Ep #20: Tips and Tricks for Helping Your Kids Eat Healthy

We love our kids and want them to live long, happy, and healthy lives. In order to protect their health, we need to teach them good eating habits and help prepare them to make good choices as an adult.

Unfortunately, these days it is really hard to manage your children’s diet while they do their activities. We need to change the culture of constantly treating our kids with snacks and food to manage their behavior and preferences.

The most important thing to remember is that kids will eat more than just sugar and simple carbs. We often have concerns over alternatives, but we need to remember that those are just stories that we tell ourselves. Kids are adaptable and just need you to set a good example.


Listen To The Episode Here:

In Today’s Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • The importance of knowing your child and how they eat.
  • How to deal with all the snacks that get pushed on your kids.
  • That we trick ourselves with the food we choose to prepare for our family.
  • Why chasing perfection is not necessary.
  • Alternatives to traditional snacks and treats.
  • The process of finding a new hobby.
  • How to avoid defaulting to offering food when negotiating with kids.

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Showing 18 comments
  • Anne

    Happy Birthday to your daughter!! Wow- with a 12, 14 and 16 year old I have a lot of undoing to do!
    My most problematic kid is the 12 year old girl- a proclaimed vegetarian who doesn’t love veggies except artichokes and Edemome. Every Birthday I would say- OKAY this is the year you eat more! She loves pasta and popcorn and chips, some beans-but it seems when I make them- she doesn’t really eat them. She is no longer eating meat. Her weight and growth are good 50% for both and have been- but puberty is starting and I worry. Also should I be concerned with Soy products.
    For the growing 2 boys-who were always skinny little boys- both got pudgy at 13- one slimmed but the 16 year old struggles and is too heavy (5’8” and 170lb) with a A1C boarderline and familial elevated cholesterol (220-this is improved). I may just have them all listen to the podcast!!
    My problem is I try and make sweeping changes- with me and them- one day everything goes and the next it’s like the sky is falling- they joke and say “OMG mom did you read another book?!!”
    I need help making the changes slower but long lasting.
    And often the boys do not have me around- so they eat where they are.
    This is a time consuming struggle-and I go back and forth with how much effort I give.

    • Katrina

      Hi Anne! As far as soy products are concerned, always get organic so they’re non-GMO (if that’s something you’re concerned about). I try to limit our soy consumption to about 1-2 dinners per week at the most. It’s not uncommon for kids to be “junk food vegetarians.” Keep educating her on what a healthy vegetarian diet looks like and offer delicious vegetarian options. Hopefully, with time, she’ll come around. I’d have the whole family watch “That Sugar Film” on Amazon if you have Prime. It’s so good and your 16 year old might really resonate with it! But ultimately, focus on your food and being consistent with your eating first before spending a lot of time trying to manipulate theirs. It’s like on the airplane: Cover your mouth and nose with the oxygen mask before assisting others! <3

  • Yvonne

    Great podcast as always, Katriina!!
    My kids are almost 15 and almost 13, both boys. Of course I need to deal with the sometimes ravenous teenage appetite. Some days they eat a lot, other days not. I assume that through their teen years they may want to eat something in the afternoon (I sure did, when I was in high school), but I have told them that once they turn 18, they won’t need to snack anymore and shouldn’t. Come to think of it, my high school lunch was always fairly small (sandwich and apple), and maybe instead of coming home and eating a lot of stuff, I should have had larger lunches instead!

    I have been concerned with my younger one’s desire to snack all afternoon on things like chips, and he and I have been discussing that if he ate more at lunch then maybe he could last until dinner. And for my part I could serve dinner a little earlier.

    I know that sandwiches tend to stoke my hunger because of the bread, and I wonder if the same is true for him. Unfortunately now that the kids are making their own lunches, sandwiches have been the default.
    I’m very interested in non-sandwich lunch ideas for them.
    Unfortunately at school they have no access to a microwave which makes things tricky.

    • Katrina

      Hi Yvonne! It’s so interesting to think this all through, isn’t it? I agree, if a child is in a teen growth spurt, they might need more than 3 meals a day! But for the snack, they can have something with plenty of fat like apple and cheese, banana and peanut butter, cut up veggies with hummus or ranch dip or onion dip or guac or really any fatty dip. As long as they still eat a good dinner, they likely aren’t filling up too much. And yes, more food/more fat at lunch time might really help your younger son. Don’t forget how convenient a good Thermos container is. I heat up leftovers for my kids (they also don’t have microwave access) before school and they report back that the food is plenty hot enough at lunch time. That’s a very easy lunch for the kids to pack for themselves because all they have to do is heat it up! Other than that, they might like other very easy lunch food such as meat and cheese roll-ups with mustard or mayo inside, cut-up veggies with ranch, nuts, and a piece of fruit, or a variety of cheese, summer sausage/salami, pickles, olives, grapes, and cup-up veggies. You can have really easy veggies like grape tomatoes and baby carrots. They even have these little mini cucumbers and peppers these days. Very easy for them to wash and pack up. Hope that helps! <3

  • chris

    This is so great – thank you! I’m using this summer to work on converting the whole family to a low sugar/flour way of eating. My husband has already joined me in the no sugar/no flour life.

    I’d love to know which meals you circulate that your family loves.

    Also, I have one daughter who eats a really incredible amount of fruit each day. Would giving her whole milk with the fruit help offset the insulin response when she has a berry snack at 3pm?

    • Katrina

      Hi Chris!! I love your summer goal. I think I go into more detail on our meals in next week’s podcast – Episode 21. If you still have more questions after that, let me know! For your fruit eater, I’d rather she ate some nuts or nut butter or cheese with her berries. Whole milk is skim but milk has quite a bit of naturally occurring sugars in it so it might not offset the insulin response quite as well. But….maybe we could let her have her berries with lunch so that she doesn’t need the snack?

  • Judy Welsh MD

    Loved the podcast. My 7 year old daughter eats nothing but carbs. She also acts like we are trying to poison her when we set out vegetables other than carrots. Any advice on how to transition her to a healthier diet?

    • Katrina

      Lol! I love kids’ drama around food. So funny, because our drama around food isn’t really all that different, right? Anyway, I’d try to see if she’ll eat any fatty dips like ranch or dill or french onion or guac or bean dip with crackers or chips to start. Then, if she likes the dip, have her dip carrots into it. Then offer her to try some other veggies in it. Like maybe those adorable little baby peppers? Cucumbers? If she likes sweet, some kids like roasted beets or butternut squash quite a bit because they’re sweeter veggies. But ultimately, try new ways of preparing veggies, praise her like crazy for trying them, and be patient. She can still eat a lot more fat, even if she won’t eat veggies. Keep up the good fight, mama!

  • Kammy

    It sounds like you will be giving specific meal ideas on the next podcast. I would love to see a tool to build our “20 dinners and 5 lunches” – perhaps with input from listeners. I have my 4 or 5 no-guilt, heavy vegetable dinners… but the rest are either too complicated or too high in carbs. If we all understand that it would just be a starting point, it shouldn’t open up a Pandora’s box of variety and choices that make us search recipes all day.

    • Katrina

      Hi Kammy! Hopefully tomorrow’s podcast will help with some more ideas. Make sure you’re not making it too complicated – the simpler the food, the better! You can just repeat those 4-5 go-to meals over and over and maybe throw a couple others in there. Getting bored with your food is good. 😉

  • Sumi

    Katrina, on your podcast you recommended a spice seasoning brand that you really like. What was the name of it? Thank you.

    • Katrina

      I buy all my spices from Penzeys. They have an online store as well as brick-and-mortar shops around the country. Our favorite spice blends are Mural of Flavor and Tuscan Sunset. YUM!

  • Kari

    Loved this post. Cutting out snacks and getting the kids to shift to lower sugar and flour is a goal of mine this summer. It’s such a shift in mindset! What are you go-to staples to have on hand?

    • Katrina

      Hi Kari! My kids will almost always devour cut up veggies (carrots, red/yellow/orange peppers, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, celery) either alone or with a dip like ranch dressing, hummus, or guacamole. I figure that if they fill up too much on this, we’re doing pretty well! Of course, they can’t all agree on the exact same foods, haha….but for their lunches in the summer (they get lots of carb-y snacks with their sitter), I usually send veggies, fruit, cheese (which kind depends on which kid), and sunflower seeds or mixed nuts. Any kind of “treat” is some kind of dried fruit. We still eat the same dinners that we always do in the summer, just to keep it simple. I sometimes have to fight my urge to try new recipes in favor of constraint! Any in-season veggies or veggies from our garden are just incorporated right into our regular meals. Hope this helps! <3

  • LP

    I love this episode! Your techniques have definitely helped with my 2 year old. My 4 year old is a different story on the other hand. He has always been extremely picky around food and his diet basically consists of cheddar cheese, bananas, peanut butter, milk and bread. He will course eat mac and cheese and hot dogs whenever they are offered, but we try to limit those. It seems to be getting worse because he used to readily eat peas, apples and broccoli but won’t eat them anymore. For the past year, we have been trying to get him to broaden his horizons and it just isn’t working. He starts crying and saying the smell of new foods is making him sick and sometimes even dry heaves. I haven’t even tried very adventurous foods – he does this with things like omelets, spaghetti, chicken soup. Our approach has been not to push it – we let him push his plate away if the smell is bothering him and just sit with us at the table. We’ve tried our best to act like it’s not a big deal and move on. There are many times that he goes to bed after refusing to eat anything since breakfast – those are fun days as you can imagine. Do you have any tips for the more resistant child?

    • Katrina

      Hi Leila! Once kids’ pickiness moves out of the realm of “normal,” I generally referred them to a trained speech and feeding therapist who could help with the sensory issues the child was having, and could also give the parents guidance on how to proceed with eating and food at home. It sounds like your son might be ready for that, but of course please consult with your pediatrician first! Good luck!

  • Bethany

    Hi Katrina! This was such good timing for me to listen to! My kids all seem to have constipation issues (and one a small weight issue) and I really think gluten and sugar is a huge part of it. I’m really wondering about my oldest’s blood sugar levels too and if that’s a part of some of her issues (I had gestational diabetes with all of them and wonder if it’s affecting her levels now). This was so helpful and I would love more details in future podcasts! I have made the transition to eating healthier and really want to help them too…without transferring any of my food/weight beliefs that are old and unhelpful.

  • Lisa

    Hi Katrina, great podcast! Curious about your thoughts on sugar substitutes, especially for kids. What’s the bigger evil – sugar free ketchup with artificial sweeteners or regular? We’ve never allowed our 6 year old sugar subs but I do use them periodically myself and I’m not sure if it’s worth keeping those off limits.

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