Healthy Cooking for Picky Kids

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Convincing a picky child to eat his vegetables or drink his milk is no easy task. If you have a picky child, you might worry about the nutrients your child gets from his diet. Meeting the challenge of getting your child to enjoy healthy foods takes patience and creativity in the kitchen.

Involve Your Kid

From the toddler years on, kids are able to help out in the kitchen when given age-appropriate jobs. A 2-year-old can’t run the mixer, but she can pour in ingredients or help stir with a spoon. A child who helps create a meal might be more willing to give it a try at the dinner table. For even greater child involvement, ask her for input on the family menu. Sit down together at the beginning of each week and offer her options for each day’s meals. She gets some control in the menu, which might encourage her to eat more.

Broad View

When dealing with a picky child, you may worry that he isn’t getting balanced nutrition. One day he might clean his plate while the next he won’t even touch his favorite foods. To determine how well he’s eating, take a broad look at what your picky child eats when determining how well he is eating. If he gets a balance of essential utrients over the course of several days, he is probably fine nutritionally.

Variety is Key

Variety in your cooking gives your picky eater more options throughout the week. Serving only her favorite foods keeps her stuck in a rut instead of pushing her toward trying new things. Introduce new foods periodically without forcing your child to try them. After repeated exposure, a picky child is more likely to try something new. Make slight changes to your child’s favorite meals with some healthy additional ingredients. For example, if she loves homemade macaroni and cheese, include some healthy mix-ins like shredded or pureed carrots, tuna or chicken. The additions offer more nutritional value without changing the original recipe much.

Include Your Kid’s Favorites

Every meal shouldn’t be based on your picky child’s favorite foods, but including at least one dish he likes is a feasible compromise. By serving one item on his list of acceptable foods, you know he’s at least obtaining some essential nutrients. Seeing something familiar that he likes may put him at ease and inspire him to try some of the other foods on the plate.

More Tips & Tricks

Preparing a separate meal for your picky eater reinforces his bad habits. Instead, limit snacks right before meal time so your child will be hungry and possibly more willing to try the meal you prepared for the family. If your child still resists, try presenting the food in a new way. Cut food in an interesting shape, eat with toothpicks instead of forks, add a few drops of food coloring or give the food a child-friendly name. Instead of spaghetti, call the dish wiggly worms or slimy seaweed.

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