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Healthy Eating for the Whole Family

Helping your kids establish healthy eating habits now will give them a solid foundation for a lifetime of positive food choices. It doesn’t take much to get them on the right track.

Raising children to adopt healthy eating behaviours may seem daunting, but it does not have to be. Most importantly, parents should expose their children to a wide variety of foods starting at an early age. Usually children reject certain foods because they are new to them. It may take several exposures before they develop a liking to these initially unfavourable foods.

Consuming appropriate portion sizes is also critical for a healthy diet. One study found that when a portion size of carrots was doubled and served as a first course, children ate 47% more of them. Increasing the portion size of vegetables and decreasing the portion size of energy-dense, yet nutrient-poor foods would lead to healthier eating.

Notably, the way fruits and vegetables look on the plate influences the likelihood that children will try them. One study found that children ate more fruit when it was boat-shaped compared to fruit served simply on a white plate.
In conclusion, parents should be active in their children’s meal times without being overbearing.

Parents can positively influence their young children’s diets by doing some or all of the following:

  • Be a positive role model by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Provide a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables to your children starting when solid foods are introduced.
  • Schedule meal times, and eat together as a family.
  • Offer new foods that are nutritious but not immediately appealing at least 5–10 times.
  • Allow children to self-regulate – to determine when they are hungry and full.
  • Praise children and/or offer a non-food reward such as sticker when they eat fruits and vegetables or when they try a new food.
  • Apply a moderate amount of restriction and teach that all foods can be part of a healthy diet in the right amounts.
  • Encourage but don’t pressure your children to eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Offer larger portions of vegetables (for specifics, see below) or serve vegetables as a first course.
  • Make fruits and vegetables visually appealing by changing the shape or method of cooking.