How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy Without a Fight

Eat your veggies. Try it, you’ll like it. Take one small bite or no dessert. It’s a common fight around dinner tables. Well-intentioned parents battling it out with stubborn children. But, getting your kids to eat healthy doesn’t have to involve bribery, begging, or tears. With a few simple tips, parents can turn their kids into “broccoli-loving” “veggie platter scarfing” healthy little humans.

Obesity among adolescents has reached an epidemic in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of obesity has doubled among children in the last 30 years. That translates to more than one-third of kids in the U.S. falling into the obese category. Partly to blame is the sedentary lifestyles so many families lead. Too many video games, too much time spent on Social Media, and very little time spent moving around (exercising). Another big factor: poor diet. Fast food, high-calorie and high sugar drinks, and an overabundance of sweets.

So, how do you get your veggie-averse kid to enjoy asparagus or carrots?

Nutrition experts suggest associating eating healthy foods with a positive feeling. Don’t force your child to eat new foods. Try not to say negative things about healthy foods. Don’t give up after one try. Next time, prepare the vegetables differently. Roasting veggies brings out the natural sugar and may make an otherwise “yucky” veggie quite tasty. Make healthy cooking a family affair by asking each family member to help with different parts of the cooking process. Model the kind of behavior you want to see. For more great ideas on getting your kids to eat healthy and enjoy it, check out this Kohl’s Fit video on healthy eating.

What if you have a picky eater? Child psychologists say bribing your kid to eat a certain food does not work, so give up that tactic. Instead, make healthy choices your child’s idea. Put them in the driver’s seat. Have them go shopping with you. Studies show when kids get to make choices they are more apt to follow through. Start with something you know they like, for example, pizza or tacos. Ask them to pick the toppings. Make gentle suggestions like “why don’t we try roasted broccoli and cheese on the pizza” or “I bet shredded cabbage or corn salsa would taste great on the tacos”. Once you get home, have them help you prepare the meal. This Kohl’s Fit video on picky eaters has other great tips.

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Healthy eating doesn’t have to be a minefield of frustration, dilemmas, and sulking. By being firm but understanding and open to new ideas, you can turn even the most dire dinnertimes into a victory.