Raising Healthy Eaters

Infant eating a bowl of oatmeal alongside graphic which says "Raising Healthy Eaters" From the moment they come into the world, all we want for our kids is for them to be healthy, safe and resilient. And healthy eating habits are a big part of overall child wellness. The good news is kids are born with the capacity for building a healthy relationship with food. They just need our guidance, support and trust to get them there.

Responsive feeding is the practice of responding appropriately when your child shows you signs—verbally or nonverbally—that they are hungry or full. Babies are born with natural cues that tell them when they are hungry and full. Before babies are speaking, they use nonverbal signs and body language to communicate with you. As they get older, their signs evolve and, in most cases, eventually turn into words. Responsive feeding is learning to trust that your child knows how much food to eat (or not eat). 

If you want to raise a healthy eater—and minimize mealtime stress—start by knowing the roles you and your child play during mealtimes. This concept, called division of responsibility, can help you build healthy family eating habits and make mealtimes more enjoyable for everyone. As the caregiver, it’s your job to decide what, when and where food is offered. Your child gets to decide if they’ll eat, what they’ll eat and how much they’ll eat (from the food you provide).

One of the best ways to raise healthy eaters is to model healthy eating habits during family meals. When kids eat at a table, have no distractions (e.g., screens or toys) and share conversation with family, they’re not just more likely to build a healthy relationship with food. They’re also likely to build other healthy habits. In fact, kids who grow up with regular family meals perform better in school, have higher self-esteem and are less likely to take part in high-risk behaviors.

Healthy eating for kids can begin with what they drink. Did you know a regular, 6-oz. juice box can contain enough sugar to max out your child’s daily recommended intake? That’s why choosing water, plain milk or a milk alternative instead of juice, soda and other sugary drinks is so important. And we’ve got you covered with hydration tips for kids—from when your baby is learning how to use a cup until they’re refueling at sports practice.

When it comes to building a healthy relationship with food, the way we talk about nutrition can be just as important as offering healthy meals. To encourage healthy eating habits for kids, try to be mindful of how your family talks about food. From talking about food at the table to modeling your own relationship with food, you may be surprised what kids pick up on and what sticks with them as they get older.