Healthy habits start young, and that includes healthy eating. When parents introduce kids to a wide array of foods and educate them on the basics of nutrition, they’re doing them a favor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a diet that’s rich in healthy foods helps kids grow and develop properly. As they become adults who eat healthy, they may even lower their risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.  

In honor of National Nutrition Month, we’ve pulled together some ideas on how to raise healthy eaters. Because it’s never too early to start forming healthy habits!

  1. Follow the MyPlate guide. The government’s MyPlate guide offers a simple approach to healthy eating. With this guide, half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables at every meal, one-quarter should be grains, one-quarter should be protein, and there should also be a serving of dairy. Teach your child about MyPlate, and they’ll be learning nutrition basics and fractions at the same time.
  2. Offer them healthy choices. Now that you’ve got the kids following the MyPlate guide, offer them some options within each of the categories. Protein, for example, isn’t limited to meat. Let them choose different selections, such as seafood, beans, peas, lentils, eggs, soy products and poultry. When it comes to whole grains, give them options such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice and popcorn. With fruits and vegetables, encourage them to pick an array of flavors and colors. When kids have a say in what they eat, it seems to magically taste better.
  3. Make healthy food taste great. If you grew up hating a certain vegetable, odds are good that it was prepared in a less-than-ideal way (like boiled brussels sprouts). By simply roasting vegetables, you can bring out their delicious natural flavors. With fruits, add a little bit of cinnamon for some sass, or smear peanut butter on an apple or banana to make it a little extra. See what healthy preparations resonate with your kids, and keep then keep it coming.
  4. Don’t forget the fun. Maybe you’ve had sliced apples as a snack every day for the last 363 days, and you’re getting a little bit bored. Add some excitement and do an apple taste test! Choose three or four (or more) different types of apples. Then, invite the whole family to sample and rate them. You all may learn something in the process! Think of other ways you can make mealtime and snack time more interesting.
  5. Assign a re-useable water bottle to everyone. Water is about the healthiest beverage available. Make sure that everyone in the family is drinking enough of it, and has it at their disposal, by giving each member their own refillable bottle. That way, it’ll be easy to grab on the go, or sip while you’re sitting around the house.
  6. Eat as a family. Dinner time is an opportunity to reconnect with one another and talk about everything that happened that day. When you sit down to eat as a family, you can appreciate one another while savoring the healthy food that you prepared.
  7. Be a good role model. Your kids learn by watching. When the adults in the household have healthy habits, it’s easy for the kids to follow suit.  
  8. Cook together. One of the greatest skills you can give a healthy eater is lessons in cooking, so that they can continue to feed themselves healthy meals. Allow your kids to choose different recipes so they can have a say in what’s served.
  9. Take them grocery shopping. Of course, healthy eating starts with healthy shopping! Together, make a list and let the kids help pick out groceries. Teach them how to read labels and compare products and prices, so that they’re learning other important life lessons as they go.  
  10. Talk about treats. Of course your kids will want treats in addition to all the healthy foods you’re encouraging them to eat. Just make sure that they know that things like cookies, candy and soft drinks are special items that should be reserved for special occasions. If your child has a sweet tooth, offer whole fruit to help satisfy cravings.  

Nutrition is so important for kids. As they learn and grow, they need high-quality fuel for their developing bodies and brains. Plus, eating a healthy diet can boost the immune system, strengthen bones, improve concentration, stabilize moods and help with maintaining a healthy weight. In other words, healthy food fuels healthy people. Help them form healthy eating habits early, and it could help fuel a lifetime of good choices.