How to Encourage Healthy Nutritional Behaviors

Think habits, not diets...

Try asking children, “Which would you like for a snack, an orange or an apple?” Instead of simply asking, "What would you like for a snack?"

To help children make appropriate choices, limit the amount of inappropriate foods and increase the better choices.

Keep a fresh bowl of fruit on the table. Keep crisp and crunchy vegetables like celery sticks and baby carrots in the fridge. Hungry kids -- and grownups -- will grab what's handiest.

Do not overly restrict sweets or treats. Try calling them “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods.

Never use food as a reward or punishment.

Bring bags of healthy snacks with you when you leave the house to avoid being tempted when out. (Check out our bookmark listing 101 Heart Healthy Snack Ideas!)

Remind children that healthy foods provide fuel for learning, growing, sports and play.

Keep water readily available. Refrigerating tap water in a “cool” water bottle or pitcher can increase its appeal.

Let children pick out new foods to try when visiting the grocery store.

Try foods from different countries.

Do not get caught up in the super size phenomenon, “free” refills, or unlimited buffets.

Discourage eating straight from the box or the bag, insist everyone eat from a bowl or a plate.

Continue to offer foods to children and encourage them to try one bite, not just once but each time the food is served. Remember, children’s tastes change as they grow so it may take several tries before they begin to like something.

Do not encourage (or insist) children clean their plate. Young children especially will stop eating when they are no longer hungry.

Offer an edible “spoon,” such as a stalk of celery, for scooping up things like chili or stew.

Do not put a child on a diet unless directed by your health care provider. It is much better to increase physical activity and make some healthy changes, such as switching to 1 percent or fat free milk and increasing the number of healthy choices.

Do not “diet”! Be a good role model. If you eat right and stay active, your children will too!