Using Mealtime Psychology to Get Kids to Eat Healthy

Even if you place the healthiest meals in front of your kids they are only getting the benefits of that healthy meal if they eat it! For most parents getting their children to consume a healthy diet can be stressful, to say the least. From picky eating to fights over food to absolute refusal, parents can end up feeling like the dinner table is more about food fights than family bonding.

If this sounds like you, here are some tips that may help make mealtimes more pleasant and nutritious:

1. Keep mealtimes calm and pleasant - Mealtime stress can lead to kids overeating or undereating. Try to avoid nagging, arguing, or complaining at the table. Putting pressure on your child to eat more of one item and criticizing him/her for what they are eating could led to increased stress for everyone.

2. Be a good example - Eating with your kids and showing them what healthy eating looks like teaches them a lot. If they see you eating something they are more likely to try it. This also applies to negative food comments, if you say you don’t like something or comment that it is ‘gross’ they will be less likely to taste that food.

3. Respect food preferences - Forcing kids to eat things they don’t like does not change their taste buds. It is important to give young kids the same freedoms that adults and older children get with choosing foods they do and do not like to eat. Research shows that forcing kids to eat foods they don’t like doesn’t led to any healthier eating or impact their weight. Teach them how to politely decline offers for food they really do not like.

4. Offer new foods with familiar foods - When a child is presented with a new food they’ve never had before they are often a little unsure. If you present it with something you know they like they will be more likely to try the new item.

5. Include kids in the process - When kids are a part of the planning, preparing, or shopping they feel ownership and pride and are more motivated to experiment with new flavors, dishes, and presentation of foods. Let them pick out a meal for dinner, have them help pick out a new fruit or vegetable at the store, or task them to mix the salad.

6. Avoid food rewards - It is tempting to treat your child to dessert or ice cream when they do something well. While this may be okay every once in a while when this becomes a tradition it promotes unhealthy attitudes about food and perhaps emotional overeating.

7. Do away with the ‘clean plate club’ - Forcing kids to finish their plates teaches them to not listen to their fullness cues setting them up for overeating in the future. This practice can also lead to food aversion. If your child always leaves food on their plate, serve less. On the same note, don’t force your child to finish one thing before they can have something else, this has the same effect. 

seattle sutton's healthy eating - is sugar bad for you

Interested in eating healthy? Hungry for more?

View Our Meal Plans!