5 Tips for Getting Young Kids to Eat Healthier!

“Trust me, it’s good for you,” has never been a compelling enough argument to move broccoli from the fork to a toddler’s mouth. “Just try it,” doesn’t tend to yield much better results either.

At times, getting your toddler (let’s be honest, maybe even your teenager) to eat healthy feels like an uphill battle. After all, what three-year-old wants green beans when there are fruit snacks?!

At St. Thomas Medical Group, pediatricians aim to ensure toddlers and children get adequate nutrition… and for you to keep your sanity! Parents should always feel welcome to discuss diet, nutrition, and eating strategies with providers during wellness exams. Until your child’s next exam, reference these tips below from our pediatric health care team…

5 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Diet

  1. Make it fun. Presenting a plate full of veggies or unfamiliar “healthy” foods in front of a child is often a big turn-off. It’s perfectly fine to introduce new foods (you should!), and nutritious items should be a part of every meal. That being said, mealtime is not an all-or-nothing battle. Include foods your child knows and likes with every meal. Then, make the new or healthy foods that you introduce fun. Broccoli florets can come with a delicious dipping sauce, whole grain toast can be cut into small star shapes, bananas can come with peanut butter, etc.
  2. Involve your child. Children are primed to soak up new experiences. Why not give your toddler the opportunity to pick out a fruit or veggie at the grocery store? Take it home, cut it up, taste it, talk about it. Maybe they won’t like the taste of that grapefruit they selected, but they might be wowed by the brilliant ruby color and enjoy the autonomy that comes along with choosing their own special fruit. By opening up your child to the diversity of food, you’re planting seeds of curiosity, which can blossom into a willingness to explore and experiment.
  3. Be the eater you want your child to be! If you want your child to eat carrots and hummus for a snack, you can’t eat french fries and ketchup. Set an example for your child by eating nutritious foods.
  4. Get on a schedule. You are not a short order cook and the kitchen is not always open. Establish a breakfast, lunch and dinner routine with two snacks during the day. Toddlers will learn to self-regulate. If they refuse breakfast, they can catch up at lunch. While it is perfectly fine to offer options, your menu should have limited options. Finally, keep meal time under a half-hour. Don’t let meals drag out to a point that your toddler becomes fidgety and disinterested. Give the appropriate five- or ten-minute warning and then remove the remaining food, assuming your child is no longer consistently taking bites.
  5. Treats and “junk” are okay. Getting your child to eat healthier doesn’t mean you have to completely purge the pantry of sugar. When you completely forbid a food group, you risk putting that group on a pedestal and creating an increased desire for that thing! Cookies and juice are okay. As the saying goes, “All things in moderation.” Talk through why these foods are special treats and dole them out accordingly.

See a Pediatrician in Nashville Today

Find a pediatrician near you at St. Thomas Medical Group Department of Children and Adults. Please note, walk-ins are available on Saturday for established patients with acute medical concerns. (Learn more.) To schedule an appointment, call +1 (615) 301-7040 or schedule online.