How to get your child to eat healthy food

With childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes on the rise for kids in our country, it is becoming increasingly important to examine what kinds of foods we give our children.  It is also a time when people are beginning to reconsider what is “normal” to feed children because, let’s face it, the “normal” can lead to health problems. (Can I get an Amen, Jamie Oliver?!)

Difficulty Feeding Healthy Food Choices

Many parents have great intentions of providing nutritious food, but fall into a rut because the healthy options are aggressively refused.  Who wants to spend the money on vegetables that are brushed aside night after night when a peanut butter sandwich will be consumed without struggle?

Recently we had to take out gluten and cow’s milk out of my son’s diet, so I’ve consulted a book published by the American Academy of Pediatrics called Food Fights for some hot tips to get  our child to eat nutritious food.  My picky eater would only eat peanut butter sandwiches, cereal bars, fruit and cheese quesadillas–not the vision of health–so  I was in need of some serious help!

In the chapter, “Food, Food Everywhere but Not a Bite They’ll Eat,” the authors examine the causes of decreased appetite and how to get your child to eat healthy food.


Common Reasons Kids Won’t Eat Healthy Foods

1.  A successful meal doesn’t necessarily mean a “clean plate.”  More than half of Americans are members of the “clean plate club,” which can lead to significant overeating.

2.  Do not give your child any snacks at least an hour before meal time.  I was guilty of giving Jackson a snack while I prepared his meal and was shocked when he didn’t touch the actual meal.

3.  Drinking milk, juice or water for a prolonged period of time before a meal can lead to a decreased appetite.  Many children “drink their dinners” before it’s actually mealtime.

4.  Sickness, even a runny nose, can affect a child’s appetite.  Your child’s desire to eat may not return for a week after the illness has passed.

How to get to Yes to Healthy Food Options

1.  Offer a “No thank you” bite to your child to relieve some of the pressure of eating a whole meal.  A “No thank you” bite is just a single bite of a food your child has determined that he does not want.  Simply sit back and state that you don’t expect him to eat the whole plate, but he can say “No thank you” after eating just one bite.  It may be a little bit of food, but it is a large step in getting your child to stop the knee-jerk “Noooooo” reflex.

2.  Hold out.  This is the hardest one, but the one I’ve recently found most effective.  Children are smart and will quickly realize how long it takes to get you give them the food they want.  (In our house, it’s NANA!!! all the time!)

Don’t be afraid to call your child’s bluff.  My husband assures me that children will not starve if there is food available, so I recently adopted that philosophy and will only offer healthy options to him.  Just last week he tried five foods for the first time, which is nothing short of a miracle in this house.

Of course you should consult your doctor with matters pertaining to your child’s diet, because the “hold out” method, specifically, should be monitored if your child begins losing weight.

Getting your kids to eat the right foods can be time-consuming, cost you more money, emotionally taxing!!  But giving the gift of health and a strong body is one of the most precious legacies we can leave to our children.

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What do you think?



  1. 1

    The hold out method is hard, but we do it. Our doctor thinks it’s great. To top it off our kids actually ask for foods that they used to refuse to eat. My two oldest kids in preschool this year and are having a hard time with eating school food for lunch because it’s not the fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meats that they’re used to.