Healthy Food Habits for Kids & Picky Eaters

Healthy Food Habits for Kids & Picky Eaters

Author -  Healtheries

Healthy food habits take time to form and time to break. There are quick and simple ways to encourage your kids to form healthy eating habits. Go on, give it a go!

Childhood is the time when children are forming eating habits that they are likely to maintain for life. Therefore it is essential that children be encouraged to eat a wide range of nutritious foods. Of course your child may not like every food you put in front of them, but that is ok, it is unlikely that you enjoy all foods either! I’m sure most of us have a memory of our parents forcing us to finish our plate loaded with veggies of some description.

Children are copycats. A study looking at pre-school children’s food and beverage preferences found they like to mimic their parent’s choices. Most of the children (70%) ‘purchased’ unhealthy foods which was significantly predicted by their parents food purchasing habits (1). The results highlight the importance to expose children at a very early age to healthy eating practices.

Tips to encourage healthy eating patterns

  • Create regular meal times (as appropriate)
  • Make breakfast an everyday habit. Set the example by eating with your children and ensuring you have enough time!
  • Be a role-model by trying different foods with your kids
  • Create a checklist of foods and let them earn stickers when they try something new
  • Minimise distractions i.e. TV or games    
  • At a suitable age, let your kids serve themselves and decide on their meal size and when they are full
  • Try to avoid forcing your child to eat
  • Limit takeaway foods and snacks high in fats and sugars to occasional treats. Let them decide on their favourite treat and a time when they will most enjoy it.

Involve your kids from the start

  • Involve your children in the menu planning
  • Let your kids help with the supermarket shopping and choosing colourful fruits and veggies they will enjoy
  • Encourage your kids to help prepare their school lunches and dinners e.g. mixing up a colourful salad or decorating the pizza
  • Create a veggie patch with your kids and encourage them to grow different veggies each year! Patches can be any size e.g buckets or small troughs or a larger patch in your garden

Tips for picky eaters

  • Experiment with food presentation
  • Cut food into different shapes and bite sizes so they appear easier to eat and less intimidating e.g. sandwiches can be cut into triangles or small squares or you can even use a cookie cutter for a creative shape
  • Arrange food on the plate or lunchbox in fun designs e.g smiley face or get your kids to use toothpicks to make animals or people
  • Use colourful plates or decorated plates with pictures to make the meal look fun and bright
  • Persevere with the same food but present it in different forms i.e. carrots can be cooked rings, thin sticks, grated, mashed with potato, grated and added to mince.
  • Use colourful combinations of food to increase stimulation e.g. green peas, yellow capsicum, orange carrot
  • Use healthy seasonings to add flavour to fruits and veggies e.g. herbs, crushed nuts, spices


(1)Sutherland, L.A., Beavers, D.P., Kupper, L., Bernhardt, A., Heatherton, T., Dalton, M. Like Parent, Like Child: Child Food and Beverage Choices during Role Playing. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008; 162 (11):1063-1069.