Too eat or not to eat? That is the question. For those of you with young children, you are very familiar with that phrase. My four-year-old is a picky eater.
Shocker, right? Most parents have gone through the “picky eater” stage at least once, even twice, maybe a hundred times. Some children eat everything under the sun; others won’t taste anything that’s green. That’s my girl. Can you say stubborn with a capital “S?” If she had her choice, she wouldn’t eat anything but PB & J for the rest of her life.
I don’t consider myself an overly strict parent. However, I do want the best for my child, especially when it comes to healthy food. I’ve spent countless hours food shopping and preparing meals that are nutritious and delicious. At least I think so. My reward is to have my little one take one look at her plate and say that dreaded phrase that almost every parent has heard: “I don’t like that.” Sigh.
I’ve tried the whole “If you don’t eat this, you won’t get anything else” routine. “Fine,” she says, and she won’t eat anything else for the rest of the night. That’s not what I had in mind and then the worry starts. I’ve asked my pediatrician about this behavior and his answer: “When she’s hungry, she’ll eat. She’s not ‘wanting’ for food.” And she’s not, being in the 99th percentile for height and 75th weight, she’s a healthy girl.
“Okay, but you’ll be hungry,” I say, sticking to my guns. Yet, I still give her yogurt as her snack before bed. Why? No parent wants their child to go to bed hungry.
So fast-forward to last night’s dinner of shrimp, corn and applesauce. Corn has been a hit or miss vegetable for my daughter. Sometimes she loves it; other nights she won’t even nibble a kernel. As I watched her look at it with disgust, I say to myself, “How can I get her to try this?” Wait, she likes Parmesan cheese, we have Parmesan cheese, she likes to shake the Parmesan cheese. Epiphany! Not one, but two helpings of corn down the hatch. Slyly I thought to myself, “I did it. I won. She ate her veggies!” Well, tonight that is.
Moral of the story – be persistent and imaginative with your children’s food. If they don’t like it one night, try, try again. Sprinkle a little cheese on their corn, carrots or beans. Add a dollop of yogurt on their strawberries or make a smiley face on their sandwich with grapes and string cheese. For me, I won two battles last night – the battle of wills and the battle of healthy eating.
Check out these easy, fun ways to sneak healthy foods into your child’s meals:
- Make food fun!
- Let kids help cook the food they eat.
- If all else fails, stick with what your child loves – her favorite – Nana’s Mac & Cheese recipe!
American Dairy Association North East is one of 16 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.