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Moms share: How I instill smart eating habits in my kids

Getting kids to eat well can be a struggle. From picky eaters to family time constraints, the challenges to eating well keep piling up. However, these three moms have figured out different approaches to instill smart eating habits in their kids.

family eating dinner at home

Lead by example

Jackki Divine, mom of 5-year-old Logan and 2-1/2-year-old Mason, talks to her boys about food but she and her husband try to lead by example. “They get the same foods on their dinner plate that my husband and I have — including protein, vegetable and a salad,” she said. However, she does not force her children to eat foods they truly dislike. “Our 5-year-old has a really hard time with spinach salads and doesn’t care for ground beef, so I don’t make him eat the salad, but I keep putting it on his plate and he occasionally tries it again. If I am making a dinner with ground beef, nine times out of 10, whatever I have cooked it in or with is sufficient for our son to eat it. If not, he gets to pick a dip — generally ketchup, salsa or sour cream — that he can have with it.” In addition to encouraging her kids to try and retry foods, Divine involves them in the meal planning and grocery shopping, which empowers them to make their own choices. “I don’t think there is any magic formula. I think each family needs to do what works for them, but I generally think that kids will adapt to whatever their parents do,” she said.

Focus on routine

Mom of 6-year-old Claire and 4-year-old Thomas, Susan Yoon focuses on routine. “I make them eat a main dish, fruit and vegetable at each meal,” she said. “They are so used to it that if I forget to put a vegetable on their plate, they remind me.” Yoon also educates her children about their food choices. She reviews how much sugar is in their cereal choices so that they understand some cereals are for every day, while others are OK to eat occasionally. “This doesn’t mean that they don’t like sugar,” she explained. “It just means that they know when they are eating too much of it!”

Appreciating home-cooked meals

Katie Ellis, mom to 2-year-old Grayson, occasionally struggles. “My son is 2 right now, and so to say there’s no struggle would be a lie — because there are tough days or days he just doesn’t want to eat much of anything,” she said. When he was a baby, she researched introducing foods like avocados and lentils and made his food herself. Now, Ellis involves Grayson in the grocery shopping and they visit farmers markets together. Plus, even though their family time is tight, Ellis tries to cook at home instead of going out. “I want him to understand and appreciate how home-cooked food can taste so much better and how much fun it is — something my mom instilled in me,” she said.

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