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It can be tough getting kids to eat healthfully when you're on vacation or dashing between sports practice, school, and family errands.

Next time fast food signs loom and you've got a car full of kids clamoring for junk food, win them over to eating right with these five tips.

Plan Ahead

Whether you're eating on-the-run or running out to eat, you can find healthy food for the kids (and yourself) if you make advance plans. Try these do-ahead strategies to improve your child's eating habits.

Make time for breakfast. Give your family a good start with the most important meal of the day. Breakfast helps boost concentration in the boardroom or classroom, may aid in maintaining a healthy weight, and provides the energy needed for morning activities. These tips can help you make sure breakfast is part of your child's healthy diet.  

  • Get ready the night before. Set out bowls, spoons, and cereal boxes. Or put out plates and forks, then whip up a few eggs first thing in the morning.
  • Keep it simple. If you or the kids aren't hungry in the morning, make breakfast small and simple. Eat a banana or apple with a handful of nuts, or pop open a small tub of yogurt.
  • Prepare something to take with you. Toss pre-sliced fruit and cheese into a plastic container, make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, top a toasted bagel with hummus, or blend up a fruit smoothie.
  • Grab some leftovers. A slice of veggie pizza tastes just as good for breakfast as it did the night before. So does a cup of pasta with roasted veggies.

Car-Friendly Snacks

Pack healthy snacks that kids can manage themselves, including shelf-stable foods and fresh foods (pack a cooler if you have the time). Kid-friendly, healthy foods can include:

  • Trail mix
  • Fresh, easy-to-eat produce like apples, bananas, grapes
  • Dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, apricots, apples, and pineapple
  • Low-sugar granola bars
  • Whole-grain crackers with peanut butter
  • Pre-packaged cheese wedges
  • Single-serving containers of yogurt
  • Easy-to-eat veggies like red pepper, carrot, or celery sticks
  • Dried cereal you've packed into single-serving containers

Before eating out. Make it easier to find restaurants that serve healthy food for kids by knowing where you're going before you get there. Instead of driving around looking for inspiration, pick the restaurant in advance. Focus on places with healthy options like Asian restaurants, salad bars, and seafood places. Do everyone a favor and keep some eateries, like all-you-can-eat buffets, out of the picture.

Give Kids Lots of Healthy Choices

Hand a kid a carrot for an afternoon snack and you may get a ho-hum reaction. Let them choose between a carrot, tangerine, or a handful of grapes, and you'll probably get a much livelier response. We all like choice, so whether at home or away, you can win kids over to healthier eating and give your children's diet a boost by letting them pick what to eat. Just make sure their options are healthy ones.  

  • At the restaurant. Next time you're at your favorite restaurant, give the kids a choice between two or three healthy options. Would they like a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain burger?  A side salad, baked potato, or corn-on-the-cob? Fruit sorbet or frozen yogurt?  Let them choose.
  • At home. Make healthier eating fun by starting with a kid-friendly base food: Try making a cheese pizza, a rice-and-bean burrito, or whole wheat pasta, then let the kids choose toppings or fillings such as red pepper strips, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, low-fat cheeses or sour cream.