Parents Who Raise Healthy Eaters Never Use These 4 Phrases When Their Kids Are Young, Says Dietitian


My 7-year-old son was a picky eater when he was young, so it’s no surprise that getting kids to eat healthy foods is one of the most common complaints parents have.

As a dietitian and founder of Children eat in colorI help parents create a pleasant and inviting dining environment where their children can learn to enjoy new foods.

Having spent years observing children’s eating behaviors, I have found that certain phrases derail them. To help your child develop a healthy relationship with food, avoid these four toxic phrases:

1. “You can have dessert after you eat your broccoli.”

When you use candy to convince a child to eat something, all they hear is, “Just so you know, broccoli is bad. It’s so bad I have to bribe you to eat it.

We want kids to have a balanced view of food, and pitting different foods against each other doesn’t encourage them to seek out healthy options.

What to say instead: “You can eat the broccoli when you’re ready.”

It always gives them a choice and often works better than any bribe. Making mealtime fun can also help kids engage with foods they don’t yet like, on their own terms.

For example, you can pretend your broccoli is a microphone and sing into it before eating it. Your fun modeling can also encourage your child to interact with their broccoli.

2. “If you shut up, I’ll give you a cookie.”

Here’s another phrase that puts candy on a pedestal. The more sugary snacks are used as rewards, the higher they rise on this pedestal.

Therefore, your child may want more sweets than other foods. Or they will start associating them with feeling good and will always lean on them when they want to feel better.

What to say instead: “We can play your favorite game tonight if you’re quiet.”

Choose non-food rewards and enjoy cookies with your child when they want to eat them (rather than only on special occasions).

3. “You have to take one more bite before you can say ‘no’.”

It basically translates to, “You can’t say ‘no,’ no matter how you feel.”

Forcing your child to eat can teach him to ignore that feeling of hunger and fullness. And as they get older, they might have a hard time saying “no” to things they’re not comfortable with.

What to say instead: “We say ‘no thank you’ when we don’t want to eat something.”

Instead of forcing your child to take another bite, teach him to politely refuse food.

4. “I’d love to have three more bites.”

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