenagers, but hopefully, as they mature, they will continue to make positive choices for themselves and their family.

Elizabeth Nelson
Elizabeth NelsonFounder, Farm Fueled Nutrition

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