Food has the Potential for Discovery: How to Foster Healthy Eating Habits in Children

Written by Erika Martin BSc Nutrition Candidate

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD

We’re so excited to be part of this year’s Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month Campaign. We are celebrating Nutrition Month 2018 by helping Canadians unlock the potential of food to fuel, discover, prevent, heal and bring us together.

Along with other dietitians, we will help illustrate that food has the potential to:

  • Fuel: Stay energized by planning nutritious snacks into your day.
  • Discover: Foster healthy eating habits in children by teaching them to shop and cook.
  • Prevent: Understand how food can help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Heal: Learn how food can promote healing and how dietitians work in health care teams to make a difference.
  • Bring us together: Enjoy the benefits of bringing families and friends together with food.

There are so many dietitians who work in many diverse areas of nutrition! Did you know that you can find dietitians working in many places, including hospitals, grocery stores, community health centres, universities, rehabilitation facilities, seniors’ residences and long-term care settings?

We all have one thing in common: We love food – it unites us all! Whether we are counselling a patient recovering from a heart attack, teaching a cooking class or taking students through a tour of a grocery store, we are all passionate about the potential of food and its connection to health. You will learn so much this month about the amazing potential of food!

To make Nutrition Month come alive, we’re going to be focusing on the potential for food to discover.

To set children up for a lifetime of healthy eating it is important to start introducing them to shopping for, cooking and preparing food at a young age. According to lpsos, nearly 38 percent of parents miss the chance to teach children about food by letting them help prepare meals or snacks.

Here are some tips on how you and your kids can connect over food, this Nutrition Month.

When cooking with kids, here are some tricks to help get them involved:

  1. Pick recipes together – let them help shop for and have a say in what foods you are making. Picky eaters are more likely to eat things that they have made!
  2. Use it as a learning opportunity – incorporate lessons they are learning in school, like math, literacy, spelling, science and reading. For younger children, have them work on their motor skills by washing produce or mixing ingredients.
  3. Make cooking fun – let your children’s imagination take over when cooking; turn the kitchen into a cooking show, or restaurant to get them really involved!
  4. Set good examples – show your excitement for eating new foods! This will inspire picky eaters to be excited as well, making them more likely to try new things.
  5. Don’t sweat the mess – be sure to stay cool about small spills and messes – they happen. Kids will feel more confident this way, plus it is an opportunity to teach them to clean up small messes on their own.

Helping your children discover food helps increase their likeliness to try new things, reduce mealtime battles and teach them food preparation skills that can last them a lifetime! Also keep in mind that your local supermarket may offer grocery store tours, food demos or cooking classes for children that can further inspire them.

Still not sure how to involve your kids in the kitchen? Here are some age-appropriate tasks to consider:

  • 2-3-year-olds: wash vegetables, tear salad greens
  • 3-4-year-olds: mash potatoes, mix ingredients
  • 4-6-year-olds: measure ingredients, set the table
  • 6-8-year-olds: toss salad ingredients, prepare a simple breakfast
  • 8-12-year-olds: help with meal planning or make their school lunch
  • Teenagers: follow more complex recipes, make or plan one meal per week

Now that you know how to get your kids to help in the kitchen, here are some great recipe ideas to try preparing with them, this Nutrition Month:

Taco Soup

Veggie Burgers

Monterey Jack and Egg Pita Pockets

Coconut Yogurt Ice Pops

Egg, Tomato and Cheese Breakfast Pizzas

Adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month campaign materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at


  1. The healthy school lunch campaign is dedicated to improving the food served to children in schools by educating government and school officials, food service workers, parents, and others about the food choices best able to promote children’s current and long-term health. It should not always start at home hence, even in school must have a practice of healthy eating habits for kids.

    1. Thank you for your comment- I agree, our schools play a crucial role in educating children and families about healthy eating. The challenge is that teachers, in the classrooms do not always have the evidence-based information and resources to provide age-appropriate nutrition education. Many teachers bring their own biases about food, nutrition, diets, body image and healthy forms of movement, into their classrooms. This is when we see challenges related to foods children bring for lunches and what information is taught in the classroom. I would love to see dietitians in schools, providing the nutrition curriculum for all students, as well as supporting those students who may have other nutrition concerns such as food allergies, eating disorders and religious observances that include changes in diet and nutrition.

  2. My child is now 3 years old. We are thinking of his early school experience but concern about his feed. I don’t know what type of food will be good when he will at school even it’s for his first-time school experience. Can you please suggest some healthy food items for those times? Much obliged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *