Developing Positive, Healthful Habits in Kids

Many school-aged children are not eating enough of the recommended amounts of certain food groups, including vegetables, fruits, and dairy, which means they may not be consuming the nutrients they need to support their growing bodies.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to play a significant role in children’s nutrition and health by teaching kids about healthful foods, being good role models, and making sure physical activity is incorporated into each day.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation celebrate Kids Eat Right Month® in August, which is a perfect time to reevaluate your family’s eating and physical activity habits and take the following steps to make positive, healthful changes:

Shop Smart.

To encourage healthful eating, get your children involved in selecting foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which should be served at all meals and incorporated into snacks. It may be helpful to plan your meals and create a shopping list before you go to the store.

photograph of people cooking togetherCook Healthy.

Involve your child in the preparation of meals with age-appropriate tasks. They will learn about food and may even be curious enough to try new foods they helped prepare.

Eat Together.

Gather around the table as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another. Family meals encourage healthy family relationships and good eating habits.

Create Healthful Habits.

Serve as a role model to help your kids develop healthful habits. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and divide the rest of your plate to include a grain, especially a type of whole grain, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta, and add a protein. For beverages, children older than two should drink water along with milk. Drinks and foods with added sugars should be avoided in children younger than 2 and limited for older children.

Get Moving.

Aside from being a fun way to spend time together, regular physical activity is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, develop social skills, and build self-esteem. Preschool children are encouraged to be active throughout the day, and older children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 should have at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Get Talking.

Eating nutritious foods can sometimes be a challenge for kids, particularly if they are picky eaters. Try talking to your children about the foods they enjoy and introduce them to new foods. Ask them questions about the foods that are in front of them including what it looks like, how they think it is grown, etc.

Learn more at or consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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