Picky eaters are the bane of many parents’ existences. Chicken fingers, French fries, and pizza are all well and good, but healthy eating habits are important to develop. When humans are young, our bodies can handle unhealthy foods, but for older humans, healthy eating is immeasurably important. Yet, healthy eating doesn’t materialize out of nowhere, it is a habit that must be developed. So how do parents walk the line of letting kids be kids and developing healthy eating habits? Read on to learn some tips for how to encourage kids to eat healthy without having to force them.

  1. Remain Neutral.

Everyone has seen the sitcom mom scolding “Eat your vegetables!” Turns out, forcing kids to eat a certain way is not how to develop healthy eating habits. Avoid commenting on what kids are eating or the quantity that they are eating. This can have two negative consequences. First, commanding kids may work for a little bit, but eventually they will push back. Children will eventually become obstinate and refuse to eat anything healthy as a form of rebellion. Secondly, constant commentary about food can lead to mental complexes about weight and eventually an eating disorder.

  1. Provide Balanced Options.

No matter who is doing the cooking in the house, children will pick up balanced eating habits naturally if the meals that are served are balanced. Modern parents are very concerned about sugars and fats. However, humans need those to survive. Unless a child has some sort of dietary issues, they should be allowed to indulge in unhealthy foods every once in a while.

Experts suggest cooking one meal for the family and serving it “family style”. This allows kids to pick what they want to eat and how much of each food they want. Parents or other adults should eat a balanced plate. Anybody that has children knows that they learn by mimicking adults. Even if broccoli looks unappetizing, a kid may try a piece or two if they see adults eating it. This format also allows for sampling. If a picky eater is nervous about a new food, they can give themselves a small serving and try it. If an adult serves them a large portion, it may seem overwhelming and they’ll avoid even trying it.

  1. Get Kids Involved In Their Food

If your family plans meals, let kids have some input. For example, give them two or three options for vegetables and let them choose which one sounds best to them. Another good way to do this is to take children grocery shopping with adults. If a new fruit or vegetable catches their eye, try it out with them.

A great option for involving kids is to have them help cook dinner, and allow them to experiment in the kitchen. If children help cook a dinner, they are much more likely to eat it because they are proud of what they made. Experimenting may want to be reserved for their own lunches or snacks. However, letting a kid play with food will lead to more interest and they may find new flavors to love.