Skip to main content

Raise Healthy Eaters in the New Year

Contributors: Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Reviewers: Academy Nutrition Information Services Team

Published: January 03, 2022

Reviewed: November 28, 2023

kid eating healthy food - Raise Healthy Eaters in the New Year

Ring in a new year by teaching kids the importance of food, nutrition and eating skills: food to fuel busy, successful lives; nutrition to nourish strong bodies and smart brains; and eating skills to enjoy the social aspect of meals with family and friends.

As with any part of raising children, no one does a perfect job with nutrition. As a parent, grandparent or adult caregiver, you can help to raise healthy eaters during these critical years by doing your best to:

  • Serve regular, balanced meals and snacks with a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
  • Provide calm, pleasant mealtimes where adults and children can talk together.
  • Remove distractions such as television, phones and tablets so that your attention is on each other.
  • Allow children to use their internal signals to decide how much and what to eat from the foods you set out for each meal.
  • Explore a variety of flavors and foods from different cultures and cuisines.
  • Share an appreciation for healthful food, lovingly prepared and shared with others.
  • Make food safety, such as washing hands, part of every eating occasion.
  • Teach basic skills for making positive food choices away from home.
  • Find credible food and nutrition resources when you don't know the answer.

While this may seem like an intimidating to-do list, two family habits go a long way to making all this happen: regular family meals and involving kids in nutrition from the ground up.

Make Family Mealtimes a Priority

Sometimes a simple act can have important, long-lasting benefits. According to parenting and health experts, that’s the case with family meals. For example, eating and talking together can help:

  • Foster family unity
  • Prevent behavior problems at home and school
  • Enhance academic success
  • Improve nutrition
  • Promote healthy weight for kids

With that impressive list of benefits, it's worth making the time and effort to enjoy more meals together each week. Look for easy ways to add just one family meal to the schedule. If evenings seem too hectic for family dinners, set aside time for a weekend breakfast or lunch. After a month or two of this new pattern, try adding another family meal each week. Before you know it, you will be eating together on most days.

Get Kids Involved in Nutrition

Start young and make nutrition fun. There’s an opportunity for kids to learn about nutrition in a variety of places — your kitchen, the grocery store or a community garden. Every trip through the supermarket can be a nutrition lesson. Kids can learn to categorize food into groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein foods. They can choose new foods they want to try, including picking out a new fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit each trip. As children get older, they can help plan the menu at home and then pick out the foods to match the menu items while shopping.

Nutrition is just one of many reasons to have a garden. The process of planting, watching over and harvesting a garden provides daily opportunities for children to learn valuable lessons and enjoy physical activity, while reaping the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

Kids Eat Right content is brought to you by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, the only charitable organization devoted exclusively to supporting nutrition and dietetics professionals. Because the Foundation relies solely on donations to thrive, the success and impact of its programs and services is directly attributed to the generous support of donors.

Find a Nutrition Expert

Looking for credible nutrition information and recommendations? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' network of credentialed food and nutrition practitioners are ready to help!