How to teach kids about nutrition

Sharing some ideas on how to set healthy examples for kids, teach them about health, and get them excited about nutrition.

Hi friends! How’s the week going? Things have been chaotic around here, between the girls’ dance competitions, school events, and, of course, fun time whenever we can. When you have a hectic schedule and active kids, it’s even more important to teach children healthy eating habits.

For today’s post, I’m answering a reader’s request about teaching kids about nutrition and setting a healthy example for kids as they grow up. Keep in mind, while I am a certified personal trainer, women’s fitness specialist, Integrative Health Practitioner, and P1 Nutrition Coach, I am not a doctor or Registered Dietitian. Regardless, it’s been important to me to be a role model for my kids and to teach them healthy behaviors they can keep for life. In today’s post, I’m sharing some of the things that have worked for us, and as always, I love hearing your input, too!

How to teach kids about nutrition

How to teach kids about nutrition

Show, don’t tell

This is my #1 tip and I could probably just end this post here. A lot of the things the kids know about nutrition, they’ve learned from watching us and how we eat, how we plan our meals, and how we shop. I don’t have to really “tell” them anything; kids are little sponges and are always soaking up information from the world around them. Make sure you’re being a good role model.

I love the fact that our kiddos are adventurous eaters who seem to enjoy food as much as we do. They’re not picky and will try anything, and while they each have a giant sweet tooth (I do, too!), they also enjoy a variety of foods, including lots of fresh produce, protein, healthy fats, and nutrient-dense starches.

One of my biggest goals for nutrition for the girls was to teach them about balance, which they can only learn if I model that myself. I’ll have a giant salad, but I’ll also have a cupcake, ice cream, or a couple peanut butter cookies with them, and it’s no big deal. We order Domino’s pizza (they love it) and get donuts weekly. I never want anything to be *weird* or forbidden, and they know that we focus on healthy foods like colorful, fresh foods from the earth, but we also have room for the soul-hugging stuff in there, too.

how to get kids eat oysters and sardines

(Their favorite snack: smoked oysters and skinless/boneless sardines. They eat them straight-up out of the can.)

This can be hard if you’ve grown up with a tricky relationship with food, but remember that kids are always watching. Enjoy treats guilt-free and don’t talk about how food affects your physical appearance. Rather than talking about foods as good or bad, you can say things like, “I’m going to have so much energy after this salad” or “soup always makes me feel better when I’m under the weather.” Or, you could also say nothing. I find that whatever I’m eating, the girls want to eat, too. I’ll often make my portions larger because I know at least half will be “tasted.”

Eat the rainbow

I don’t think kids *need* to know the vitamin, mineral content, or macro balance of their foods. Instead, they can focus on eating the rainbow. You can ask them, “Hey, did you have anything green yet today? Do you want salad, broccoli, or zucchini with dinner?” (Healthy food choices like this are a win-win) “How many colors of the rainbow can we put on our plate for lunch?”

This is a great way to encourage younger kids to eat foods from different food groups without making it feel like a chore, and an easy way to encourage proper nutrition for older kids.

Having a little garden has encouraged them to try new things, too. Our kids love going outside to pick carrots, bell peppers, salad greens, and melons. Not only is it handy at meal times, our garden has been a game-changer when it comes to healthy snacking!

little garden at home

Give them freedom within parameters

For this one, if I know they’ve already had more sugar during the day (like a boba tea AND an ice cream at the pool), I’ll give them some more nutrient-dense choices for other meals. “Hey, do you want chicken or fish tonight?” “What veggies or fruits do you want with your meal?” The girls know that for every meal they’ll get a few constants: a protein, a starch, a healthy fat, and always a fruit or veggie (usually both with lunch and dinner). I hope that by setting up our meals this way, they’ll inherently know how to balance a plate when they get older.

Let them go shopping with you and choose new produce options

This is definitely the most fun one! Whenever we go to the grocery store or put in an online grocery order, I let the girls each pick a new fruit or vegetable. They often surprise me with their choices and we’ve been able to discover new things this way. This makes them excited to try these new options, and I find that it also keeps us out of the monotony of having the same fruits and veggies in our rotation. It’s also fun to take them to the farmer’s market and pick out some new finds that feel exciting to them.

Involve them in the cooking process

Kids are ALWAYS more excited to eat when they helped to prepare the meal. For our dinners, I try to find age-appropriate ways to let them help, whether it’s peeling carrots, putting a salad kit together (P can do the whole thing from start to finish), washing and seasoning vegetables, harvesting herbs or greens from the garden, measuring ingredients, or chopping (with supervision the whole time, obvs). Cooking with them usually takes a tiiiiiny bit longer, but it’s totally worth it. I want them to enjoy cooking and it’s another way that we can enjoy time together. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly cookbook, the girls LOVE this one. (Liv recently told me it’s “too easy” for her, so we’re looking for a new one!)

So, tell me, friends: what habits are you trying to set up for your kids as they grow? What are some resources that have helped you?

How do you involve kids in the cooking process?



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  1. Kara on August 5, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    Great post, Gina! One thing I struggle with is how to teach balance—probably because I didn’t grow up with it. For example, if my kiddo has a cupcake at school for a friend’s bday treat and then she wants a granola bar or some other type of what I consider a “treat food” after dinner, is it okay? I just don’t know how much is okay. Sometimes I just say, “I don’t know. Ask your dad.” Haha. I hate saying that, but it’s really the truth. I don’t know how many joy foods vs. fuel goods are acceptable in a day. Any thoughts on this? I want so much to set them up for success, but I don’t want to pass down my complicated relationship with food to them. I try to always model healthful choices, but I at the same time, I don’t want them hung up and confused like I sometimes have been, especially my daughter.

    • Fitnessista on August 8, 2022 at 2:46 am

      this is a tricky one for me, too! i try to not let them have an avalanche of sweets throughout the day. like last night, we knew we were going to a friend’s house for dinner and they wanted ice cream mid-day, so i said let’s have dessert with our friends tonight instead since i know we’ll have lots of sweet treats later. or if i knew they had something sweet earlier (like a cupcake) and want a bar after dinner, i would say, “hey, i think we’ve had a bit of sugar today. do you want some jerky or a cheese stick instead?” and if they say, “no i really want the bar” i let them have it. sometimes they’re like “sure, i’ll take a cheese stick.” so i try to give them other choices but if they’re adamant about it, i don’t make it a big deal.)

  2. Valerie on August 7, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    Hi Gina!

    This is a great post. I struggle with being a bit over weight. My daughter has heard me and seen me diet. It is a really struggle to try to keep her balanced when I’m trying to drop the pounds. She has heard things from others, not me, like the words diet, calories, etc. How can I teach her to trust her body when she is full when she sees me ?

    • Fitnessista on August 8, 2022 at 2:43 am

      please keep in mind that i’m not an expert in this at all!!! but if you have weight loss goals, i would try to not discuss them in front of your daughter. i would just try to turn the focus to other things and if anything, share how food can nourish your body (make you strong, keep you from getting sick, etc) instead of the calories, etc.
      i hope this helps a little <3

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