I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat, Play, Love blog carnival hosted by Meals Matter and Dairy Council of California to share ideas on positive and fun ways to teach children healthy eating habits. A list of other registered dietitians and moms who are participating in the carnival will be listed at the bottom of this post or can be found on Meals Matter.
For 17 years I diligently strived to teach my picky-eater son healthy eating habits. I offered a variety of foods, set a good example and didn’t make a big deal when his choices were less than ideal.
For the most part I thought my hard work paid off. My son ate a wide variety of fruits and often chose them over sweets. He enjoyed yogurt, salad and a fair share of vegetables. He also tentatively tried many different kinds of foods. Rarely did he like or eat the foods he tasted but that’s OK. According to expert child nutritionist Ellyn Satter children need to be offered a food 5 to 20 times or more before they learn to enjoy it.
Then my son grew up, learned how to drive and got a part-time job after school. In a matter of a few short weeks his eating habits took a sharp nosedive. This was partly because with his schedule he no longer ate dinner with us, partly because he wanted to be independent and make his own decisions about food and partly because socializing meant hanging out at the nearest fast food restaurant (and eating the food as well).
I had heard many parents complain of children who were finicky-eaters during their younger years, and then these children grew up to follow a sound, healthy diet. But, what happens when you are faced with the opposite situation? Luckily there are things, you as a parent can still do. Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep the fridge stocked with easy-to-eat and easy-to-prepare healthy foods. Make sure these are favorites. In my house fruit is always up front.
- Be a good role model – even though your teen doesn’t want to admit it, he or she is still watching what you eat.
- Avoid food fights – you won’t win
- Make Breakfast a Priority – most teens skip meals and particularly breakfast. Breakfast fuels your mind as well as your body. Get your teen to start the day off with a good meal and he or she will notice a difference.
- Be patient – it may take a while, but eventually your teen will come around and remember the good eating habits you instilled in him or her when they were young.
My teenage son’s eating habits are certainly not perfect but I consider it a work in progress . . . work that one day will pay off in the long run.
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Don’t stop here! Join the carnival and read other Eat, Play, Love blogs from dietitians and moms offering the best advice on raising healthy eaters. And if you don’t get enough today, for more positive, realistic and actionable advice from registered dietitian moms, register for the free, live webinar Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on Wednesday, May 18.
The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Healthy Eaters, Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD
Feeding is Love, Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN
5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD
The Art of Dinnertime, Elana Natker, MS, RD
Children Don’t Need a Short Order Cook, Christy Slaughter
Cut to the Point – My Foodie Rules, Glenda Gourley
Eat, Play, Love – A Challenge for Families, Alysa Bajenaru, RD
Eat, Play, Love ~ Raising Healthy Eaters, Kia Robertson
Get Kids Cooking, Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Gear Gets Them Cooking, Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Kids that Can Cook Make Better Food Choices, Glenda Gourley
Making Mealtime Fun, Nicole Guierin, RD
My Top Ten Tips for Raising Lifelong Healthy Eaters, EA Stewart, RD
My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along?, Kristine Lockwood
My Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters: Eat Like the French, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
Playing with Dough and the Edible Gift of Thyme, Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
Picky Eaters Will Eat Vegetables, Theresa Grisanti, MA
Putting the Ease in Healthy Family Eating, Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
Raising a Healthy Eater, Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Raising Healthy Eaters Blog Carnival & Chat Roundup, Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Soccer Mom Soapbox, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Teenagers Can Be Trying But Don’t Give Up, Diane Welland MS, RD
What My Kids Taught Me About Eating Mindfully, Michelle May, MD