Parents can be and often are the greatest teachers and role models for nutrition for their own children. When it comes to healthy eating, parents should not take the attitude of “do as I say and not as I do.”

A recent study posted in the Public Health Nursing journal revealed that a child’s eating habit is influenced largely by the mother’s diet. This should come as no surprise. Children who are exposed to healthy eating choices early on will make healthy choices later in life. Ideally, it is the role of the parents to introduce fruits and vegetables to kids at a young age. Kids are creatures of habit, just like the rest of us.

In some families, obesity tends to be a family trait. When children pattern themselves after the unhealthy habits of adults, they too become unhealthy adults. This does not have to be the case.

Here are some ways to get your kids to eat healthy foods:

  • Model healthy eating. Kids do as they see. Set a good example for healthy eating. Don’t be a fast food junkie, yourself but expect your kids to want carrots and green beans.
  • Be creative in food presentations. Healthy foods do not have to be boring. Get the kids involved in making the foods look “fun.”  Make healthy versions of kids favorites – for example, baked sweet potato fries drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.
  • Be honest about the impact of eating unhealthy food. Teach them about having a lifetime of good nutrition. Remember the saying, “you are what you eat.”  This doesn’t mean identifying foods as bad.  Instead, take a positive approach.  Tell your children how carrots make them “bullet-proof” for seeing in the dark (high in Vitamin A) and broccoli makes their bones strong (high calcium content).
  • Make cooking meals and grocery shopping a family affair. I know that shopping with small kids can some times be a daunting task. However, I have learned that the more involved kids are in the meal planning process, the more equipped they are to make good choices.

It is important not to bribe your kids to eat healthy nor punish them for not eating healthy. Bribery and punishment may give you an immediate response, but they can negatively affect the child and their attitude about food over a long period of time. Keep your attitude positive and actions healthy when it comes to nutrition. Your children will thank you.