Nurturing Nutritious Nibbles: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Eaters

Healthy Eaters


It’s no secret that modern-day kids eat less healthily than they did decades ago. Most disturbingly are the way ultra-processed food diets and diets high in sugar increase the risk of adult-sized health problems. So, how can you help kids make healthier food choices and enjoy the taste of unprocessed fare?

The solution starts at home – with parents. The 2010 American Kids Survey, analyzed the lifestyle, eating habits, and buying decisions of 5,000 children aged 6 to 11. Their findings? Parental influence is a major factor that determines the food choices kids make. No surprise here, right?

According to this important study, dads and moms who keep junk food off the plate and out of the hands of kids lead to children who make healthier and more nutritious food choices. Extra points to parents who read the labels on food products and “walk the walk” by eating a healthy diet themselves.

Be a Source of Inspiration for Your Kids

To teach your kids to eat healthily, set a good example yourself. Kids learn how to eat by what they see others eating and they’re more likely to make healthy choices if they play an active role. So, get them involved in the food decision-making process and commend them when they make smart choices.

For example, kids love games. Take them with you when grocery shopping and turn it into a game. How about challenging them to the mystery ingredient hunt? Arm them with clues like: “Find me a fruit that’s good for your eyes” and let them comb the aisles and find one. They might pick up an orange and you can teach them that oranges are high in vitamin C, which is healthy for protecting vision.

Also, let them help in the kitchen. Having firsthand experience preparing meals will give them a head start on their cooking skills. Plus, it helps foster a fondness for healthy foods. Hopefully, this will stay with them as they grow up.

Limit the Junk Food and Have Healthy Replacements

Purge the cabinets and fridge of junk food and replace them with healthier, easy-to-grab options.  By providing kids with healthy and nutritious options, they will be less likely to turn to unhealthy foods.

Examples of healthier snacks for kids include:

  • Fresh fruit (such as apples, bananas, berries, or grapes)
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Carrots or celery sticks with hummus
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Peanut butter on whole-grain crackers
  • Whole grain granola bars
  • Rice cakes with avocado and cherry tomatoes
  • Apple slices with almond butter
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Baked sweet potato fries with yogurt dipping spices
  • Edamame (a good source of plant-based protein)
  • Grape “pops,” made by freezing grapes into mini-popsicle bites.

Enjoy Meals as a Family

Family mealtimes have gone by the wayside in modern times with so many parents working. Yet kids still need the “togetherness” that comes from eating a meal as a family.   According to Dr. Fink at the Cleveland Clinic, eating together is a chance to talk and teach children about healthy portion sizes, the origins of different foods, and smart eating habits.

Use mealtime as education time. For example, you can show your children how to fill half their plate with non-starchy vegetables before adding other components, like a protein source of a starchy food. It’s a fun way to encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables. They’ll discover the role nutrition plays in how they feel and their future health. It also empowers them to be more engaged with what they eat and how it affects their mood and energy level.

Dining as a family also offers precious time for the whole family to be together, sharing their day, building strong relationships, and creating memories that last a lifetime. Research shows children who regularly eat dinner with their families have higher self-esteem, better academic performance, and fewer behavioral problems. So, make mealtimes a family affair!

Say No to Sugary Sodas and Desserts

It’s no secret that kids love sweets! Beyond the innate desire for sugar as an energy source, kids are bombarded with commercials that feature their favorite characters advertising sugary foods made with refined flour. Have you glanced at the nutrition label on breakfast cereals lately? They’re packed with the sweet stuff. Better to stick to whole grain cereals without additives, like steel-cut oats or quinoa porridge.

These foods don’t just impact their physical health, but their mental health too. Studies link sugary drinks to mental distress, hyperactivity, and conduct problems in children and adolescents. Sugary beverages and refined carbohydrates also increase the risk of weight gain and obesity, which can lead to future health problems. With an epidemic of childhood obesity, watching a child’s sugar intake is a smart move that can ward off future health issues.

Avoid Forbidding Foods Entirely

Helpe kids cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates, but don’t make them total off limits. It can backfire by making them want more. So let them enjoy an occasional treat but only in moderation. Focus on creating healthy meals and snacks packed with nutrients, so they learn to appreciate the taste of natural foods that aren’t enhanced by sugar.  It’s all about balance.


Teaching your kids to eat healthy and enjoy the benefits of nutrient dense foods is a challenge but not impossible.  Give them nutritious meals and let them help choose and prepare what goes on their plate. Educate them early about what constitutes a healthy diet and expose them to healthy foods as early as possible. With the right habits and attitudes, children can learn to make healthy choices that will last them a lifetime.


  • Medical News Today, “For Kids, Eating Starts at Home”
  • How to Talk to Your Kids About Healthy Nutrition (And Why It’s Important) with Dr. Christina Fink. (2021). Cleveland Clinic. my.clevelandclinic.org/podcasts/health-essentials/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-healthy-nutrition-with-dr-christina-fink
  • Hyperactive Kids: What’s Sugar’s Role? (2015, February 17). SugarScience.UCSF.edu. sugarscience.ucsf.edu/hyperactive-kids-whats-sugars-role.html#. Y952THbMKrA.
  • Magriplis E, Michas G, Petridi E, Chrousos GP, Roma E, Benetou V, Cholopoulos N, Micha R, Panagiotakos D, Zampelas A. Dietary Sugar Intake and Its Association with Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Children (Basel). 2021 Aug 3;8(8):676. doi: 10.3390/children8080676. PMID: 34438567; PMCID: PMC8391470.
  • “Nutrition for kids: Guidelines for a healthy diet – Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/nutrition-for-kids/art-20049335.
  • “USDA MyPlate Nutrition Information for Kids.” https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages/kids.
  • “Benefits of Healthy Eating for Children | Nutrition | CDC.” 15 Feb. 2024, https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/php/resources/healthy-eating-benefits-for-children.html.

Related Articles By Cathe:

The Diet You Ate as a Child May Have Long-Lasting Effects on Your Gut Microbiome

6 Ways to Improve Your Gut Microbiome

How Sugar and Processed Food Cause Weight Gain

Why Sugar Cravings Are More Common at Night and How to Stop Them

Sugar Cravings: 5 Ways to Stop a Sweet Tooth – or Not?

5 Things That Happen When You Stop Sugar Cravings

Understanding and Overcoming Sugar Cravings

Why Women Crave Sugary Foods More Than Men

Get Fuller & Curb Those Cravings with Plant-Based Protein

How to Use Visual Imagery to Stop Food Cravings

Is Leptin Resistance Fueling Your Food Cravings?

This Powerful Dietary Combo Stops Food Cravings

Sugar and Nutrition Labels: How They May Change

6 Surprising Foods That Curb Cravings

Hi, I'm Cathe

I want to help you get in the best shape of your life and stay healthy with my workout videos, DVDs and Free Weekly Newsletter. Here are several ways you can watch and work out to my exercise videos and purchase my fitness products:

Get Your Free Weekly Cathe Friedrich Newsletter

Get free weekly tips on Fitness, Health, Weight Loss and Nutrition delivered directly to your email inbox. Plus get Special Cathe Product Offers and learn about What’s New at Cathe Dot Com.

Enter your email address below to start receiving my free weekly updates. Don’t worry…I guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared and you can easily unsubscribe whenever you like. Our Privacy Policy