Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters

Monday, August 02, 2010

Tomorrow is Daniel's birthday so I have been up to my ears in ice cream and frosting trying to make him an ice cream cake.  It has been quite the long process but so far so good. I will try to post pictures tomorrow. This ice cream cake recipe definitely breaks about half of my food rules, but sometimes it is ok to break the rules.  You have to have balance, right?  Usually I am pretty rigid but when it comes to birthdays, anything goes in my book. Oh I can't belive my baby is 2!  I can't believe it!
In other news, we have been getting some pretty hefty amounts of zucchini from Abbe Hills lately, and we LOVE zucchini in the Porter House so I will be making copious amounts of zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini, and other zucchini recipes.  I will be sure to post my adventures in zucchini for sure!

So, onto tonight's topic.  I have been recently getting tons of questions on my e-mail asking how I get my son to eat such a wide variety of foods.  It is true, I am blessed to have a two year old (tomorrow- oh I can't believe my baby is 2! I just want him to stay small and cute forever!) who eats pretty much anything I put in front of him.  However, he is starting to assert his independence when it comes to food, even with things I know he likes.  For example, right now he is really into eating only bananas and kiwi and nothing else.  Here are some things that have worked for me and for a friend of mine who has a VERY picky eater and came to me for help.
  • Do not give up on a food after only presenting it once or twice.  Children need to eat a food at least 15 times  and sometimes more than 30 times before he or she decides if he or she likes it or not. 
  • Present food in a variety of fun ways. Sometimes we have color themed lunches, like today we had a green theme where we had spinach ravioli with pesto sauce, sliced cucumbers, and steamed broccoli.  You could do a rainbow meal, yellow meal, red meal, be creative!  You could also cut food into fun shapes.  Offer dips like ketchup, salad dressing, barbecue sauce.  Kids love food they can dip.
  • If your child refuses to eat a meal, don't offer something else.  I know it seems mean, but kids are not going to starve themselves.  What I do, is if Daniel refuses to eat his dinner, for example,  I put it aside and then when it comes around to snack time, he can eat his dinner.  If he still chooses not to eat his dinner, then he goes to bed without.  Fortunately, so far, this happens rarely in my house, but it did happen the other night, and he ate his dinner for a bedtime snack. 
  • I only offer milk now during meal times, this way Daniel doesn't fill up on milk the whole day and then won't eat his meals.  The rest of the day he drinks water.  I never offer juice, because that will also deter good eating habits.  The exceptions to this rule are prune juice (for constipation) and orange juice (when he has a cold).
  • I offer all meals and snacks at the table.  We do not eat in front of the television. We do not eat in the car. It is my belief that it is highly important for people to eat at the table, taking time to eat, not rushing through a meal or a snack.  I believe this is SO important because by taking the time to eat, seated at the table, you are less likely to over eat.  Children who eat primarily at the table are less likely to become obese, and more likely to have more positive eating habits.
  • Offer a choice of two things that area acceptable to you when possible, especially for toddlers who are developing their sense of autonomy.  I say to Daniel, "you can have a banana or a cheese stick for snack."  Most of the time he will choose one of the two choices, if on the off chance he wants something different I say, "no, we don't have____ or no, we eat ______ for _____, you can have ______ or _______."  If Daniel is persistent about having the other thing that is not one of the choices, I just say "oh well, I guess you aren't that hungry" and he goes without, usually this results in a major tantrum, but that definitely does not get him what he wants.  Most of the time though, this is a great tactic.
  • I encourage the use of utensils, and not eating with hands.  If I offer a snack such as grapes or crackers, then hands are fine, but at meals, we use utensils.  Daniel is still at the age where he uses his hands to eat a lot of his food, but he is learning to use a fork and a small child sized knife and is doing well.  Using utensils promotes good eating habits and table manners.
  • At least one meal per day is eaten as a family.  Sometimes David works late, so we have breakfast together on those days.  On weekends, we have lunch and dinner together as a family.  Eating together not only promotes good eating habits, but also promotes good social habits.   Check out my post on eating meals together for more information on this.
  • I let Daniel help me in the kitchen.  Even though he is 2 (oh, my baby is getting so big...I can't believe it!)  he is an excellent helper!  Even if he isn't directly helping me cook I give him a job so he thinks he's helping.  Kids who help out in the kitchen are more likely to try new and different foods!
These are just a few things that work for me.  Do you have any ideas to add?  I would love to hear how you get your kids eating healthy meals. 

Until next time, happy and HEALTHY cooking and EATING!


cooperl788 said...

You probably already know that this post came at the perfect time for me. You're definitely right about toddlers not starving themselves. Georgia went without dinner once, but since then, she's had at least a few bites of whatever we're eating (fish AND chicken!!). One thing that's helped is to try to put at least one food I know she'll eat on the plate. I think it whets her appetite and she's more receptive to try the foreign food. Thanks for this - I'm going to be using all these tips!

Bailey said...

You said you don't offer food unless its at the table. But what about snacks when you're on the run. I am out running errands for hours, how do I do this with goldfish or another easy snack when there is no table to sit at. Or the pool?? After swimming we eat a snack. Just wondering.

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

You are so a girl after my own heart. Love ya babe!!!

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner

frenchieliza said...

Thanks so much for all of your comments. Bailey, thank you for your great question. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. I used to allow snacks in the car but my car got so dirty that I had to put a stop to it. I allow drinks in the car though. We also have snacks at the pool, we sit down like it's a picnic and have our snacks. When I am out running errands, I allow snacks in the shopping cart, for example, Daniel gets a free slice of cheese at the deli at our local grocery store, and we always make a stop at Starbucks on grocery day. Meals are always served at the table though, unless we are having a picnic! I hope that answers your questions!

Bailey said...

It does, thank you so much! I love your blog, it is inspiring me to have a healthier lifestyle. One more question, I am making my son's food homemade (he is 5 months) I got the Baeba Babycook so I will make it all myself, but do you have any good recipes or websites you would recommend for baby food?

frenchieliza said...

Hi Bailey, yes I do have a GREAT site that I used when Daniel was starting solids. It is called Wholesome Baby Food ( and it is THE BEST in my opinion! There is even a recipe for rice cereal on there, but I started with avocado.

Amy said...

Thanks for the great tips. And healthy eating aside, I like that you let him throw his tantrum and come back around when he changes his mind. I have a hard time watching parents cave and give their kid whatever they want.

Carly said...

Hi Elizabeth

What a great article (and very cute little sous chef Boonie)! You really have given some great practical tips to help parents ensure their kids are getting the right nutrition. It’s so important these days to offer kids a choice of homemade food, eat with the family and get kids involved in the kitchen. Research shows that kids who cook and eat family meals regularly tend to be healthier, do better in school, and have better communication skills than their peers.

That’s why I work with the nonprofit group behind Healthy Monday. They run series of public health initiatives, the latest launch being The Kids Cook Monday, which is a weekly chance for families to check in with each other and learn more about cooking and health. Please find out more info here: - We are looking for family oriented blogs to help spread the word about The Kids Cook Monday, by doing weekly posts on Monday. If you’d be interested in helping out by doing weekly posts, please contact me at


frenchieliza said...

Thanks Carly! I appreciate your comments. I will be getting ahold of you shortly!

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