Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

By: Keith


The answer to this question is actually a lot easier than everyone makes it out to be.  I’ve had my own struggles with getting my kids to eat the same foods that I eat, and for a while I was completely confounded.  But, get this, Dr. Phil actually said something that helped for once.  I know, Dr. Phil is a TV personality who makes gobs of cash by giving out over simplified fixes to complex problems.  However, on this one occasion, he was spot on.  It is one of those answers that we all know already  anyway, it’s just tough to hear it.  The problem lies in  parents’ perceptions of what kids will be willing to eat rather than what kids will actually eat.  We might have veered off course with what we expect our kids to eat, and that creates an issue.  When we begin to feed our kids different foods on the assumption that they won’t eat the same things we eat then we are creating conditions that undermine our authority as parents.  At the same time we are giving the power to our kids to manipulate us.  So most parents really want to know, “How can I correct my child’s eating habits?”  It isn’t the kid who is at fault, it’s our assumptions about the kid that have brought us to this point.


Kids Can’t Starve Themselves


eating yogurtKids starve all over the world every day, but they don’t do it to themselves.  It is not until they become image conscience that they have the potential for eating disorders.  Kids eat until their brains tell them it’s time to stop, not more and not less.  But, when they have been programmed to eat hot dogs and white bread all the time then that is what they will naturally want.  When a parent suddenly decides it’s time to start them on salad, it’s a struggle to get them to eat.  Yes, the kid doesn’t like the salad and will refuse to eat it.  But, this problem is easily fixed by doing absolutely nothing.  Instead of arguing with  him it is better to assume the child will eat what is given to him without the anticipation of failure.  When he doesn’t eat it, because he probably won’t the first few times, then the parent should clear the table as if nothing strange had happened at all.  And,  wait for it – the kid gets hungry because he didn’t eat.  So, following what Dr. Phil said about kids not being able to starve themselves, it’s just a matter of waiting until the kid’s hunger becomes greater than his dislike for the food.  There is no need for strife, only patience.


Parents Aim to Please



The other component here is the parents unwillingness to stick to their guns.  Kids are expert manipulators and they know just how to behave in order to get what they want.  They give a sad face, they complain of physical injury, they feign incomprehension, whatever they know works with their particular parents they will do.  When it comes to food they have probably been successful on more than one occasion in getting a change of menu that more suits what they are accustomed to.  Obviously this creates the expectation that they can get away with it again, and thus makes the parents’ job that much more difficult.  As parents we want our kids to be happy, we want them to be smiling and enjoying themselves so we are easily manipulated by our very wily kids.  When it comes to food it becomes a matter of changing our own habits as parents as well as the habits of our kids.  We might not like to see our kids upset, but it is much worse to realize later on that they are spoiled.  Parents need to learn the difference between actual distress and underhanded manipulation.


Kids should eat the same foods that we eat.  If we eat salmon because it is good for us and we like it then kids should eat the same salmon.  The very same things that are on our plates should be on our children’s plates, no exceptionsOur failure to enforce rules and stick to our guns is as much to blame for our kids’ eating habits as is our kids’ ability to manipulate us to their own ends.  In the end parents have themselves to blame for setting up the conditions where this is a common problem in the first place.  Little African kids don’t complain for grilled cheese sandwiches, they eat the slop in the tin bowl because they’re hungry and are happy as heck to be eating anything at all.  It may seem cliché to invoke starving kids in Africa, but starving kids in Africa have the same biology as our kids.  Is it really too much to ask that our kids learn to appreciate high quality, healthy food?  No.

6 Responses to “Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Foods”
  1. Laura Sneden June 3, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    Okay, this practically made me stand up and applaud. I could not agree with you more.

    I worked with a little girl whose mother sent her Doritos and a cupcake (and nothing else) everyday for lunch. She said that’s all she’d eat. Are you kidding me? Two months later we had her eating fresh fruit, grilled chicken, veggies, and hummus.

  2. Bridget June 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I NEEDED this article right now!!! We are in the midst of many dietary/food changes, due to food allergies. I had just convinced myself that one of my daughters would starve herself!! Thank you for reassuring me!!!


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