Help your little ones learn healthy eating habits for life.
Children’s experiences of mealtimes and food can stay with them for a lifetime. If healthy food and eating habits are the norm in your house then children are more likely to adopt these later on in life.
We have put together a list of pointers that will help you be a good role model for your little ones when it comes to food, as well as some simple suggestions to encourage healthy eating.
- Children learn by example. So one of the most important things is for your child to see you enjoying eating healthily. When your children see you enjoying a rich, varied and healthy diet they will be more likely to follow in your footsteps.
- Try to deliver consistent messages about healthy eating. You may need to sit down with your partner, or the other people who help with childcare, such as grandparents, and explain what your policies on food and snacks are.
- Eat the same foods as your children. Giving the whole family the same dish and just adjusting the portion sizes means kids won’t be left thinking that your meal looks much more exciting than theirs.
- Enjoy your fruit and veg. If your kids see you eating round your veggies they are likely to copy you. However, if you wolf them down and go back for more, chances are they will do the same!
- Try new foods together. But remember that children will be watching how you approach and react to new foods. So be open minded and positive.
- Try not to have unhealthy snacks in the house. That way, when your child becomes hungry and asks for food, there are only healthy snacks on hand to choose from.
- Children have smaller stomachs than grown-ups and so need to eat regularly – no more than three hours apart. Don’t leave it until your little one is so hungry that they can’t wait for you to prepare them a healthy snack.
- Areas used for eating should be clean, warm and bright, and should be free from distractions such as television and toys.
- Use appropriately sized chairs, plates, bowls, cups and cutlery. This will help children to eat independently.
- Encourage children to choose the food they are going to eat for themselves, and to try new foods. Visit our Fussy eaters page for advice on overcoming fussy eating.
- Children should not be expected to finish everything on their plate, and should be able to eat their dessert, even if they have not finished their main course. If they are still hungry after their main course, they should have the option to get seconds.
- Mealtimes should be sociable occasions. Try to sit down together to eat whenever possible and chat about things other than just the food.
- Children can be involved in helping to set up and clear away tables before and after meals. This will help to get them involved and interested in mealtimes.
- Encourage your children to sit around a table to eat their meals and snacks. This will help develop their social skills and good eating habits.
- Get cooking together. This will get children interested in food and help them learn how to make healthy tasty meals from scratch.
Let’s Get Cooking at Home is part of Let’s Get Cooking, the national programme aiming to get everyone eating more healthily through basic cooking skills.
Let’s Get Cooking has created the country’s largest network of cooking clubs for children and adults, and research shows more than half of those taking part eat a healthier diet as a result. Let’s Get Cooking is run by the Children’s Food Trust, the national charity which protects every child’s right to eat better and, so, to do better.