How to cultivate healthy eating habits in children

Feeding kids is a Herculean task. Most of the kids reject foods that are healthy at the first glance itself. In this article, I will share with you some tips on how to develop healthy eating habits (tried and succeeded ones with my 3 yrs. old daughter).

Never expect the kids to eat like an adult.

You know one thing? We expect our kids to eat like us, or at least our eyes are satisfied. That’s the number 1 reason why we feel kids are poor eaters. First, accept the fact that their stomachs are smaller than ours and hence they will eat much lesser than us (or what we expect them to eat).  So when you offer them food, offer them only a handful of food at first. Give another handful only if they want it again.

Offer them food only when they demand it

Kids will eat only when they are hungry (but they would immediately accept junk food like ice-cream even if they are full) so if you are planning to give him/her something healthy then you should wait for them to feel really hungry. Hide all the snack items like biscuits, cakes etc. from them. Eating biscuits and other snacks in-between the meal time would kill a child’s hunger and they will blindly refuse the food when you offer it in the meal time.

It’s OK if they choose to eat fruits or vegetables instead of the meal offered

Culinary fruits

If your kids want to eat fruits or vegetables instead of rice and other food during meal time, then give them the fruit they want. It’s completely ok to eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead of rice meals, other traditional food etc. But make sure it’s a fruit or vegetable n not a snack.

Use junk food as a channel to introduce healthy food

pearl - millet cake

No, I don’t mean that you have to give them junk food first and then slowly substitute them with healthy ones. Children love cakes, pastries, pizza, burgers, cookies etc. what you have to do is to take advantage of this junk food love. You can make a cake with millet flour. Cake made from jowar flour (sorghum flour) tastes well. You can make cookies and cakes using a combination of all-purpose flour/Maida and millet flour or wheat flour (whole wheat) and so on.  Whole wheat flour and millet flour are rich in nutrients. You can make burger and pizza the same way.  Skip adding baking soda or baking powder if you are planning to bake a cake for the children frequently. Since you are making it for the kids, it’s ok if it’s not risen properly.


Don’t worry if you do not have an oven, you can sure bake without it. Just prepare the cake batter as how the recipe says, pour it into the baking tray and place it in a thick bottomed pan like the pressure cooker and close it with a lid (ordinary lid and not the pressure cooker lid) take care to grease the thick bottomed pan with oil and preheat for at least 5 minutes before you place the tray with the cake batter in it. It may take half an hour to 45 minutes for the cake to bake completely. You might wonder whether this method would really work or the pan would be destroyed in the process. Trust me you will get a clean baked cake and of course, the pan won’t be damaged. Just make sure that it is a thick bottomed pan made of aluminium or anodized aluminium and grease it with a little oil.  You can also steam the cake. Just make the batter consistency thicker than instructed in the recipe.

You can make desserts using pulses; cereals etc. and decorate them with nuts and raisins. One of the easy ways to make kids eat healthy food is to add a bit sweet to it (preferably molasses)

Present the food in a creative way

Kids eat food when it is offered to them in an eye appealing style. You can use cookie cutters to cut Indian bread like roti, chapatti, parathas etc. into different shapes and sizes and then present it to the kids. Or you can make a face out of dosa, idli etc. using vegetables like carrots and others. Whatever may be your traditional, regional food you can use your creativity to make it appetizing to your kids.

Show them nature or tell them a story

Yes, I am coming to the age old trick that our parents and grandparents used on us. Though there is nothing much left around you to show them, you can still show them the existing birds, throw them a bit of the food you are feeding and show him/her how it’s eating. It may encourage the kid to have the food. You can also make tiny balls out of the food you are feeding, tell the kid that you are a bird and the ball of food is your egg and that he/she is an animal/bird eating the egg when you are looking away (pretend with them). You can work your way that way.

If possible you can make him/her sit with other kids and eat. This would also encourage him/her to eat. Sometimes all you need is to give the kid some food on a plate and ask him/her to eat by self (you can feed them in between when they are messing with it).

Even if you follow these tips, kids would still refuse to eat sometimes. In such cases, don’t get tensed. Just relax and let them eat whatever they want. Just take care that your kids don’t make it a habit. Keeping snacks like biscuits and other away from the reach and sight of your kids would save you half the pain of running behind them with food.

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