Getting children interested in healthy eating – tips from the experts

Do you also have a five-year-old at home who would prefer to eat ice cream and "noodles without everything"?? Or a fourteen-year-old whose favorite foods seem to be frozen pizza and chips? How do parents still manage to get their children to eat healthy – and even enjoy it?? A nutritionist, a pediatrician and experienced parents share their best tips!

By Sarah Zollner


  1. Healthy food: freshly prepared, not too sweet and not too greasy
  2. Parents are role models for healthy eating
  3. Too fat or too thin? Why not every deviation from the norm need worry us
  4. Healthy nutrition in kindergartens and schools
  5. How to inspire your child to eat healthy
  6. Which nutrients are particularly important for children and adolescents?

Healthy food: freshly prepared, not too sweet and not too greasy

Freshly prepared, little processed, not too sweet and not too greasy. This is how one could summarize what constitutes healthy nutrition for children and adolescents. Nutritionists and physicians agree on this. "A 4- to 6-year-old child needs about 1.450 kcal per day", says ecotrophologist Antje Gahl of the German Nutrition Society e.V.

"The consumption of sweets and snacks should not exceed 10 percent of the daily energy intake in the process. This means that approx. 150 kcal available for "treats". This corresponds for example a teaspoon of nut nougat cream and 20 pretzel sticks."Parents should also be aware that ready-made products, but also sausages, for example, contain a lot of hidden sugar and that children who eat fast food frequently actually get used to sweets and fatty foods.

In addition, too much sugar promotes caries. It does not matter whether foods are sweetened with cane sugar or supposedly "healthy" alternatives such as honey or agave syrup. Sugary substances generally do not provide vitamins or minerals in significant quantities, says Antje Gahl, and should be used as sparingly as possible in the diets of children and young people.

"If parents do not cook sensibly at home and eat mainly fast food, then children want that too."

– Pediatrician Thomas Fischbach

Parents are role models for healthy eating

So is eating burgers together at the fast-food joint a taboo in children’s diets?? Not necessarily, says pediatrician Thomas Fischbach, chairman of the Professional Association of Pediatricians and Adolescents e.V. However, parents should be clearly aware of their role model functionIf parents do not cook at home reasonably and eat predominantly fast food, then children want that also."On the other hand, what can help motivate children to eat healthily??

Nutritionist Antje Gahl and pediatrician Dr. Fischbach give the following tips:

Eating as a community experience:

  • Parents can involve their children in cooking according to their age, teach them about vegetables, fruit, etc. also show in an unprocessed state and make food preparation a "family event" again and again. Attending a cooking class for children can additionally awaken the joy of healthy eating.
  • Meals should be taken together at the table. It is helpful if everyone takes their time when eating, starts with small portions and does not allow themselves to be distracted by the cell phone or overly emotional topics of conversation while eating.

Consciously enjoy – even in childhood and adolescence:

  • Food should not be used for comfort or as a reward. Undiluted fruit juices and smoothies in squeeze pouches for little ones contain a lot of sugar and should be enjoyed sparingly. Snacks between meals please only in moderation.
  • Many children prefer to eat vegetables raw and separated from each other. Instead of stew, for example, a "face" made of uncooked carrots and tomatoes – also as vegetable sticks or finger food. But even hidden in sauces or pureed as a tasty "fruit cocktail," some children are tempted to eat raw vegetables.

Where does our food come from? Eating is more than just getting full:

  • Children should not be forced to eat certain foods, such as vegetables, or to "finish their plates". This permanently damages the natural feeling of satiety and thus promotes unhealthy eating behavior.
  • Conscious consumption can be addressed as early as kindergarten and preschool age. Together with their parents, children can find out where the food they eat comes from and thus understand the meaning of animal welfare or organic farming.


"Fat pads and love handles should not be ignored by parents – according to the motto, it will grow out".

– Ecotrophologist Antje Gahl

Too fat or too thin? Why not every deviation from the norm has to worry us

Some children eat very little at times, despite the parents’ best efforts, or categorically reject certain foods. This is quite normal at first, says nutritionist Gahl: As long as body size and weight have developed in line with the child’s age, it is and the child is lively and awake, there is no reason to worry.

However, pediatrician Dr. Fischbach points out that according to a KIGGS study of the Robert Koch Institute actually that every fifth child in Germany is overweight. In the vast majority of cases, obesity is caused by an excessively high-calorie diet in combination with a lack of exercise. Nevertheless, organic causes such as metabolic disorders would have to be ruled out.

A one-time training or cure would help little with real childhood obesity. Rather be a "Consistently carried out obesity education" needed, which would include medical advice, knowledge about healthy eating and exercise suggestions. Parents should not ignore fat deposits and rolls of flab on the belly, hips, chest and neck – according to the motto, "It will grow out," says Antje Gahl.

Obesity in childhood and adolescence is a Risk factor for other diet-related diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases and therefore should not be ignored.

On the other hand, unusual eating behavior in children and adolescents sometimes gives a Point out food intolerances, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance. If children complain of abdominal pain after eating certain foods or avoid them, parents should definitely take a closer look and, if necessary, also consult their pediatrician.

Healthy nutrition in kindergartens and schools

Motivating children and young people to eat healthily is by no means just the job of parents. Kindergartens, primary and secondary schools should pay attention to this, That they provide a "nutritionally-physiologically balanced food service" and a low-energy beverage service free of charge, according to nutritionist Gahl.

The dining room should also be attractively decorated to create a pleasant dining atmosphere. This also included competent staff in the kitchen and serving and Sufficiently long break times, in which they can eat in peace.

For one healthy nutrition in kindergartens and schools Parents can therefore get involved directly through their representatives in the facilities. For orientation, the German Society for Healthy Nutrition offers the DGE quality standard for school meals on its website.

How to get your child excited about healthy eating

To sum up:

  • Parents are important role models for their children in terms of healthy eating. The joint processing of fresh food and the enjoyable meal in the community motivate children to eat healthily, as does a fundamentally relaxed attitude on the part of the parents.
  • On the other hand, being overweight or underweight in children and adolescents should not be trivialized, as it carries a clear risk of nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • If parents eat a balanced and enjoyable diet in the long term, their children are likely to follow suit. So healthy eating is clearly more than counting calories or following nutrient tables. It is the basis of a healthy and enjoyable life. This applies to parents – and children.

Which nutrients are especially important for children and adolescents?

Fatty fish (z.B. Herring)
A lot Exercise outdoors for education about the skin

The experts recommend this further information:

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