It's a challenge; and understandable enough: if it's hard getting adults to eat healthy, how do we go about this business on kids?
I check what I am doing or not or have done against professional advice that I read. MedicineNet nutrition experts suggest ways for parents to guide their children to eat a sound diet.
Avoid power struggle
"Do it because I'm the parent" or worse, "Eat or else..." Have you said something like that to your kids during a meal? Once I told my son, "no eat, no play." I realize it could be a form of slight power struggle. He ate but couldn't have understood why he had to eat in order to play. Author of The Parent's Toolshop Jody Johnston Pawel explains that this rationale does not work for long.
I had no idea children have to be exposed to a new food 10 to 15 times before they accept it. If they play with a berry on their plate, parents are advised not to give up but keep encouraging them to eat. Suggested exposure is 1 or 2 new foods a week.
We may refer to children who are difficult to feed as "limited eater" rather than "picky." Experts claim that kids under 5 are normally selective eaters.
Build on the positive
A child's growth spurt is an opportunity to introduce new foods, but don't let your child eat all he wants just because things have become easier on the dining table.
Let kids participate
"Get a step stool and ask your kids to lend a hand with easy tasks in the kitchen," says Sal Severe, author of How to Behave So Your Children Will Too. He gives the logic here: if children participate in helping to make the meal, they are more likely to want to try it.
Do you use sweets to get your child to eat what you want him to? I sometimes do. But experts advise parents to avoid it because it can send a message that eating veggies should involve a reward.
"The real reward of sound nutrition is a healthy body, not a chocolate cupcake."
Beware of over-snacking
If you remember your mom or dad giving you less to eat between meals, they were right. The problem is not the child does not like new food, but he is actually already full from snacks. Children can consume a lot of calories from milk and juice or chips and sodas.
"Good snacks are those that supplement meals, not sabotage them."
Role modeling on the dining table
"Do as I say, not as I do" is not just old, it's wrong. You can't expect your kids to have salad while you are having french fries.
Don't discuss your child's eating habits during meals. Tense talk loses people their appetite. Parents can stress the importance of good eating through stories around bedtime.
Give it time
Children are known to grow out of limited eating as they grow older. One day you may be surprised to see them eat healthy food on their own; without being told.
I didn't like vegetables for as long as I can remember when I was a kid. But at age 19 that was no longer the case. I finally learned the value of healthy eating.