Getting kids to eat healthy begins with parents

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SALT LAKE CITY — Many of us make New Year's resolutions to eat healthier foods, but getting everybody in the house to take part — especially kids — can pose a challenge. Utah dietitians say it takes hard work and dedication, mainly from the parents.

As a mother to four children, Nikki Weekes sees different results at mealtime.

"Some days they are excellent and they eat their vegetables," she said. "And then there are other days when our fruit allotment would be strawberry Skittles."

The Weekes family has made it a goal to get healthy together. One trick these parents have up their sleeves: creative cooking.

"When we do get creative, the kids tend to eat more of the fruits and vegetables," Weekes said.


Other families can understand the struggle, and Utah health workers say most of us can do much better.

"Only about one-third of Utahns report eating at least two servings of fruit a day, and only about one in six adults report eating at least three servings of vegetables — and that's far from recommendation," said Patrice Isabella, nutritionist at the Utah Department of Health.

Recent studies suggest children should eat three to five servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables every day.

"It's completely overwhelming because it's just one more thing — you think it would be so easy," Weekes said.

To help, dietician Joy Musselman, who also works as the coordinator for the Intermountain LiVe Well program, met the Weekes family and gave them realistic and simple guidelines.

"One of the things that we really encourage parents to do is to provide a healthy variety of foods," she said.

The relationship you have with food often times your kids are going to pick up on, and they'll probably mimic.

–Joy Musselman, Intermountain LiVe Well

Musselman said if that does not work, you may want to re-evaluate what you as a parent consume.

To make healthy eating more enticing to kids, dietitian Kristen Strong suggests letting them take part in the cooking.

"Because that child picked them, and if they helped make them they are going to have ownership of those brussles sprouts and they're probably going to try and sell it to their sibings," Strong said.

"It's trying to find that happy medium of exactly where we are supposed to be, and then doing it right," she added.

These simple steps can help your family get on the right track and eating better.

For more information on ways to get your family eating healthy meals, Intermountain Healthcare hosts a number of classes. Visit for details.


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Lori Prichard


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