Psychologists Offer Tips to Improve Children’s Eating Habits

It’s Never too Late, says Arkansas Psychologist

Little Rock, Arkansas, November 2018 – Parents and caregivers play an important role when it comes to children’s eating habits. By taking steps early, you can help to improve and establish healthy eating habits for the whole family.

Research shows that children who eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly are likely to perform better in school, feel better about themselves, cope with stress effectively and better regulate their emotions. They also have higher self-esteem and are less prone to develop anxiety and depression. Additionally, establishing healthy eating habits early in life can lead to long term healthy behaviors in adulthood.

Psychologists can help parents and caregivers implement strategies to guide children through the process of developing life-long healthy behaviors.

Start early. Parents and caregivers who help children establish good eating and sleeping habits, such as regular mealtimes and consistent bedtimes, early in life will avoid having to break bad habits later. Exposing children to a variety of flavors and foods not only helps children accept healthy food selections but also to possibly prefer them.

According to pediatric psychologist and ArPA President-Elect, Amy Seay, PhD, “Getting children involved in meals- especially preparation- is a great way to expose and desensitize them to novel foods.”

Make healthy eating easy. Research shows that what happens in one’s daily environments like home, school and work can affect habits. Children generally tend to choose foods that are familiar, easily available and ready to be eaten. Parents and caregivers can encourage kids to eat healthier by keeping healthy foods in the house and pack kids’ lunch boxes with nutritious snacks like carrots, apples or nuts instead of chips or cookies.

Also, says Dr. Seay, “Consider a ‘no thank you’ helping, and put a small serving of the food the family is eating on a resistant child’s plate. This type of exposure can before tasting or eating the foods you would like them to eat and can be a good initial step in the road to changing eating habits.

Set a good example. Children who see their parents or caregivers buying and eating healthy foods are more likely to eat wholesome foods themselves. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be a trick. Instead, teach children to look at healthy foods as tasty and desirable. Try involving kids in planning, shopping and cooking meals to make it fun.

Rewards and treats. Many parents like to treat their children with special foods for a job well done. While everyone enjoys certain treats, try to reward children with things other than desserts or candy. Instead, consider a family outing or the chance to skip a chore or other non-food related rewards on some occasions.

Have meals as a family. Research shows that social support has a direct impact on healthy eating intentions. Family meals are not only a good opportunity for families to connect, but are also the perfect time to talk about healthy eating habits and engage children in conversations about what makes up a nutritious meal.

Be aware of kids’ emotions. Support is essential when working with children to improve nutrition, especially when that path can be difficult and frustrating. Pay close attention to children’s emotions and reassure them that changes in diet are to keep them healthy, and not because there is something wrong with them.

It is never too late to change a maladaptive behavior, says Dr. Seay. “Start small, set realistic goals that gradually increase over time as success is achieved, and reward the effort.

The mealtime habits you help create now can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.”

To learn more about mind/body help, visit the American Psychological Association at and follow @APAHelpCenter. To find out more about Arkansas Psychological Association visit or and follow @ArPAPsych.


Founded in 1949, the Arkansas Psychological Association is a statewide, non-for-profit, professional organization whose purpose is to advance psychology as a science, a profession, and a means of promoting human welfare in a challenging and changing world.

Our members represent the most well-trained, highly-credentialed, and clinically-experienced mental healthcare professionals in Arkansas. Our members are actively involved in providing psychological services in private practices, hospitals, and community mental health centers. Others teach in undergraduate and graduate academic programs, conduct cutting-edge research, serve in administrative positions for human service programs, and dedicate countless hours as committee members and chairs of various boards on the state, national, and international level.

In all these settings, ARPA and its members are committed to expanding the parameters of psychology in Arkansas and @increasing the quality of psychological services within our communities. In an effort to promote the mental and emotional well-being of individuals, families, and society at large, we strive to serve both the public and our membership through educational opportunities, workplace training, networking, and professional development.


The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.


If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Dr. Kristin Addison-Brown at 870-203-6085 or email