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Padma Lakshmi's Healthy Eating Tips for Kids

August 20, 2021

Healthy food grows healthy kids, but what if your child has an aversion to the well-balanced meals you are intent on serving? Foodie celebrity and best-selling author Padma Lakshmi has some ideas for guiding kids toward healthier eating.

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For Padma Lakshmi, Food is a Family Affair

“Cooking and the passing down of food knowledge is one of the most enriching ways I bonded with the women in my family,” says Padma Lakshmi, the award-winning food expert and author. “It’s how I bond today with my daughter, passing down skills and advice that I hope will give her a lifetime of healthy eating long after I am gone.” It’s also what inspired her to write Tomatoes for Neela, a picture book for young readers (illustrated by award-winning author/illustrator Juanita Martinez-Neal) that provides gentle lessons about fresh produce, the joy of cooking, and strong family bonds. We caught up with the author to get her tips for encouraging healthy eating habits in kids.

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Be a Good Role Model to Establish Healthy Eating Habits

Kids watch and learn, so how you approach meals is how they’re also going to respond. “Whenever parents ask me how to get their kids to eat healthy, I first ask how they eat,” Padma says. “It’s important to set a good, consistent example, and that everyone in the family eat the same food. Kids should not be able to dictate what they eat.”

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Make Food Shopping a Family Activity

Padma’s daughter Krishna, now 11, is no stranger to food shopping. “Our experiences at the greenmarket are what inspired me to write this book,” says Padma, explaining that the Tomatoes For Neela, a story for ages 4 - 8, is based on the bedtime story she told her daughter, “to teach her when things grew in season, the importance of writing recipes, as well as all of the hands that bring us food that we eat every day.”

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Don't Give In to Children's Food Whims and Dislikes

We all know a child who seems to hate everything — will only eat hot dogs or mac and cheese, for instance — and we’re quick to label them “picky eaters.” What happened? “I think what makes kids finicky eaters are parents who are willing to placate them,” Padma says. “As a parent, you have to be strong on this, and stand your ground.” This was her approach with Krishna. “I would often say, ‘This is what we’re having for dinner. If you don’t like this you can have some scrambled egg with some carrots and celery wrapped in a tortilla.'”

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