Kids’ Healthy Eating Habits Begin With Parents (But Don’t Skip the Birthday Cake)

July 14, 2008

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

As parents we have the power to teach our kids healthy eating habits.

Last weekend I was preparing food for my son’s second birthday. On the menu were three salads: a roasted veggie and bean salad, a grilled barbecued chicken salad and a mixed green salad with corn bread croutons.  It was all delicious, in my humble opinion. And of course there was birthday cake afterward — what’s a birthday party without birthday cake?

Before the party started I said to my wife, “We’re having a bunch of kids over today… do we need to have something more kid-friendly for them to eat?” My wife’s answer was simply, no, our son eats all that stuff all the time – the other night he chowed down grilled fish and asparagus for dinner –  so all the kids will be fine with what we’ve made.

Well, while we didn’t have any huge problems, a couple of parents quietly asked my wife if it was ok if they ran home and brought over something that their kids could eat. Not a big deal at all, but it did make me think. Is it nature or nurture that our son is such a good eater?

I’m sure the answer is a bit of both. I know some of his healthy eating habits are no more than good luck on our part. However, it seems to me that if we don’t expose our kids to a diverse diet, and we assume that our kids will only eat highly processed foods, then our children won’t eat anything but the most basic and less healthy options. And this is not to knock mac & cheese, PB&J and other easy staples – I enjoy those treats even as an adult. However, in my quest to raise a healthy child, I want to make sure that his diet is varied, and that he is exposed to foods and flavors that will help him develop healthy eating habits.

And yes, after eating grilled veggies and chicken, Henry LOVED his birthday cake. I hope we haven’t created a birthday cake monster.

Henryeatingcake_4

On a related note, how about this report — fruit ranks as kids’ favorite snack! Again, only goes to show that if we expose our kids to better food, they’ll learn to make better decisions. 

The Healthy Schools Campaign tries to make healthy eating and living a way of life for all children. Learn more about our work to improve school nutrition, or check out our annual benefit, Cooking Up Change.