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One day kids will eat itPosted Friday, October 7, 2011, at 7:38 AM
I need to get something off my plate. My children are not a dietitian's delight. Kate, a one year-old vegetarian, prefers carbohydrates, cheese, and fruit. I know exactly which foods she dislikes when I'm picking them up off the floor. Almost three, Charlie eats, but only if he pleases. Lilly will usually eat, after much complaining. Thankfully, their father will eat anything!
I do believe the kids would all eat if we had pizza, chicken nuggets, french fries, or macaroni and cheese every night. But, how healthy is that? Plus, parents don't need to be short order cooks.
In her book, "The Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family," Ellen Satyr explains the division of responsibility at mealtimes. It's a parent's job to decide what goes on the table. It's the child's job to decide what and how much goes in the mouth.
Research indicates a child may need ten or more exposures to a new food before they'll even try it. In my house, it often seems more like one hundred exposures! But we keep offering, and--eventually--they do try.
There is no easy answer, but here are few ideas to get children eating a variety of foods:
* Cut out late afternoon snacks. If they come to table hungry, they may be more likely to eat what's presented.
* Eat an early supper as tired children complain more.
* Be careful about hovering and pleading---it gives the child control over the parent. When given space, many children will start to eat.
* Promote fruit and vegetable intake by setting them out as an appetizer.
* Feed children's desire to be in control; ask, "would you prefer broccoli or green beans?"
* Pair a new food with a old favorite. Happy to see a favorite food, a child may resist the new food less.
* Once old enough (age depends on the kid), a child can be expected to sample at least one bite. Sometimes, they'll want more.
* Don't force children to clean their plate. Years later, the sight of egg plant (or pick your food) can bring back painful memories of being forced to eat it.
* If worried about starving a child, place a few slices of 100% whole wheat bread on the table; or offer a small, yet nutritious bedtime snack, like fruit and cheese or low calorie popcorn.
* Remember that even most adults have strong food preferences. We can't expect kids to eat everything. If a child isn't going to like the main dish, provide an alternative of peanut butter and honey on 100% whole wheat bread.
* Don't label a child as a picky eater or the one who won't eat vegetables. The child will think it is his/her duty to be a picky eater or avoid vegetables.
* Finally, model good eating behaviors. Children watch what adults eat and drink. Adults eat their mixed vegetables, right?
These are just a few ideas--have any tips to share?
From Worthington, Tracey is a Registered Dietitian. She currently lives in Arlington, Va., with her husband, Ed and three children, Lilly, Charlie, and Kate. For additional nutrition tips, recipes, menu ideas, articles, and more, follow her on Facebook at Practical Nutrition Tips. The information contained in this blog is not meant to substitute for your physician's advice.
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