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Tips for Parents to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

  • Focus on Healthy Eating
    • Leave unhealthy choices such as chips, soda, juice, and cookies at the grocery store. Focus on keeping fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and water in the house.
    • Involve children in grocery shopping and cooking. When children are involved in the process of choosing and preparing meals, they are more likely to try the healthy and new foods they helped select.
    • Encourage children to eat slowly. Before providing the child with a second helping, have them wait for about 15 minutes for the body to register if they are full. If they are hungry after the 15 minutes, provide a smaller helping and focus mostly on non-starchy vegetables.
    • Make snacks as nutritious as possible, but never deprive your child of the occasional bag of chips or cookies at birthday parties or social gatherings.
    • Encourage children to drink more water, and choose water over sugar sweetened beverages.
    • Avoid highly processed foods due to added sugar and high sodium.
  • Avoid Negative Feelings Towards Food
    • Avoid scolding or lecturing during meals to avoid unpleasant experiences during mealtimes and negative feelings toward food. Children will begin to associate meals with stress.
    • Try not to use food to reward children. When children are rewarded with a specific food, they find that food to be more desirable.
  • Make Lifestyle Changes Together as a Family
    • Eat meals together as a family as often as possible.
    • Set achievable family goals.
    • Pay attention to portion sizes.
    • Read nutrition labels.
    • Decrease screen time.
    • Participate in physical activity together as a family.


  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed May 26th, 2019.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle Children’s Health. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 26th, 2019.

Ruchi Shah is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at



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