tips for a healthy eating child

The biggest complaint I hear from parents is “How do I get my child to eat healthier?” There are many reasons a child can be a “picky “or “fussy” eater.  Sometimes it can be a sensory issue (the texture or temperature causes the child to avoid the food). Sometimes it is a lack of awareness. Many children have not touched fruits or vegetables because it is not in their household. Simply introducing various choices of foods will allow your child to safely experiment with tastes. Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Increasing their involvement will help them improve their tolerance and tastebuds. Here are some ways you can have your child begin to eat healthier.

Explain why it is important to eat healthily.
I tell my children that food is important to help give us energy. When we eat a piece of a cookie, our energy is only 1. When we eat a piece of broccoli, our energy goes up to 5. I explain that we need good choices that help us get stronger, make us faster and help our brains work better. By playing with the concept of eating healthy vs junk, we can teach our children to make better choices. 

children with fruit

Grow Your Food
Have your child plant seeds, fruits, or vegetables. By teaching them how to grow the food, you are teaching them life skills they are sure to carry through life. I used to love helping my mother plant vegetables & fruits. We would be so excited to check on the plants to see what is ready to pick and eat. There is nothing like homegrown peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce leaves, then using them for a salad. If you don’t like gardening, no problem, bring your child to a local farmers market or farm that allows you to pick fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Give fun substitutes
When my children were young, I would cut up various fruits and vegetables and put them in a nice container. They had dip choices as well. In one of my TikTok videos, I cut peppers and turned them into a train. This makes the act of eating a vegetable more fun rather than just slicing up vegetables. Slice celery, carrots, and peppers. Now be creative, you can make faces, flowers, or a rocket out of your vegetables. Have your child copy your creation. Let them make something and you have to copy it. These are simple and fun ways to make eating healthy more fun. 


Yogurt Parfaits
Yogurt is one of the healthiest snacks your child can have. But it can be bland. Spice it up by having your child make a layered parfait with fun fruits and designs. This snack is nutritional and refreshing. If your child is unable to eat dairy, there are many substitutions of non-dairy yogurts that you can purchase at the local food store.

Portion Control & sips of water
It is important that your child learn how much to eat. Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. It is important to learn to take breaks after you eat a few bites and drink a few sips of water. This helps fill you up without overstuffing. It also teaches your child they only have to eat one piece of broccoli, not an entire plate. Helping your child learn healthy portions improves their understanding of proper nutrition. 


For any questions regarding these activities, Occupational Therapy, or my services, you can send me a message or find me on Instagram – @playwithyourfoodbook.

Sarah Appleman MS, OTR/L is the author of “Play With Your Food” and is a specialist in her field. 

Leave a Reply

Font Resize
Call Us Text Us