My daughter is a bit of a unicorn…she loves to eat really healthy food. Shocker I know.
And the number one question I hear is, how did I raise a healthy eater?
For us eating wholesome healthy food is normal, it’s eating unhealthy that is weird. Although I do have a soft spot for ice cream.
That said we do mostly eat healthy whole foods. My little one loves spinach, broccoli, garlic, onions, fresh herbs, spices, and other jaw dropping foods.
I’ve seen heads turn at the market when my little one throws a fit over why she NEEDS cherry tomatoes and basil. I’ve seen the shocked faces when my little lady steals clusters of raw broccoli before I have a chance to roast them. She’s been known to demand fresh carrot juice the way other kids demand cake.
And always there is shock and awe from onlookers, as if what we are doing is so strange, so unnatural, so bizarre. It isn’t. But in today’s era of fast packaged foods I can see how it is unusual.
What I’ve done isn’t that hard.
It isn’t that impossible.
You too can have a healthy little eater.
But there were some critical steps along the way. Let me share what I did to turn one child in to a very healthy eater.
One more thing, remember all kiddos are different. This is a list of what worked for my family but every child is different and every family unique. Ultimately you need to do what works for your family.
1. Understood what was and wasn’t healthy before I had her
This is critical. We must first know what healthy nutritious food looks like.
Whole unprocessed foods (preferably organic) are the best place to start.
I always say it should come home from the store looking as close to what it looked like when it was harvested from the farm.
That doesn’t mean we never eat processed food (all natural usually organic), but I do read packages and understand what I’m looking for when it comes to what is and isn’t food.
Cans, chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, fake sugars, and GMO’s will get a food banned from our table.
Yes, that does mean I cook, a lot. It also means we don’t eat out much.
But health is far more important than the convenience of easy unhealthy food.
There are many places to start your whole food journey if you are a newbie. Here are some of my favs.
Food Babe – If you eat a typical mainstream diet of processed food, this site is a great place to start.
EWG – The Environmental Working Group is one of the best authorities on what exactly is in your food and products. Their Dirty Dozen list of the most contaminated produce is a must.
Dr. Axe – This is my go to site for easy and informative articles about health and nutrition.
Dr. Mercola – This is probably the most well known stop in the health and wellness circles. There is definitely a lot of information for a newbie and the advanced health guru.
2. Eat lots of nutritious whole foods while pregnant
This is probably one of the most critical steps. If you have the opportunity to do so, please start when you are pregnant. You literally are what you eat. And so is your child. Think about that.
What you eat provides the foundation from which your baby is created. Do you want to build your baby out of fast food, pesticides, and soda? Doesn’t wholesome whole organic food sound like a much better set of building blocks for your precious snowflake?
I’m not here to judge or make anyone feel guilty. That’s not my style. No one is perfect and neither am I. What I am saying is that each day is a new chance to do better. If you know you are pregnant, this is a great chance to change your habits for the better.
It is known that amniotic fluid will pick up the tastes of the food the mama eats. This exposure allows a baby to familiarize themselves with good healthy food.
On a personal note, I must have drank carrot juice 2 to 4 times per week when I was pregnant, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my daughter LOVES her carrot juice.
If you have a chance this is the time to start your little one on their whole food journey.You are literally what you eat. Do you want to build your baby out of fast food, pesticides, and soda?Click To Tweet
3. Eat wholesome foods while breastfeeding
Here is your second and maybe best chance to expose young palates to delicious healthy foods.
Breast milk will pick up the flavor of foods you eat, and thus your baby will receive steady exposure to new nutritious food.
They will also be making decisions about what they do and don’t like.
I’ve heard of little ones rejecting breast milk after a spicy meal or heavy hand of garlic…so be aware of this. Again this gives you and your baby an opportunity to explore foods BEFORE they actually begin solids.
And of course the better you eat during this time the more nutritious your milk is. Likewise, the toxins you consume during this time are likely to make their way to your precious child.
On another note, if you aren’t breastfeeding I highly encourage you to at least choose an organic formula and one that does not include brown rice syrup as the sweetener (because of arsenic contamination).
This is not the time to experiment with GMO crops and the pesticides they contain. Although formula is far from ideal, choosing organic allows you to minimize the toxic burden.
Some say an even better option is to make your own. This post from gives a very detailed approach to making your own formula. Full disclosure I have never made my own formula but if I had to do it over again and couldn’t breast feed I probably would consider it.
4. Make sure their first taste of baby food is of fresh organic whole food
I can’t stress this enough. If you want a child to eat healthy you must start by introducing whole nutritious foods as soon as they start eating. Skip the jars of preserved baby food in favor of homemade (and less costly) purees.
Some of my daughter’s first foods were fresh berry smoothies, carrot puree, fresh apple puree, herbed tomato sauce, whole grass fed milk yogurt and kefir, hummus, and homemade broth.
Making your own food isn’t that difficult. You don’t need fancy baby food makers, a Cuisinart immersion blender is what I used and it worked beautifully, and unlike baby food makers, no one outgrew it. It still serves us well.
A good blender can also do the same and of course serve double duty as a smoothie maker. If you are really on a tight budget, a good steamer basket, mesh strainer, and flexible spatula can also get the job done.
5. Don’t allow your child to be marketed to
This is often overlooked but just as important. Babies and young children are impressionable little sponges. Companies spend millions of dollars figuring out how to hook fledgling customers. Avoid the trap by keeping young children away from commercials.
You can do this by monitoring and limiting TV time. Try pre-recording shows on DVR and fast forwarding through commercials. You can also opt to play only age appropriate DVD’s or choose On-Demand programming from your cable company which doesn’t (usually) include commercials. I also choose stations that limit advertising, like DisneyJr.
Now that my daughter is older she knows that commercials are not something she should pay attention to. She will often find me to report (often in disgust) that a commercial is on. Our general rule is if it needs to be advertised then it isn’t something we want. By the way this is helpful in avoiding impulse toy purchases too.
6. Don’t open the pandora’s box of fast food
If there is one take home message it is this, if you want a healthy eater, do not expose children to junk food and fast food. Period.
I know this sounds harsh but keep in mind a few things. Mass processed fast food has little redeeming value and is usually swimming in preservatives, coloring agents, chemicals, GMO’s, and other questionable substances. The high salt, high sugar, high fat, and snazzy toy are often enough to get your little one addicted.
If you haven’t gone down this road yet, just say no. It is much easier to avoid fast food than to break the habit once it’s established. And remember kids emulate parents. If you eat fast food it is more likely that your child will too. So now is the time to break your habit if you have one.
My daughter doesn’t know what McDonald’s is. She’s never had food that came from a drive-thru, and I plan to keep it that way as long as I can.
7. Delay exposure to added sugar as long as possible
You will need the whole family to be on board for this one. Grandparents I’m talking to you. Kids, especially toddlers, don’t need sugar. They don’t need to be exposed to cookies, cakes, candy, and most definitely not soda.
It is important that they be offered whole foods before they are given a single drop of refined sugar. Otherwise they may prefer the high sugar foods and refuse the more nutritious options.
My little one was two when she tried her first organic cupcake. In lieu of refined sugar she was given berries, bananas, and other fresh fruit. She learned to love these natural sweets before she ever tried anything processed.
Today she is allowed two “treats” a day. She chooses from organic fruit juice sweetened lollipops, grass fed organic ice cream, or dark chocolate. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about balance.
8. Don’t give in to tantrums
This one is probably the most cited reason why parents claim they offer unhealthy food to their children. The fact is if a child has never been exposed to junk food, say soda or fast food, then they will never throw the tantrum for it in the first place. They can’t desire what they’ve never tried.
If however they have been exposed to junk food then this is the time to be lovingly firm and convey the message that the food is not good for them. Once they have settled down you can use this as an opportunity to explain why it isn’t good for them.
Look, kids throw tantrums over anything, but that doesn’t automatically mean they can (or should) have the thing that they desire.
Remember you are here to guide and direct them to what is safe.
If they threw a tantrum over wanting to run across a busy street you definitely wouldn’t give in. This is one of things that you must be committed to, otherwise you lose your power to their will.
9. Set the example
At the end of the day you can do everything right, but if you are eating junk eventually your child will too. You can only choose their foods for so long.
Kids will naturally want what you are having, and if what they see is fast food, soda and processed food then the message is, THIS is the food they too should be eating.
If you are eating good nutritious food then these moments of curiosity will be opportunities to offer new and exotic wholesome food.
My daughter learned to love spinach from picking at my daily salads. She finds lemon water refreshing after stealing sips from my glass. She eats fresh herbs off the plants after watching her grandpa harvest them daily.
She also knows what not to eat thanks to watching what I avoid.
Not unlike animals in the wild who look to their parents to direct them toward what is safe and what is harmful. Emulation is engrained into their systems.
The bottom line is you have the most influence regarding what your child eats.
10. Educate them about food
Kids love to learn and this is one way to seal in their commitment to healthy food. Use age appropriate ways to educate your kids about WHY they should be eating healthy food.
For my four year old she knows that blueberries are good for her eyes, she knows that spinach helps her grow strong, she understands bananas give her energy, and chamomile soothes an upset tummy.
They also need to know unhealthy food is bad for them. My little one knows “bad food” makes for “sad bodies”.
Recently she screamed at me that her grandmother was offering her GMO’s in the middle of a busy Costco. My mom was innocently offering her food samples that I had already declared unsafe. Obviously my daughter hasn’t yet mastered tact.
As you can see a lot goes in to producing a great healthy eater. It’s a process that begins in the womb and is built upon as they grow. It takes dedication to a lifestyle that cannot be faked. But it also isn’t that hard to do. If you make good choices so will your child. It really is all up to you.
Good luck on your journey!
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: None of the health topics presented on Filtered Family have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not replace personal judgment nor medical treatment when indicated, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always talk to your naturopathic physician or M.D. about the use of these or any other complimentary modalities. Reading this website denotes your understanding and agreement to our full disclaimer.