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Helping Your Child Eat for Good Health

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Helping your child to make healthy choices about the foods they eat is not an easy task. Here are a few suggestions:

Be a good role model

  • Make healthy food choices for yourself and let your child know why you made those selections.
  • Make healthy selections for meals served at home, as well as when eating out.
  • Encourage the entire family to become involved in healthy meal planning, not just the child or adolescent who is overweight.
  • Choose healthy snacks and beverages, such as a piece of fruit or glass of water.

Make healthy food choices available 

  • Keep precut vegetables, such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and broccoli in plastic bags in the refrigerator. This gives your child better choices when he needs to grab a quick snack.
  • Fresh fruits should be available for snacks.
  • The following healthy snacks are a choking hazard for children less than 4 years old: uncooked apples, grapes, uncooked carrots, nuts, seeds, popcorn, and peanut butter. Do not give these snacks to children less than 4 years old.
  • Limit availability of unhealthy choices, such as multiple pieces of candy, bags of chips, or other snacks high in sodium, sugar, or fat.

Make healthy foods look appetizing 

  • Rinse fruits such as apples in cold water and dry thoroughly with a paper towel to give them an appealing shine.
  • Use a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables to make salads or kabobs.
  • Set an attractive table by using bright place mats and napkins

Replace foods high in sugar and/or fat with alternatives 

  • Serve water or milk instead of soda, fruit juice, or powdered drinks
  • Offer zero calorie flavored waters or diet sodas, if you must offer sodas
  • Substitute 100% juice popsicles, or frozen yogurt for ice cream, cake, or cookie snacks
  • Substitute skim or 1% milk for whole or 2% milk if your child is over 2 years of age. Infants less than one-year-old need to continue with breast feeding or infant formula.

Stay positive 

  • Stick to positive conversations at meal times. Avoid arguing over food or other stressors when sharing a meal with the family.
  • Include your child when shopping for groceries. Invite him to make healthy choices. Let them help when choosing new fruits and vegetables.
  • Read labels with your child to determine fat and calorie content.
  • Keep things light-hearted when trying new things. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Remember to have fun with fitness, physical activity is a healthy habit that makes you feel good, not a chore to be endured.
  • Use positive statements to encourage your child to eat healthy.
  • Avoid using food as a reward or a bribe to change behaviors, instead offer stickers, special outings or praise as appropriate alternatives.
  • Be persistent about choosing healthy foods. Continue offering healthy foods and eliminating unhealthy ones from your shopping list. Eventually your child will make his own healthy choices.
  • Portion size is important. Use the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “Choose My Plate” guidelines when planning meals for your family. Explore this web site for more information: The website provides interactive meal planning programs, games and ideas to engage young children.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/2017

(757) 668-7000