Want To End The Family Food Fight?

End the family food fight: The surprising way to get your kids to (happily) eat healthier. From eating vegetables to choosing better snacks, use these coaching strategies to improve your child's nutrition.

By Adam Feit, PhD(c), CSCS, SCCC and Dominic Matteo, HHC, CPT, Pn2

“How do I get my kid to eat vegetables?”

As nutrition coaches, we get this question a lot from frustrated parents.

And because we’re parents, too, we totally get it. (Geez, do we get it.)

After all, it’s your job to help your children practice good nutrition.

Yet you can’t make kids like their vegetables. Or embrace new foods. Or eagerly choose healthy snacks.

So what can you do?

Put the focus on helping your kids—not on making them.

If it sounds like we’re quibbling over semantics, trust us: The word “help” can make a world of difference—in their attitude, and yours.

We know because we’ve used this “help not make” mindset to guide thousands of adults toward healthier eating habits and better food choices.

And at home, we’ve used it to help our own kids eat their vegetables (voluntarily!), reach for fruit (enthusiastically!), and develop a healthy relationship with food (dessert isn’t bad!).

The technique works on kids of all ages, and we’re going to share it with you in this article.

Try it yourself, or use it with your clients. You might find food really can bring your family closer together. Just like it’s supposed to.


No one likes to be told what to do.

This is a fundamental fact of human psychology, and it’s true of almost everyone, including kids.

Whether age 2 or 92, humans respond in pretty similar ways when they’re ordered around.


· Stop listening.

· Refuse to comply.

· Lose their tempers.

They might even do the opposite of what they’ve been told.

The reason: Being bossed around can make you feel minimized, unseen and unheard, as if no one cares about your thoughts or opinions.

And that’s just from an adult’s point of view. Now imagine being a kid.

Make no mistake: Kids need direction. Left to their own devices, they’d have to learn way too many lessons the hard way. And potty training could take years.

But that doesn’t mean they need parents to always tell them what to do.

There’s an alternative that tends to work better, and it’s particularly effective when it comes to food: Help them figure out what to do for themselves.


· Ask them curious, reflective questions about their choices.

· Deeply listen to and consider their answers.

· Use their responses to guide them.

This one shift—away from directives and over to questions—can transform parenting. And though it may sound a bit abstract right now, we’ll show you five ways to start using this technique today.

But first, let’s start with a few ground rules.

Rule #1: Practice the behavior you want to see.

Kids naturally trend toward doing what they see you doing. So model the behavior you want them to emulate, such as:

· eating slowly

· having meals at a table rather than in front of the TV

· enjoying vegetables

· taking time to prepare and cook food

· stopping eating when you’re satisfied or full, not stuffed

Before giving kids more power, you’ll want to consider:

What are you teaching your kids by example?

Because when your actions don’t match your words, kids notice.