Dos and Don’ts to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits |

Dos and Don’ts to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits


  • When your child asks for a snack just before dinner, you set limits by saying “Dinner is almost ready, you’ll have to wait 10 minutes”.

    Your child may cry, whine or plead for food at first, but will eventually understand that she will be fed soon.

    Your child will also be hungry when dinner is served and will eat well and be more apt to try new foods.

    What your child is learning is the difference between hunger and fullness and that she can expect to be fed regularly. She is also getting experience with new foods.



  • When you say, “This peach is so sweet and delicious” and then eat the peach with enjoyment, your child will watch you.

    She may touch the peach or even take a bite.

    What your child is learning is that peaches are good and that other people like peaches and eating in general is pleasant. It is easy to see why this sets the stage for trying the food the next time it is offered.

    Modelling good eating habits and talking positively about foods are important.



  • If you say to your child, “If you eat your broccoli, you may have some ice cream”

    What usually happens is that your child will take a reluctant bite of the broccoli, often after whining, crying, delaying or negotiating with you.

    When she does take that bite you will be happy she ate some broccoli and will reward her with ice cream.

    But what your child is really learning is broccoli is something bad you have to eat if you want something good. She is also learning to dislike broccoli and like ice cream.

    What you have achieved then by rewarding her for eating broccoli is a more intense dislike of broccoli and less chance she will grow to like it.



  • If you say to your child, “Take 3 more bites, then you can go play”

    What usually happens is that your child cries, whines, wiggles around in the chair, tries to negotiate and eventually takes the 3 bites. You will feel better about the amount of food your child ate.

    But what your child has learned is to eat when she is not hungry and that mealtimes and sitting at the table are not pleasant.



  • You might leave snacks and juice around the house in a place your child can easily reach.

    What happens when you do this is your child eats a lot of snacks and juice but isn’t being hungry for meals.

    You may still be concerned she is not eating her meals well but parents often feel better if their child is at least eating something.

    What the child is learning, though, is to like snacks and juice. It may also be difficult for your child to know what hunger and fullness feel like because she is eating small amounts all day long.



  • Your child refuses to eat the chicken, spinach and rice you gave her for dinner but asks for crackers 5 minutes later, crying that she is hungry. You give her the crackers because you are worried she is not eating enough and your child happily eats the crackers.

    You feel relieved that she has at least eaten something.

    But what your child is learning is that if she cries hard enough, she will get what she wants to eat and she learns to like crackers not chicken, rice and spinach.

    The same thing will happen if your child refuses to eat what you have cooked for dinner and you make her other food. She will never learn to like the foods you want her to like.