Help Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits


As we begin the new year, get your children off to a good start by helping them develop healthy eating habits. It’s important that kids have nutritious and balanced meals for their long-term well-being.

Healthy eating habits will help your children grow and develop properly. They will help prevent health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. They provide steady energy to help kids concentrate. Healthy eating will help kids feel better overall.

Adults and children alike need to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat. Depending on their age, children should eat 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-3 cups of vegetables daily. Their diet should also include plenty of whole-grain products, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, and lean meats, poultry, fish and beans for protein.

Check out these tips from Healthier Tennessee’s Small Starts for Families that will help your family have a nutritious and balanced diet in 2018:

Make a Meal Plan. Write down what your family will eat for dinner every night of the week, and shop for groceries ahead of time. This helps stop last-minute dinner panic, which can result in unhealthy decisions when you're hungry and in a hurry.

Say Yes to Breakfast. Plan tomorrow's breakfast tonight. Here are three easy, healthy ideas: 1) Greek yogurt plus berries. 2) Whole wheat toast plus peanut butter and sliced banana. 3) Oatmeal with cinnamon plus honey or dried fruit.

Crunch and Munch. Shop for crunchy vegetables like peppers, carrots, broccoli and cucumbers. Cut them into bite-size pieces for a healthy, convenient family snack. Get more healthy snack ideas.

Balancing Act. Divide your plate between colorful vegetables and fruits, beans and sweet potatoes, and smaller portions of meat. The website is a helpful resource for understanding portions.

Pack a Healthy Lunch. Try making these three simple, quick, healthy meals for lunch: 1) Peanut butter on whole-grain bread cut into shapes, plus raw veggie strips and an apple. 2) String cheese with whole-grain crackers, natural almonds, raisins and a banana. 3) Whole-grain tortilla with hummus, plus carrot and celery sticks, a handful of pecans or walnuts, and grapes.

Leave Sugary Snacks Behind. Buy and serve fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables or whole-grain snacks like popcorn. These are healthier than sugar-filled processed snacks. Even those that say "no sugar" are "artificially sweetened."

Try for Five. Try eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Make the "Family Five" a game: See who eats their five servings first!

Water Power. Make water your family's drink of choice. Add a splash of lemon, lime, orange or other fruit juice for healthy flavor.

Skip the Junk. Keep junk food out of your grocery cart. If unhealthy foods don't make it home, they can't be eaten.

Sluice the Juice. When you drink fruit juice, mix it with an equal amount of water. You'll cut calories and sugar in half, plus save money.

Whole Lot of Goodness. Try making recipes your family already loves using whole-grain versions of pasta, rice, bread or tortillas.

Protect Children From Tobacco

Another way families can get off to a healthier start in the new year is to focus on reducing kids’ exposure to tobacco. It’s important that children are protected from the dangers of secondhand and thirdhand smoke.

More Healthy Starts

For more tips about healthy eating, physical activity, good sleep habits and even dental health, check out Healthier Tennessee’s Small Starts for Families tool. Sign up for an account and personalize your plan.

Additional Resources

Learn why good nutrition begins at home.

Healthy eating habits start with parents.

Learn about the benefits of eating together as a family.

Get tips for infant feeding.

See tips from the CDC for encouraging healthy eating habits in children.