Move over, mealtime mayhem. We've got help. Noted pediatrician shares her expert advice on healthy eating habits for kids.
Q: I want my family to eat together, but I wind up cooking a separate meal for the kids. How can I prepare a healthy meal that everyone will enjoy?
A: I really encourage parents to avoid separate kids meals. Instead, start family meal nights, perhaps every other day, and tell your kids that they have to eat whatever you serve. Try to pick one or two nutritious foods that children will likely enjoy (sliced fruit is vitamin packed and always a favorite). Dinner on the other nights can feature more kid-friendly foods, like baked chicken nuggets or sweet potatoes. Another tactic is to make a plain entree, say chicken, and have a few fun sauces on the side from which the family can choose.
Q: My kids will drink only soda. What should I do to get them to drink healthier beverages?
A : STOP BUYING SODA! Having free access to soft drinks generally encourages children to drink them. Your kids should understand that soda is a special treat; a typical 12-ounce can has about a cup of added sugar in it. 100% fruit juices, although also sweet, do not contain any added sugars. Try adding seltzer water to your child’s favorite juice to create a healthier, bubbly alternative.
Q: My son refuses to try anything new. He eats only french fries. How can I tempt his taste buds?
A: Try establishing a one-bite rule that encourages kids to sample a single nibble of a new food. Studies have shown that when a child is repeatedly exposed to a new taste, he may actually come to like it. So keep introducing new foods over again—don’t avoid them just because your son didn’t like them once. He may change his mind. Another proven solution is to bring your son to the grocery store and let him pick out the vegetable for that night’s dinner. If you give kids the power to become part of the meal planning, they are often more likely to try something new.