Grandparents Can Help Grandchildren Develop Good Eating Habits

Family Caregiving September 23, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

We often comment about how grandparents spoil their grandchildren by buying candy, cookies and other treats. Most grandparents want their grandchildren to have good eating habits. Grandparents know that treats don't always have to be candy. A tempting bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter can be just as much of a treat to a child as a piece of candy.

It is critical that grandparents talk with their grandchildren about the types of food that are healthy or unhealthy. Grandparents can help their grandchildren become familiar with different types of food by introducing them to new items.

Introducing new foods to your grandchildren should be done slowly by offering small portions and gently encouraging grandchildren to take a taste. Offer a small positive comment if they try it; then move on so trying new foods doesn't become a big issue.

Children sometimes use food refusal as a way to get attention or power. Many children refuse to eat certain vegetables for their parents, but may be perfectly willing to eat those same foods with someone else.

Discussing mealtime expectations will help grandchildren be aware of what they can and can't do while eating. Many older adults don't like to see any food thrown away, while some children think nothing of dumping half their meal in the trash. The amount that a child eats at any given meal may vary dramatically, depending on how fast they are growing, how active they are and how much they have been eating over the past few days. It's best to serve small helpings and allow the child to have seconds. That way, the child's hunger determines how much food he or she eats, without being wasteful. Young children generally need the same basic proportions of healthy foods that adults need, but in smaller quantities.

The United States Department of Agriculture offers guidelines regarding the amount needed daily for the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. To view these guidelines, visit


  • Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., Program Specialist in Aging, University of Wisconsin-Extension.


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.