Raising a healthy eater

Marisa Kerkvliet is a Poppy caregiver and a talented culinary student. Her passion for food developed early on as she grew up on her family’s small farm. When she was nine she found her love for cooking and has been in the kitchen ever since. As a picky eater herself, Marisa now has a passion for introducing healthy eating habits to the next generation. She will be finishing up her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Culinary Arts degree from Bastyr University this spring before she moves on to earn a Master’s degree in Nutrition.

Here are her Top 10 Tips for raising a healthy eater.

  1. Enjoy family meals at the table. They should last for at least 30 minutes. Keep conversations pleasant and save tense topics for another time to allow the focus to be on the food and family. Children learn how and what to eat by watching others.
  2. Get kids involved in their food. Plant a garden together or let them pick out a vegetable at the grocery store. Choose age appropriate kitchen tasks to help give children a purpose. The more they help, the more they will eat!
  3. Schedule snack time to be consistent every day. Three meals and one snack may be adequate for school age children, while toddlers may need to eat every 2-3 hours. Designate a snacking zone and serve food at a table as much as possible.
  4. Limit snack time to less than 2o minutes. Remove any uneaten food when the snack is over and offer it again at the next planned meal or snack.
  5. Give notice before a meal. Let children know 10-15 minutes before food will be served to help them prepare and settle down before eating.
  6. Limit distractions by removing toys, books and turning off the TV. This allows the child to focus on their food and they may be more likely to try more new foods.
  7. Serve small portions, only a few tablespoons of each food, usually 2-3 types. It gives children a sense of independence to finish their plate and ask for more. Follow the general rule of 1 tablespoon of each food for each year of the child’s age, or a portion that is the size of their palm.
  8. Maintain a neutral attitude at the table. Avoid being overly animated or becoming angry towards food. Giving a child a few gentle reminders to take bites of their food can be appropriate. Encourage independent feeding and allow age-appropriate mess to occur.
  9. Serve familiar foods with new foods. Ensure there is always a nutritious food that is liked by each child at the table. This allows for the exploration of new foods without the fear of malnourishment.
  10. Keep trying. Kids often need to be exposed to a food 10-20 times before they begin to accept it. Be patient with toddlers as it takes time for them to develop their tastes. Employ the 2 bite rule for older children to encourage giving new foods a fair chance. 

Learn more at our Raising a Healthy Eater seminar

On Sunday, June 5 from 6:30-7:30pm at Poppy HQ in Ballard, Marisa will discuss the ins and outs of eating habits throughout childhood. The main topics include the challenges of having a picky eater, the reasons a child may be picky, and strategies for parents to help children overcome unhealthy eating habits. Walk away with new insight on your child’s eating behavior, an introductory recipe packet and additional resources to help create a peaceful dinner table in your home. Marisa will provide light samples of some of her top kid-approved recipes.

Only 15 spots so sign up and buy tickets ($5) here: Workshop tickets


Additional Reading and Resources

  • Board Books for toddlers and preschoolers
    • Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
    • The Tiny Seed by Eric Carlie
    • The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons
  • Picture Books for school age children
    • Secrets of the Garden by Kathleen Zoehfeld
    • Sylvia’s Spinach by Katherine Pryor
    • How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? By Chris Butterworth
  • Parent Resources

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s