Seven Stellar Ways To Sneak Nutrition Into Picky Eaters

Little asian girl with expression of disgust against broccoliIf I had a dollar for every parent who emailed me on City Kids Nutrition (my Facebook page) that their child was a great eater as an infant and became picky as a toddler, I could retire in Bali. A child’s independence emerges during the toddler years, and food preference is no exception.

Following these age-appropriate tips will prevent stressful food fights and cultivate a peaceful, functional mealtime environment. Here are SEVEN stellar ways to win the food war!

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What Do Kids Need To Eat?

4955086525_a79e1925a3_zSometimes when parents send their kids to school, they feel relieved. They think gone are the daily hassles over meal times, what to eat for snacks, introducing new foods, and encouraging children to eat healthy food choices. Unfortunately those assumptions aren’t always right. Children beginning their school years still have many nutritional needs to meet. While our children are at school they face many new choices about food and what to eat. As a parent, you have the power to guide your child toward a life of healthy nutrition. Here is some information we found at sfgate.com to help understand why our kids need to learn to eat a balanced diet.

Grains

Grains refer to foods such as breads, cereals, pasta and rice and should make up the foundation of any child’s diet. Foods in this group contain complex carbohydrates and are important sources of the calories, vitamins, minerals and fiber children need on a daily basis. Eating a variety of grains is recommended. Choose whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, bran cereals and oatmeal that are lower in calories and provide more nutrients over cookies, cakes and pastries which tend to be high in calories and fat and provide little nutritional value.

Vegetables and Fruit

The first place to start when trying to improve your child’s nutrition is to add more fruits and vegetables to her diet. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of many nutrients. They contain necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, starch and fiber. Research shows that people who consume diets rich in fruits and vegetables have lower risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers. Focus on offering your child a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure your child is getting the many different nutrients he needs.

Dairy

The dairy group includes foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt that provide children with an adequate source of calcium for strong bones. During childhood, bones are growing and developing, so it’s critical to get sufficient amounts of calcium-rich foods daily. Recent evidence also suggests that children with a diet rich in calcium from low-fat dairy foods have lower body fat than children with a lower dairy intake.

Protein

Foods from the protein group pack a lot of nutrition into a small package. These foods include chicken, turkey, fish and beef that provide high-quality protein, easily absorb-able iron and zinc, as well as vitamin B12, which is only available from animal sources. Lean meats are low in calories and are an essential part of any child’s diet. Adequate protein intake is critical for growing children. Vegetarian meat alternatives such as beans, tofu, eggs and nuts are also acceptable food choices for this group and should be consumed regularly.

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Healthy School Lunches

biggersandIt’s not easy to convince your kids to eat anything, but as parents we are all too well aware of saying the word “healthy” around them is a flashing red light for “doesn’t taste good.” Though this really isn’t true, we have to teach them that the stigma attached to food being good for them isn’t a fair stereotype.  Here are some helpful hints to make healthy school lunches.

Make It Look Pretty

Healthy diet for kids is a major concern of all parents. Kids love to eat junk food because it tastes different than the regular home cooked food. Peer pressure and media is also playing its role in making fast food look more delicious and tempting, so be creative and make your child’s lunch look more delicious than any commercial will.

Kids are picky eaters. In order to make the food look tempting, you need to wake up the artist in you. Add as many colors to the healthy bowl of food as you can because colors make the food more lively and delectable. You can cut the fruits and vegetables in different shapes and make cute faces or funny looking characters from them. You can even serve vegetables with some yummy dip sauces-this will make the kids enjoy their healthy food more.

New And Different

Sometimes kids won’t eat things just on the basis of it being “new” or “different,” so make the new healthy food you are trying to inspire your kids to eat all the more appealing and fun!

Don’t forget to talk to your children about why you select the foods you do, and continue to remind them how important it is to fuel their bodies with healthy choices.  Getting kids to eat shrimp and cucumbers isn’t an easy task, so create shapes and fun to make it seem more tasty.

Children learn from the meals you offer, the way you serve food, the way you shop, and the examples you set. Early habits can last a lifetime, so it’s never too early to make a change, which is why it’s important to get them to try new foods.

Design silly food faces out of fresh fruit and vegetable slices. Come up with amusing, ridiculous names and descriptions for the healthy foods you prepare. Celery and raisins become “ants on a log,” peanut butter and pretzels can be “mud on a stick,” and spaghetti with sauce can turn into “wiggly worms.” Take Goldfish swimming in a new soup. Wash raisins down with water because they are thirsty grapes.

Give Them Healthy Options

Pack stocks of healthy food including fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products at hand so when the kids go through their lunch box, they are limited to only healthy options.  Even if they don’t eat one of the items packed, they will feel in charge of the other items they chose to eat.   This is a good idea for encouraging kids to eat healthy because when they only see healthy food around, they would gradually develop inclination towards it.

Eliminate the junk food items from your kitchen and fridge and replace with healthy food choices, and let them pack their own lunch. If you see that your kid is indulged in a particular chips or snack bar, then make it disappear and offer an attractive yet healthy replacement.

To help your kids feel “in charge” of their own healthy choices take them to the nearest super store and make them fill the trolley with their choice of healthy food including fruits and vegetables.

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Sneaking in the Produce

Boy with green smoothie flexing musclesMy kids love fruit. I love fruit. My wife loves fruit. But, here’s the weird thing I have learned as a grade school teacher for the past eighteen years… not everyone loves fruit. And, lots of kids (adults, too, for that matter) aren’t too keen on veggies.

The thing is, I like to think of myself as a healthy eater, a good parent, and a rather good dancer (mostly late 80’s/early 90’s hip-hop). So, I know the importance of making sure my daughters both eat their fair share of produce. When they were young, we called blueberries “power buttons” (you know, what with all the oxidants and everything) and the girls literally ate it up.

But our problem was not so much fruit. We had vegetable issues in our home. The girls would eat carrots on occasion. One liked tomatoes (technically a fruit, though), and the other was a red pepper eater. That was it. No spinach, no onions, no broccoli, no cauliflower. Beets are out of the question. Turnips and celery… no go!

So, we have found over the years a few tricks to get the produce back into their diets. The first is the “smoothie sneak.” Because my girls love fruit, they also love fruit smoothies. So, with the frozen pineapple, bananas and strawberries we throw into the blender, I also sneak in some raw spinach and carrots. The spinach has virtual no flavor in the drink, and the carrots’ sweetness adds to the mix. They never know what hits them.

Our second secret is the “sneaky pasta sauce.” My wife makes her own pasta sauce, and when she does she throws spinach, broccoli, carrots, and onions into the food processor. These little guys become undetected when thrown on some noodles with a few turkey meatballs.

And, finally, not so much tricky, but a way to get the girls to consume more of the green stuff, we make kale chips in the oven. There are many different recipes all over the internet, but we just go the simple route. Spray the leaves with some olive oil, sprinkle on a bit of sea salt, stick in the oven until crispy. The girls cannot get enough.

Nutritious food is important for our children’s good health, but food should be fun. When it’s not, now you have a few ways to make it so.

Written by: Leon Scott Baxter, America’s Relationship Guru

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About the Author

Leon Scott Baxter is known as America’s Relationship Guru. He is the author of three books on love, romance and relationships, and is the founder of CouplesCommittedToLove.com. Baxter is also the father of two girls and has been a grade school teacher since 1997. His latest book is about raising happy, successful children. Join him at https://www.facebook.com/SafetyNetParenting. His favorite foods are kale chips, fruit smoothies and his wife’s pasta.

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