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How to get your kids to eat healthy too!

No one likes to be told what to do.

This is a fundamental fact of human psychology, and it’s true of almost everyone, including kids.

Whether age 2 or 92, humans respond in pretty similar ways when they’re ordered around.


Stop listening.

Refuse to comply.

Lose their tempers.

They might even do the opposite of what they’ve been told.

The reason: Being bossed around can make you feel minimized, unseen and unheard, as if no one cares about your thoughts or opinions.

And that’s just from an adult’s point of view. Now imagine being a kid.

Make no mistake: Kids need direction. Left to their own devices, they’d have to learn way too many lessons the hard way. And potty training could take years.

But that doesn’t mean they need parents to always tell them what to do.

There’s an alternative that tends to work better, and it’s particularly effective when it comes to food: Help them figure out what to do for themselves.


Ask them curious, reflective questions about their choices.

Deeply listen to and consider their answers.

Use their responses to guide them.

This one shift—away from directives and over to questions—can transform parenting. And though it may sound a bit abstract right now, we’ll show you five ways to start using this technique today.

But first, let’s start with a few ground rules.

Rule #1: Practice the behavior you want to see.

Kids naturally trend toward doing what they see you doing. So model the behavior you want them to emulate, such as:

  • eating slowly

  • having meals at a table rather than in front of the TV

  • enjoying vegetables

  • taking time to prepare and cook food

  • stopping eating when you’re satisfied or full, not stuffed

Before giving kids more power, you’ll want to consider:

What are you teaching your kids by example? 

Because when your actions don’t match your words, kids notice.

Rule #2: Remain neutral.

Neutral involves asking genuine questions, with curiosity, and being okay with your child’s response. 

Neutral is not: “I’m going to ask you a question that only has one right answer: My answer.”

It’s also not celebrating your kids’ choices with comments like “Yay! You ate your veggies! Good job!” Nor is it bemoaning their choices by saying things like, “You’re eating THAT for a snack?”

This can be super hard at first. After all, you care a lot about your kids and the state of their arteries, pancreas, and overall health.

But it’s this neutrality, coupled with the rules that we already mentioned, that allow questions to work.

The more you model the behaviors you want to see, hold up your end of the bargain, and remain neutral, the more likely your kids will actually do the thing you want them to do—no yelling required.

Rule #2: Make it fun!

8 ways to make Nutrition Fun

  • Play “two-bites” Bingo. Create a Bingo board with fun eating challenges in each square, like: Dip your least favorite veggie in peanut butter, chocolate, or whipped cream. The whole family must take two bites of any food creation. Once you do enough food challenges to earn a Bingo, award a prize.

  • Award points for trying new foods. Maybe kids get 5 points for trying a new veggie, 10 points for trying it with another food (such as carrots on a salad), or 20 points for preparing and trying the new veggie. Once they get to 100 points, award a prize.

  • Designate a “You’re in Charge” night: Each family member gets a night to be in charge and pick dinner for the whole family. If a kid picks pizza, that’s totally fair. (Hint: Parents can make healthier choices on their nights.)

  • Make dinner a roll of the dice: Everyone works together to brainstorm six dinner ideas. Assign each dinner a number from one to six. Then, designate one night a week as “game night.” For that night, you pick dinner by rolling dice.

  • Give fruits and veggies their own spirit days. On “red” day, you eat red produce. On “yellow day” yellow produce, and so on.

  • Ask kids for help planning, shopping, and preparing dinner. Tasks from setting the table to flipping the pancakes helps to involve kids, teach them important kitchen skills, and, ultimately, makes them more likely to eat what you’ve prepared.

  • Stage an experiment. While shopping with you, ask kids to find produce the family has never tried before. Agree to sample it as an experiment. You might even have kids “review” the food with a starring system.

Questions that can transform meal time

People say, “there’s no such thing as a bad question.” But that’s not entirely true—because certain types of questions work better than others.

Disempowering questions have a tone of authority, reinforcing your position as a parent and of you being right. They are “what I say goes” statements formed as questions. When you use them, your kids feel attacked and minimized. "Why the heck don't you eat your vegetables....this is the way we always cook them."

Empowering questions help people feel seen, heard, and welcome to make their own choices. "I noticed you haven't touched your vegetables yet, do you like the way they are cooked. If not, what's your favorite way that I cook them?"

#1: Hold a brainstorming session.

How to do it: Ask open-ended questions. Then pause, and let your kids fill in the answers.


  • I‘m going to the grocery store tomorrow. What would you like to add to the list this week?

  • Hey, let’s take a look at different types of vegetables. Which ones do you think you’d be willing to try?

  • We’ve been into a rut lately with dinner, eating the same 3-4 meals over and over. Would you be willing to flip through a cookbook with me, and let me know which meals you want to try?

Why it works: This technique helps you honor and respect your children’s food preferences without being over-determined by them. Use it to understand what your kids like and don’t like.

#2: Create an abundance of options.

How to do it: In The Hunger Games, the participants could choose a weapon from the cornucopia, but the game designers chose which weapons were actually available. These questions function much in the same way—but without all the death.

List or present a range of choices, including at least one you know your child will love.


  • Okay, for our main course tonight, this is what’s available in the fridge right now: roasted chicken, burgers, or fish sticks. Which one do you vote for?

  • I would love some help with cooking. It’s so hard for me to do this all myself. Would you be willing to help by setting the table? Making a salad? Finding recipes?

  • After placing dinner—fish, rice, veggies—on the table, ask: What foods do you want to put on your plate?

Why it works: A list of options gives your kids a sense of control, but simultaneously creates guardrails that prevent kids from driving off the cliff.

Maybe you’re wondering: What do you do if your kid goes exclusively for the same option repeatedly? For example, let’s say you try the third example we’ve listed above, and your kid goes straight for the rice and eats nothing else.

First, try not to react with negativity.

Second, play around with including different foods in the rotation—say, instead of white rice, you might have potatoes or whole wheat pasta or even broccoli. Or, play around with making their favorite a little bit healthier, perhaps by mixing white and brown rice together.

THEN, try question #3.

#3: Add something new.

How to do it: Often when kids want to eat the same food, over and over, parents try subtraction: How do I stop my kid from eating x, y, or z?

With this approach, you do the opposite. Rather than taking away their favorite option, you add to it. Don’t fuss about what your kid wants to keep doing. Instead shift the focus to what new, healthy food or habit you could add.


  • Great. You want fries for dinner for the third night in a row. Do you think you could add a fruit to that?

  • Mac and cheese again? You sure do love that. I’m wondering: Could we mix our protein into it? What do you think would taste great when added to mac and cheese?

Why it works: New foods and experiences can be scary. This technique helps picky eaters feel safe because their favorite food is still available.

Site Source: Precision Nutrition


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