Parenting: Healthier eating

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When we eat out as a family, a favorite dish my son Nicholas loves to order is wings...usually buffalo, and the spicier the better.

Certainly, it's not the healthiest dish on the menu, but as parents, my wife and I often find we relent and allow Nicholas to order a less nutritional dish because he'll eat it and like many children he's unwilling to try anything new.

Children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy most, so the challenge is to make healthy choices appealing. It's no easy task. Try to convince a 9-year-old that a salad is just as tasty as a burger and fries, and see what happens. But we've found the trick is to somehow incorporate nutrition into the meals he enjoys most.

For instance, we found that Nicholas likes broccoli (with ranch dressing). So in restaurants he'll have it as a side order with his chicken fingers or chicken wings.

And if your child is a picky eater, join the club. Many experts say it's normal. Picky eaters are actually going through a developmental stage, where they distrust the unfamiliar, while trying to exert control over their environment. So simply insisting your child try a new food is going to be a long and frustrating endeavor.

But while researching ways to get my youngster to eat healthier and try new things, I came across a few tips that may help you, and actually worked. Here's some things to try:

1. Offer a new food when your child is really hungry.
2. Turn it into a game and make the food-tasting fun.
3. Serve new foods with their favorite foods. (That's how we found out Nicholas likes broccoli)
4. Limit beverages, because picky eaters like to fill up on drinks instead.

And most of all, teach by example. Let your children see you eating healthy food. Getting a youngster to try more fruits and vegetables while you're munching on a slice of pizza won't work. Believe me I tried it.

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