Tips on teaching your child to make healthy food choices

By Cara Cleek Ogden

We all want our kids to eat healthy. Teaching them how to make good food choices may be one of the best tools we can give our children to help them live a long, healthy life.

There are a lot of ways to trick or bribe your child into eating more fruits and vegetables. And trust me, I get it, you gotta do what you gotta do! You can puree healthy stuff and add it to their favorite meals. Macaroni and cheese is a perfect disguise for pureed cauliflower, for example. And making them eat a few bites of spinach before they can have pizza is effective. But is that really teaching them to make the right choices in the long-run?

I talked to my tween-aged daughter about this and about her good eating habits. She’s pretty great about healthy choices, and likes almost any fruit or vegetable that’s set in front of her.


  • Introduce new foods slowly, one food at a time. Don’t shock them with a whole plate of new things. It takes a little while for a child’s tastes to adjust.
  • Get your child involved in choosing new things. Take them to the market with you and let them choose a new vegetable or fruit that they haven’t tried before. This is how my daughter discovered tangelos, which is now her favorite go-to snack.
  • Have healthy foods available. When my daughter was younger, we had a shelf in the refrigerator full of carrot sticks, apples, pineapple wedges, etc… I allowed her access to this snack shelf any time of day and she knew she didn’t have to bother asking for permission before grabbing something. This went a long way with my strong-willed child who liked to be in charge of her own choices.
  • When introducing a new, healthy food, serve it along with one of your child’s favorites. A little serving of spinach looks much less daunting when it’s sitting beside some mashed potatoes.
  • Be a good role model. Let them see you eating and enjoying colorful, healthy foods. We have so much more influence on our children than we realize.
  • Let your child help you in the kitchen. If they help you wash and prepare the fruit for the fruit salad, they’ll have much more invested in it and be much more open to eating it.
  • Give them a say in the menu or shopping list. Ask, “Do you want carrots or squash tonight?” and see what they say. They might surprise you.
  • Limit or cut down on unhealthy beverages, processed foods, fast-foods, and salty or sweet snacks. This will help your child crave them less and crave healthy items more.
  • Praise healthy choices.

My daughter Ibby wanted to share her tips, too. So, I give you…


  • Let your child experiment in the kitchen but challenge them to use healthy ingredients and go easy on the salt, sugar, etc….
  • Use kid-friendly recipes with vegetables that will remind them of their favorite snacks. For example, Chard Chips (recipe below) remind me a LOT of potato chips. And if you buy Rainbow Chard, it’s not only pretty, but you can make awesome pretend swords out of the stems!
  • Encourage your child to do research about healthy foods. If they look into what chicken nuggets are actually made of, they might be less excited about eating them. Likewise, if they find interesting recipes or information about yummy, healthy foods, they might be a bit more eager to chow down on tofu. Scrambled tofu with onion powder and turmeric is delicious.
  • If you cook Brussels Sprouts the right way, they taste even better than pizza! Really! (Lots of onions and garlic is the key.)
  • Make healthy versions of your kids’ favorite cuisine. For example, if your child likes Japanese food (like I do!) they might not even realize that they’re eating something healthy. Vegetable stir-fry is to-die-for! Plus, if you teach them how to use chop-sticks, it’s even more fun!


  1. 1 Bunch Rainbow Chard, rinsed and torn into 2” sized pieces
  2. 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  3. Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Dry the pieces of chard and sprinkle with olive oil. On a baking sheet, lay pieces out in one layer, so that none are overlapping. You may have to do this in several batches. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the pieces over at the half-way point. Begin checking at 10 minutes and remove pieces that are dry and crisp. When all pieces are cooked through, allow to cool for a few minutes and then devour them ravenously.

Cara Cleek Ogden is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor. She lives in Fayetteville with her vegetable-loving 11-year-old daughter (really!) and is excited to encourage others to eat more consciously.  You can contact Cara through her website at eatdrinkbe.