Top 9 Strategies to Motivate your Toddler to Eat Healthy

mom and baby eating healthy

We all know a balanced meal is great for the growth as well as the health of our kids. But how can we encourage our child to eat healthy without causing any trouble? Convincing your children to do things they don’t want to do such as eating vegetables can be challenging. If you want to change a child’s behavior, change their motivation first!

What can you do to make nutritious meals appealing to your children? Are you looking for ways to motivate your picky eater to eat more fruits and vegetables?  Here are tips that will help you, little by little, to motivate your child to eat healthy.

9 Strategies to Motivate your Toddler to Eat Healthy

1. Calm Feeding Fears to Lead by Example

Relax. Relax. Relax. It is just food. I am not suggesting tossing in the towel and serving chicken nuggets, gold fish, and cereal at a child’s request. There are two things that took me time to learn with practice and research:

  1. If I am consistent with my feeding rules, healthy eating habits develop over time.
  2. Once I calmed my feeding fears, my ability to relax and enjoy food had a ripple effect on my family. By leading the way and finding joy in my meal, dinners are calm and even fun.

2. Embrace their Willingness to Learn by Creating Eagerness

Children have a natural curiosity to learn! If given the chance, children can be adventurous with food but they must be empowered not forced. Allowing children to explore food without the expectation to taste it, increases curiosity.

  • Let your children use knives and other kitchen equipment with supervision (of course).
  • Demonstrate your ability to trust their growth and develop in the kitchen. I often pull up a stool next to the kitchen counter to encourage food preparation in the kitchen or have my children help pick out the best produce at the store.

3. Take Baby Steps to Expand Flavor Preference

Healthy eating habits are established over time- not in one meal. Many times parents give up and accept their child does not like {insert any food}. I challenge you to look at the bigger picture and take baby steps to a life long journey of healthy eating habits. Consider a child’s capabilities when it comes to food acceptance.

I have two children. My oldest child will eat anything offered to her. My son is the complete opposite. He is as selective as they come but I refuse to fret. I accept he is on a different learning curve compared to my daughter. He needs more time and practice with food variety. Touching a piece of broccoli with his fingers is considered a victory for him.

I often tell parents to invest the same amount of time in teaching taste to a child as they do with practicing the ABCs. How many times do you practice the alphabet before a child begins to read? Some children catch  on fast while others take years. Think of teaching your children to love food as an equal investment of time, patience, and practice.

4. Let them make their own plates

Letting your children take control of their own plate is another way to let them exercise their independence and get them excited about trying new foods. It may take a few tries, but most children will be more willing to add healthy foods to their plate if they have the autonomy to choose.

Meals should generally include protein, a complex carbohydrate, vegetables, fruit and milk or another calcium-rich food,” says Lisa Hugh, dietitian at Single Ingredient Groceries. Giving your child options in these categories will help them exercise choice while getting the nutrition they need.

5. Make meals more fun!

Sure, vegetables and meat aren’t nearly as interesting as a burger and fries or other junk food… And eating them can often be associated with a real ordeal for kids. To change their minds, you need to use tricks to arouse their curiosity.

Try to make the meal more fun: make them dream by putting fantasy in their dishes: create small characters with vegetables or “draw” landscapes in their plates.

Read also: 10 Ways to Make Your Healthy Food Taste Delicious

6. No reward for healthy food

Healthy foods should not be used as rewards either. Regardless of the food offered as a reward, this practice encourages children to eat for all sorts of reasons and to let their emotions guide their food choices. This can damage the child’s relationship with food and can lead to weight problems.

It’s best to use rewards that are not food: a sticker, a privilege, a small object to collect, etc. Your child will also understand that you are proud of him if you encourage and congratulate him with simple words and hugs!

7. Encourage Meaningful Conversations

Don’t fight over food at the table. Instead encourage conversations about your daily activities. Allowing your child to say no to food will empower them to say yes on another day. Instead of pressure tactics surrounding food refusal, ask your child how they would like the food prepared differently next time.

8. Accept that your child does not like everything

Your child doesn’t like zucchini, pears, mushrooms? Well, that’s okay! After all, everyone has their own tastes! Encouraging your child to eat healthily does not mean forcing him to eat something he doesn’t like.

The important thing is to explain to him that he must taste to know and make up his mind. For foods he doesn’t like, you can offer him cooked in different ways: raw, cooked, mixed, in pieces, plain, with a sauce, spices… to see if there is a way of preparation he prefers. But if he really doesn’t like it at all, there’s no need to force him, it will only block him. Tell him that he can try it again in a few months because tastes change, evolve and maybe one day he will like it.

9. Create a Calm Feeding Environment

If your family meal is stressful, there is a strong chance your child will not eat. Children like to eat in a calm environment without distractions. Food should be fun, not stressful or complicated. Family meals are a time to share, communicate, and learn.


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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