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Little Changes for Bigger Appetites
- Getting Picky Kids to Eat at Mealtime -

picky eaterIs bathing a cat easier than feeding your toddler at mealtime?

No worries. You're not alone. Often dads and moms report feeling sure of their parenting skills only to come up against a brick wall when it comes to feeding time!

Try these 'parent-tested' techniques for broadening a fussy eater's taste for healthy choices. Making some small changes can make a world of difference:

• At mealtime, set the tone by playing some relaxing music along with making sure all toys are put away to help keep distractions to a minimum.

• The color of food could can either stir an appetite or diminish it. Try replacing bland looking foods with more vibrant choices, such as apples for bananas, and celery sticks for broccoli.

• Make mealtime its own entertainment by arranging foods in funny faces, colorful patterns, or renaming dishes for their favorite cartoon characters ("Spiderman Spaghetti".)

• Get the kids involved in menu planning or preparing kid-friendly recipes that they can help create and serve. Pizza, hot dogs, french fries, homemade chicken nuggets, or mac-n-cheese are universally popular favorites.

making kids eat their vegetables!

From left to right: the Happy Face Tomato begins with a slice of tomato and the addition of olive slices for eyes, a carrot slice for the nose, and a cucumber smile; The Cheesy Kitty starts with a cheese head, red pepper ears, black olive eyes, a carrot triangle for the nose, celery whiskers, and red pepper slices for the mouth; For the Cauliflower Puppy, begin with a cauliflower floret and add olive slices for the eyes, a cherry tomato nose and carrot tongue. At right, use cookie cutters to make shapes from fruits and vegetables as a fun rainy day activity.

• Serve a variety of foods to broaden your children's horizons, but remember when serving a new food to always include it with a familiar one. This way the children won't leave the table hungry. Later, they may try the new food addition which is no longer strange and unfamiliar. Be patient!

• Keep in mind child-friendly serving portions for appropriate ages. Often children feel overwhelmed when their plates are too full. A good way to measure for preschoolers is one tablespoon for each year of age. That goes for fruits, vegetables, and meats. To prevent kids from consuming a 'liquid lunch', reduce milk or juice drinks by 1/2 to 3/4 cups at mealtime.

• When serving sandwiches, a preschooler should only have 1/2 a slice to one slice of bread. It doesn't seem like a lot to an adult, but a full sandwich is too much for most small toddlers to finish.

All children have different tastes and attitudes toward food, so some of these might not work for your family. Keep experimenting, and you'll soon find mealtime may become more enjoyable for you and your picky eater!

See below for many other mealtime tips for picky eaters that have been suggested to help children eat healthier.

About the Author
Katrina Cramer-Diaz is a working mom with a background in education and plenty of experience in parenting. She lives in Virginia with her four children.

More kids' mealtime tips around the Web:

How to Handle Picky Eaters - Check out clever, no-nag strategies to get your picky eater to enjoy mealtime, from Parenting Magazine.

Kids and Food - 10 Tips for Parents - offers expert tips on keeping mealtimes sensible ande happy.

also see in Cooking -> Budget Meals


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