14 Secrets for Turning Kids into Healthy Eaters

By , Jennifer Conrad, Woman's Day
We know what it's like—you prepare a well-balanced, nutritious meal for your kids, only to have them turn up their noses at the veggies. Before you give up and head for the McDonald's drive-thru, consider this: With a little know-how—and patience—you can instill healthy habits in your children. We've talked to some of today's leading nutrition experts and learned real-life tricks for sneaking in good-for-you foods at home, at school—and yes, even at fast-food joints. 

Start With Yourself

"Parents need to be role models," says Jennifer Shu, MD, coauthor of Food Fights. Let your kids see you snacking on fruit and filling up your plate with nutritious food—it'll be easier for them to follow by example.

Stop the Sweets

Help your kids acquire a taste for healthy foods by limiting sugary treats and not introducing them to sweets at a young age. "Children are born with a sweet tooth," explains Dr. Shu. "It's a survival mechanism because breast milk is sort of sweet. Kids tend to retain it, especially if you introduce sweet foods early."

Keep Trying

It can take several tries before a kid starts to like a food, so if they don't like something the first time, bring it back around another day. "It can take up to 10 exposures for kids' taste buds to change," explains Felicia Stoler, a dietician and host of Honey We're Killing the Kids!

"Just one bite."

One way to make sure kids try healthy foods they may not like initially: Have them take what Dr. Shu calls "'No, thank you' bites." In other words, once your child has taken a bite of something she doesn't want to try, she may say, "No, thank you" and leave the rest.

Click here for more tips on raising healthy eaters from Woman’s Day.

More from Woman’s Day:What steps are your taking to teach healthy habits in your children? What challenges do you face?

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ZORBS13 - I can so relate! I raised 2 kids who were really good eaters - they would try lots of things and never got catered to. Now I have a grandbaby in the house who is really picky and it blows my mind. If it's green, it has to be chopped small and in a casserole. Fortunately that works at least part of the time, but she's even getting smarter about that and will pick stuff out or just refuse the bites... Not giving up - she's not going to to live on chicken nuggets, even if they are preservative free and have whole wheat breading; or on mac and cheese - even if it is Annie's. Report
I would always put a message on my "diet" food in the refrigerator that said "MOM'S DIET FOOD DO NOT EAT" and of course, they had to eat my vegetables and fruits. Worked great. They are all grown now and very health concerned. Report
My mother did this with us - when we said "I don't want it" she'd say "then have a don't-want helping." Now I appreciate being able to try new foods, to travel to new places, and to share new experiences with other people - all because I am willing to eat with them. A very important lesson to teach children. Report
Our modification of the "one bite" rule was that our sons had to take two bites. Often, they would have decided before the first bite was even in their mouth that they didn't like it, without actually giving themselves a chance to taste it! Often times they realized they actually liked something, maybe not enough to take seconds, but enough to eat what was on their plates. That was good enough for us. Now as young men, they are pretty healthy eaters, especially our younger son who will try just about anything! Our older son is autistic so he does like routine but is learning to break out of it and try new foods more on his own. Report
I had times when even the "one bite" option didn't work raising my DS and DDa. As they hit their teens and now adulthood, their tastes adjusted on their own - to the point that my DDa will now put things on her salads that I won't eat. I'm the picky eater by comparison. =P Report
My parents were very good at pushing my brother and I to try new foods, which is part of why I have such broad tastes as an adult. I have to admit I haven't been nearly as good about it with my own daughter. She's now 14 and it's really tough to get her to eat anything she doesn't like, or has decided in advance she won't like. The only upside is that she hates beer and wine! :-) Report
We always used the "1-bite rule" to great success with my 9yo daughter, who is a great eater. She HAD to have 1 bite of everything on her plate before she could have seconds of her favorites. My son, however, would rather leave the table hungry for a few years! We'd insist on the 1-bite rule, so then he'd just say he was done and not eat any more! But, now that he's four, he's gotten better about being willing to try most anything the rest of us are eating. It really does make a difference that we've never catered to them or made special "kid food" just for them. We cook what we cook, and that's what their choices are. I will NOT make separate foods just for the kids. Report
We already do all of the above, except "just one bite", because my son won't even touch anything healthy. It mortifies me that my son is the pickiest eater ever, and he is the son of 2 parents who are great role models. Report
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