Picky eater? Ways to get more healthy food in your child’s diet

The American Heart Association says a healthy diet and lifestyle are our best weapons against...
The American Heart Association says a healthy diet and lifestyle are our best weapons against heart disease.((Source: WSFA 12 News- File Video))
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 4:11 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2021 at 3:34 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - What is it about chicken nuggets? Kids are obsessed with them to the exclusion of all other foods. How can you get your child off the nuggets long enough to try something new, especially if it’s healthys?

According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, the number one rule is being respectful of your child’s appetite, or lack of one.

“If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack. Likewise, don’t bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate. This might only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration or become less sensitive to his or her own hunger and fullness cues.”

Fruits and veggies can be a battle, but suggests that kids seeing them in the home is the first step to getting them in their stomach.

“Provide fruits and vegetables as snacks. Keep fruit washed, cut up and in plain sight in the refrigerator. Serve salads more often. Get pre-washed, bagged salad at the grocery store. Teach your child what an appropriate amount of salad dressing is and how it can be ordered on the side at restaurants.”

That tip can be a little easier said than done, especially if you’re living on a budget. If you can’t afford to buy as much produce as you’d like, you might need to get creative.

“One of my good friends lives nearby and has a bountiful garden with plenty of cucumber, tomato, and peppers plants, among others,” states an article by Matt Breed of Money Crashers. “He is always more than happy to share, and in return I help him take care of his plants when he’s traveling. Most of the people I know who keep a garden of their own have more food than their family can consume, so never hesitate to ask if you can partake.”

Once you start bringing more fresh produce in the home, it’s time to start incorporating the items into some meals. A great way to start doing this is by mixing the veggies in a dish they already love. Think spaghetti and broccoli rather than meatballs.

“But whatever strategy they use, parents should play it cool,” states Stanford Children’s Health. “Avoid food battles with children--they will always win. And only a bad food relationship is established with your children over food.”

The key is setting a routine and a good example.

“While good eating habits may not inspire children to join in, poor eating habits will certainly set them on the wrong path,” states Janet Nash, a registered dietitian. “Offer a variety of lean proteins (such as chicken, turkey breast slices, low fat cheese, low fat yogurt, eggs, and even peanut butter), ample fruits and vegetables and lots of water. If you model it, over time, your children will understand that a piece of fruit is a great afternoon snack. The more consistent you are, the better you’ll be able to guide your kids.”

Most importantly, keep things positive.

“According to research, praise improves both healthy and unhealthy food intake,” states Christa Spraggins in an article published by Research Addict. "In the lab, praise leads kids to eat more veggies. And praise for healthy eating is associated with a healthy childhood BMI.

“A positive attitude gets kids to eat healthy foods, but a negative attitude only leads kids to eat more junk food,” she adds. “So, teach them about unhealthy food and keep it away. Yet don’t bother criticizing the cookie when they are already reaching for it. You may do more harm than good.”

The final tip is one you might not think has anything to do with eating at all - SLEEP! Scientists have produced study after study showing connections between poor sleep and poor diet. The desire for sugar and junk food goes up when you’re sleepy. If you question that, come read this again at around 2 p.m. in the afternoon.

Knowledge is power when it comes to battling with your kids. Just remember, you’re the adult, so they’re counting on you for the answers, even if they don’t always act that way.

What trick have you learned to get your picky eater to try something new? Share picture or video with a comment below.

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