Dealing with a Picky Eater

Around two years old, most children will enter a picker phase of eating than their previous habits. As their taste buds develop and they begin to discover their independence, toddlers start to become very picky eaters who can leave their mothers feeling like short order cooks while trying to please them.

Picky eaters can be frustrating for anyone charged with attempting to get a balanced and varied selection of foods into their diet. The pickiness can continue well past toddlerhood as well, leaving parents at a loss. Take on your picky eater with a few tricks and tips to bring him to the table.

Don’t Give In

If your toddler knows that you are going to offer an alternative when he rejects what you have prepared for dinner, he will more likely to hold his ground and refuse to even try what’s on his plate. Your toddler isn’t going to starve himself – if he’s really hungry, he will eat what’s in front of him. Stick to your guns even if it means that your little one goes to bed a bit hungry for a few nights. Eventually he will realize that you aren’t going to bow to his picky eating ways anymore, and will start eating what is offered.

This is a very difficult task for most parents, who can’t stand the thought of their child going to bed without a good meal in his tummy. However, if you continue to give in and provide an alternate meal, you will encourage him to continue demanding something else and leave you cooking several meals to please everyone. It isn’t easy, but it will teach your child a valuable lesson.

There is Room for Compromise

Even with your stance on no longer playing the short order cook for your toddler, you can still make some concessions to provide meals she is more likely to find appetizing. Before you prepare dinner, talk to your toddler about what she would like to eat. The answer might consistently be “macaroni and cheese”, but there are even ways to work with that. Try serving a baked casserole of cauliflower and cheese or mixing a vegetable in with a homemade batch of macaroni and cheese for a healthier version than what comes from a box. You can also serve the requested food as a side dish. Once your toddler starts eating, she will be more likely to move on to the other foods on her plate after she has satisfied her craving for the cheesy stuff. It won’t always work, but at least it will get her to the table and eating without demanding something else.

Casseroles are a good option for picky eaters because they combine healthier foods with the ones toddlers love, such as pasta and cheese. Mix one up in a tomato sauce and she might not even notice the vegetables.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a picky eater is to keep offering healthy foods. If you remove those foods from the menu, you encourage the picky eating habits to continue and set your child up for a lifetime of poor nutrition.

By finding some common ground but continuing to offer a balanced children diet, you give your child the message that healthy eating is important to you and you aren’t going to give up. Even if it takes her a long time to give those foods a try, at least you will know you didn’t give up, or give in.

The Best Time to Offer Your Preschooler New Foods

Getting a preschooler to try new foods can be difficult. By the preschool years, your child has developed his personal taste and preferences for certain foods, and will be resistant to trying new things. The best way to make your child more likely to try new foods is to present them often, so that trying new things becomes common. To increase your chances of success, be sure to choose the right time to offer a new food. Your child’s likelihood of eating something new depends on a number of factors, and timing is an important one!

Hungry, But Not Too Hungry

It seems logical to think that a hungry kid is more likely to give something new a try; and overall, it’s an accurate assumption. But beware of serving new foods to a kid who is too hungry. If your ravenous little one comes to the table and sees something he doesn’t recognize it could cause more meltdown than compliance.

Try offering new foods when your child is hungry but not really starving. A kid who just needs to eat something doesn’t want to encounter a food he has to think about. You do want him hungry enough to be willing to eat what’s in front of him, however, and this can be a fine balance. Don’t try new foods if dinner is late to the table or you have been really busy or rushed that day. Aim for days when the schedule is more relaxed, and the new food is served on time.

Too Tired, Too Cranky

Gauge your child’s mood before deciding whether it’s a good time for a new experience. A tired or cranky child is unlikely to eat a new food. If she missed her nap that day, or woke up unusually early, it might not be a good day. Try to avoid days where her routine has been disrupted by unusual activities such as a visit to the doctor’s office. Disruptions to the daily schedule can make your little one cranky and unwilling to cooperate with yet another new experience.

Don’t offer new foods when your child isn’t feeling well. She probably won’t be in the mood to try, and especially if her little tummy isn’t quite right, it isn’t a great idea to put something new into it.

The Best Time of Day

Is your preschooler a morning person? Or more chipper around dinner? Look for the time of day when she is most open, happy, and compliant to introduce new foods. If your child often wakes up happy, try to introduce new foods at breakfast. If she is decidedly not a morning person, it’s better to keep breakfast a little more routine.

Dinner is often a good time to introduce new foods because it is the meal where a family is most likely to sit down and eat together. This means that your preschooler will have the opportunity to see her parents and siblings giving the new fare a try, which will encourage her to do the same.

A child who is in a good mood, well rested, and hungry but not ravenous is a child more likely to give something new a shot. Serve up new foods at the best time of day and with the best timing during the week for your child; this will be individual to each preschooler, so don’t worry about what other parents are doing. Pick the time that works best for your child.

Giving Rejected Foods Another Try

When your baby starts to reject baby foods, it might seem like you are never going to be able to serve up a healthy and balanced baby food diet. But giving up too soon on rejected baby foods is a mistake many new moms make. If your baby refuses a food the first, or even the second and third time, it doesn’t mean it has to be off the menu forever. Trying a rejected food repeatedly will help you to provide your child with all the nutrition she needs while helping to develop a wider palate and appreciation for different tastes and textures.

How Many Times Should I Try?

It can take a baby up to ten tries to really decide if she likes a certain food. Trying only a few times and then removing it from the menu will mean she misses out on a lot of foods she might eventually really come to enjoy. It is frustrating to a parent to have a food rejected over and over again, but your persistence will be rewarded. Not every food will eventually be accepted, but a good portion of the foods that you might have crossed off your list are likely to wind up on your child’s regular menu.

Trying Again Later

If you have tried repeatedly without success, it might be a good idea to put the food aside – but don’t give up on it altogether! If you stop offering the food for a few weeks and then bring it back, you might be surprised at the results. As your child’s experience with tastes and textures grows and changes over time, she might find that a food she previously refused is suddenly more appetizing.

Early on, your baby will have an affinity for baby foods that are a little sweeter and very smooth. Some foods simply can’t be pureed to the same level of smoothness as others, and some are much more bitter than the sweet taste a baby is naturally predisposed to like. As she tries more foods and expands her taste buds a little more, those baby foods that seems too chunky or not sweet enough will come back into the running.

Never Give Up

Even if you have tried over and over again with no success, there is never a reason to take a baby foods entirely off your list unless your child has an allergic reaction to it. You might need to wait a long time between attempts, but keep the food in mind to try again even a few months down the road. When your child moves on to table foods, he will be more likely to try things he might not have enjoyed in pureed form.

This is especially true if you make a point of letting your child see you eat and enjoy the food in question. Seeing the food in it’s whole form and realizing that mommy and daddy are eating it can completely change your child’s opinion. This is a great time to reintroduce foods your child repeatedly rejected earlier. These foods might be a lot more appetizing when served on a plate as part of a big kid meal than they ever were when pureed on a spoon!

If you want your child to have the most balanced children diet possible, be sure to continue offering foods that have been rejected. The more often you try, the more likely your child will one day decide it’s not so bad after all.

Children and the Vegetable Challenge

There is no food group that is more likely to cause a child to push away his plate than vegetables. They are the food that parents most commonly struggle with getting their child to eat.

All babies are born with a sweet tooth; they prefer sweet foods because breast milk, the food they are naturally inclined to like, is sweet. Most vegetables are not known for being sweet, however most babies eat vegetables fairly easily when they start solid foods. Many parents find that the trouble with vegetables starts a little later in life, generally in the toddler years. Unfortunately, it can carry over well past toddlerhood and become a battleground for many years to come.

Serving Vegetables Kids Like

A big part of the reason kids won’t eat vegetables is that they either don’t look very appetizing or are cooked poorly, leaving them limp and flavorless. Many vegetables already tend towards a bitter taste, which doesn’t go over well with young kids, and overcooking them can make it worse. Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and spinach are all likely to become bitter and unappetizing when overcooked, and they can be very hard to get kids to eat.

To avoid overcooking vegetables, try steaming them rather than boiling or microwaving. Not only will you preserve all the nutrients, but your vegetables will come out with beautiful color and a far less bitter taste. Even so, the right cooking method probably isn’t enough to get your kids to even try them to find out if they like them.

Add flavor to vegetables with sauces, dips and glazes for a taste your kids are much more likely to enjoy. Broccoli and cauliflower work beautifully with cheese sauces. Carrots can be easily glazed with a little honey. Creamy garlic sauce is a friend to green beans. Raw veggies served with a tasty dip are a great way to get older kids to dig in, and the cooking process hasn’t had a chance to affect the flavor or texture.

Hiding Vegetables

There are all kinds of recipes, even entire recipe books, out there aimed at teaching you how to hide vegetables. Some use a system of purees that you can hide in all kinds of foods.

Hiding vegetables isn’t the best way to teach your child healthy eating habits, but as long as you continue to offer the whole veggies, there is nothing wrong with a little creative cooking to ensure your child’s good nutrition isn’t being lost to picky eating.

Some vegetables are easy enough to hide in plain sight; you can mix mashed cauliflower in with mashed potatoes, for instance, and most kids will never know. The average kid won’t recognize the chunks in his pasta sauce as carrots, or the little green strips as spinach. But some are a little trickier. Finely diced vegetables can be easily added to meatballs, and your kids will never even see them.

Even if you choose to hide vegetables in your child’s food, remember to keep offering them; it’s important to their future healthy eating habits that they learn to give vegetables a try on their own. Hiding them while taking them off the menu in more obvious ways will make you child believe you no longer care if she eats them, which can lead her to believe it’s ok to skip them altogether. Hiding vegetables works for the short-term but doesn’t do much for long-term success.

Teach Your Child to Try New Foods

Children aren’t generally known for being adventurous eaters, and once they decide what they like, it can be difficult to convince them to try anything new. Raising a kid who is willing to try new things isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. It takes some effort on your part and a commitment to teaching your child that different isn’t scary. The good news is, the sense of adventure with new foods can also translate into a child who is open to new experiences in other aspects of life as well.

Make It Personal

Introduce your child to the cuisines of different cultures by using friends as a starting point. Ask friends of different cultural backgrounds to help by inviting them to dinner and asking if they would help you to prepare a meal from their background. Explain to your child ahead of time that your friends are going to share some special food that is important to their culture and heritage.

By bringing friends into the picture, you aren’t asking your child to try something new for no reason; instead you are making a special night of it and sharing something new and exciting with company. The food is no longer something random and strange, but something with personal meaning that your child can relate to people who are friends. After the big night, you might find your child not only amenable to the new food, but actually requesting it!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Introduce your child to new fruits and vegetables by growing a garden of fresh, healthy choices in your own backyard. Make it a family project and give your child a job to do in every stage of the process, from choosing what to plant to sowing the seeds, watering the plants and harvesting the results. A child who is invested in the process of growing food will be far more interested in eating the food when it reaches the table.

If growing your own fruits and vegetables isn’t possible, you can still reap some of the benefits by taking your child out to select fresh produce at a farmer’s market, or even at a berry picking farm or orchard. Choosing what will wind up on the table from the wide variety available will encourage your child to pick new things and give them a chance.

Serve New Things in Old Ways

Taking a new food and preparing it in a familiar way is a good way to get your child to at least give the new choice a try. Toss vegetables in a cheesy sauce and serve them up just like macaroni and cheese. Make a pizza from flatbread, veggies and a little cheese sprinkled on top, and bake to crispy perfection. Serve pita chips with hummus instead of tortilla chips and salsa. Making simple substitutions with new foods will introduce them to your child without the scariness of something entirely foreign.

Make It a Habit

Try new things regularly so that it becomes part of the routine and doesn’t take your child by surprise. When adventurous eating becomes a part of your family philosophy, it will become easier to get your children on board.

Remember that the more your kids see you trying new things, the more they will want to try them as well. Make it a group effort and you will wind up with a child who is up for anything, and not just at the table. You will also raise a child who is a little more open to new experiences in life.

Fruits or Vegetables: Which Does Your Child Prefer?

Just like grown-ups, children will develop a preference for certain foods. At around 2 years old, a child’s taste buds begin to change, resulting in the picky eating phase that is common to many toddlers. They have also realized that they have control over few things in life – and eating is one of them!

Many children prefer fruits to vegetables naturally; they are sweet, and babies are born with a predisposition to like sweet things due to the sweet taste of breast milk. Not all children will carry this sweet tooth into later life, however, and some will decide vegetables are more their thing. Even more commonly, they will come to like some fruits and vegetables while disliking others.

There is nothing wrong with developing a personal sense of taste, but it’s important to make sure your child is eating a balanced children diet as well. If your little one has a distinct preference for one or the other of these two nutritious choices, it isn’t the end of the world, but you should make sure you try to keep them both on the menu.

When Your Child Will Only Eat Fruit

Luckily, fruit is generally a pretty healthy choice for a child, and is certainly better choice than some of the other favorite foods kids have a tendency to choose. Your child can get a great source of vitamins and minerals from fruits, as long as the choices are varied. Eating only bananas won’t provide all the needed nutrition. Keep offering different fruits, but don’t give up on vegetables.

Sometimes, a child who likes only fruits will be more likely to try vegetables if you add a little sweetness to the mix. Try cooking carrots with a little honey; they are already naturally sweet, and the added sweetness of the honey might just put them over the top for your little one. Throw a sweet fruit in with the vegetables; try dried fruits mixed with green beans or peas, or combine sweet potatoes with apples.

If your child doesn’t like the texture of vegetables, try serving them raw or only slightly steamed instead. Keep a close eye out for possible choking hazards, but give fresh veggies and dip a try. If your child prefers fruit because it is crisp, cold, and uncooked, trying fresh vegetables might help.

If Your Little One Prefers Vegetables

It’s a rare child who chooses veggies over fruits, but it certainly does happen! If your child prefers vegetables, there really isn’t a whole lot to worry about as the nutrition provided by a diet rich in various vegetables is very well balanced.

Still, don’t skip the fruits. As with a child who prefers fruit, it’s a good idea to keep the diet as balanced as possible to ensure the best sources of nutrition. Keep offering fruit, and again try mixing it into the vegetables. Fruit makes a wonderful, convenient snack – try serving it with a yogurt dip to make it more fun.

Throughout childhood, your child will likely have several changes of heart as to what foods are on the in list and which are out. It is a time of developing tastes and opinions, and your little one is discovering personal preferences and learning how to express them. The best thing a parent can do is to keep offering different foods. The more often your child sees a food, the more likely it will eventually make it onto the “like” list.

Cow’s Milk and Babies: Wait until One Year

Although your baby may have been on a cow’s milk based formula since birth and has tried other dairy products such as yogurt, you should still hold off on giving your baby cow’s milk for the first 12 months of life. Cow’s milk can cause a number of problems, and differs from other dairy based products in its safety for babies.

Cow’s Milk and Baby’s Body

Under one year of age, your baby’s digestive system simply isn’t ready for cow’s milk. The proteins can be difficult to digest and can cause gastrointestinal problems. In large amounts, cow’s milk can damage the lining of baby’s stomach, resulting in internal bleeding. This is only one of the ways in which cow’s milk can lead to low iron levels in baby and serious consequences.

Cow’s milk is also known to block the absorption of iron, which is essential to your baby’s blood. Iron helps to create new red blood cells and also hemoglobin. Low iron results in low levels of red blood cells and a reduced ability for oxygen to be carried throughout the body. This is known as iron deficiency anemia, and it is common in babies who do not get enough iron through baby food diet. Cow’s milk can cause iron deficiency anemia through both blocked iron absorption and also by causing stomach bleeding that leaches more iron from the bloodstream.

As your baby grows past one year, the digestive system will be better able to handle the proteins in milk, but the risk of anemia still exists, so cow’s milk intake should always be regulated.

Why Some Dairy Products are Safe

Not all dairy carries the same risks as cow’s milk. In foods like cheese and yogurt the processing methods that are used in manufacturing break down the protein and the lactose, making them easier to digest. This is why many lactose intolerant people are able to eat these foods and yet can’t drink milk. The same applies to cow’s milk based formulas, however there are still some babies who can’t tolerate even the dairy protein in these formulas and need a different option.

The main difference between milk and other dairy products is that yogurt and cheese are unlikely to be eaten in large amounts, and are even less likely to replace formula or breast milk. During the first year, your baby needs all the nutrients that are provided by these sources. Cow’s milk does not provide everything a baby needs nutritionally. After one year old, babies are able to use cow’s milk as a beverage because they are eating larger amounts of solid baby foods that provide a much better nutritional base. A baby who starts drinking cow’s milk too early may skip formula or breast milk feedings and lose important nutrients.

Until your baby is a year old, the only beverage that is really required is breast milk or formula. Along with meeting all of your baby’s nutritional needs, they also offer plenty of fluid intake to keep baby hydrated. Once your baby is a year old, you can start to replace these feedings with cow’s milk and wean from the breast or bottle. At this time you should still be cautious that baby gets less than 24 ounces of cow’s milk every day. This will prevent anemia and also make certain milk isn’t replacing meals.

Favorite Snacks for Babies and Toddlers

When your baby has graduated from breast milk or formula and is eating three meals a day, snacks will become an important part of the daily routine. A small, healthy snack twice a day, usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon can be a healthy addition to your child’s diet as long as you make smart choices that will both please your child and provide important nutrients.

Look for snacks that are kid-friendly, provide sustained energy, and that are easy for your older baby or toddler to eat. Snack time shouldn’t take a long time, or a lot of preparation, so having snacks ready to go will make it easier to choose right.

Favorite Snacks for Older Babies

When your older baby is ready to start snacking, he probably still won’t have all his teeth or be able to chew some of the snack options grown ups enjoy. Still, there are plenty of snack options for babies that are healthy, easy to eat and great tasting too.

Your baby’s favorite snack might be one of his first finger foods. Cheerios, the popular early choice for babies learning to pick up foods with the thumb and forefinger, will continue to be a much-loved snack for some time. They are easily portable, don’t require refrigeration and are made with healthy whole oats. Other similar dry cereals will work just as well, just be sure to watch out for sugar content by reading the nutrition label on the cereal box.

Add some protein to your baby’s snack with small pieces of cheese, which will be very popular with older babies. Use caution to cut the pieces small enough to avoid a choking hazard – try cutting thin strips rather than cubes or chunks. Yogurt is another excellent snack option for older babies that adds protein.

Bananas are an excellent snack choice that babies love. One of his first baby foods, he can now handle slices of banana, which are easy for him to hold and also soft enough to prevent a choking hazard.

Favorite Snacks for Toddlers

Once your toddler has cut her molars, a whole new world of food opens up, and that translates to snacks as well. Favorite toddler snacks will be a little more advanced than those you offered her as a baby. Now is the time to look to all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables, and take previously loved snacks a little further.

Popular snacks with the toddler crowd include thin cut apple slices – add some peanut butter or a yogurt dip for a little extra protein, berries such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, and grapes (cut up as they are still a choking hazard). Your toddler may also be ready for some raw veggies, such as thin carrot sticks and cucumber slices.

Toddlers still love cheese, and you can now offer slices paired with healthy whole grain crackers. Mix it up with different types of cheese for new tastes. Try melting cheese on the crackers in your toaster oven, and topping it with a small chunk of tomato for a different twist on a traditional snack.

The ability to self-feed with a spoon makes a cup of yogurt or applesauce an even more appealing snack for both mom and toddler alike. She will love feeling like a grown-up eating her own snack, and you will be free to get other things done!

Snack time for babies and toddlers is a great time for fun foods that are both healthy and delicious. The purpose of snacks is to keep your child going in between meals, so keep them small – remember it’s just a snack, not a second lunch!

Choosing Certified Organic Food

A renewed focus on healthy eating and healthier foods in recent years has resulted in a wider market for organic and natural foods. Many of these organic foods can now be found in standard grocery stores rather than only in upscale markets or health food stores. This makes choosing organic food for your family easier than ever before. To decide if organic is the right choice for your family, it’s important to understand what exactly organic foods are, what the requirements are for a food to be labeled as organic, and what the difference is between organic and natural foods.

What is Organic Food?

Organic food is grown and processed following strict guidelines that regulate the use of pesticides, hormones and fertilizers. This system of farming is aimed at reducing pollution and delivering food that is free of chemicals and additives believed to be harmful to our health. Organic farmers do not use chemical fertilizers or pest control methods, instead choosing more natural options. Organic foods include fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and grains.

How do I Know If a Food is Organic?

The USDA labels all organic foods according to a set of guidelines for the growing and production of the food. In order to receive the USDA Organic label, the food in question must be at least 95% organic. This means 95% of the ingredients must be from organic sources. Some foods may be labeled specifically as 100% organic, generally fresh produce which has come directly from an organic farm certified by the USDA.

Some foods may contain organic ingredients, but if they are less than 95% organic can not carry the USDA label. Even if the package says organic, there is no guarantee that the food meets USDA standards unless the label is present.

You may also see foods labeled as “all natural”, which is not to be confused with organic. This generally means that the food contains natural ingredients and does not have any synthetic additives. It has no bearing on how the food was grown, and there is no USDA certification for all natural foods.

Are Organic Foods Better?

This is a controversial subject, and proponents of organic foods strongly believe that organic food is healthier, tastes better and is safer for both the environment and for human consumption.

Nutritionally, organic produce is the same as conventionally grown foods. Because organic food is not treated with preservatives, it tends to spoil faster than conventional foods. Although avoiding residues from pesticides is one of the main selling points of organic foods, the small amount that may appear on conventionally grown food is unlikely to be harmful. Because farming organically costs more, the extra cost is passed on to the consumer, which is the reason for the higher price tag on organic food. Many people believe organic food tastes better, but in blind taste tests, most people can’t tell the difference.

Choosing organic food for your family is a personal decision, which requires taking into account the potential risks of conventional food to both health and to the environment as well as your family’s budget. Luckily, for those who choose to buy organic, the rise in popularity of organically produced goods has made them a lot easier to find and may also affect the price of organic food in favor of the consumer in the future.

Making Sense of Nutrition Labels

When it comes to choosing the right foods for your family, the nutrition label can be your best friend. Learning to read and understand the information offered by the label will help you to find the foods that offer the most nutrition with the least extra ingredients your body doesn’t need.

The Basics of Food Labels

The standard food label offers certain basic information about the calories, vitamins and minerals, sugars, fiber, and fat that the food offers. The first thing to pay attention to on the label is right at the top: the serving size. A food may seem to be low calorie until you realize that the label quote calories per serving and not for the entire package. Some packages may contain ten or more servings. The label will also tell you what a serving size is, and this is what all of the nutritional information on the label is based on.

Food labels will then list the number of calories per serving, and the number of calories in the food that come from fat. Below that, the label will list the Total Fat, followed by a breakdown of saturated and trans fat. Next, you will see the amounts of Cholesterol, Sodium, and Carbohydrates, which will be broken down into dietary fiber and sugars. Finally, you will see a listing for Protein.

Beneath this main information, you will see a list of the vitamins and minerals in the food. The main four that appear on all nutrition labels are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. If the food does not contain any of these, you may instead see a message to this effect.

Next to each of the listed components of the food, there will be a number in grams followed by a percentage. The percentage tells you what percent of the recommended daily value of each item a serving of this food provides. Bear in mind that this is based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, and may not necessarily reflect what percentage of your daily intake the food provides. Especially for young children, whose calorie intake is much lower than an adults, these numbers can be misleading.

Finally, you will see an ingredients list that shows everything that went into the food, listed in order of how much of each was added. You will also see a warning regarding any potential allergens in the food.

What to Look for in a Healthy Food

The numbers that should really concern you when reading food labels are those under fat, sugar, sodium and fiber. Depending on the food you are choosing, fiber may be one of the most important considerations. Watch for foods that contain no trans fat, low saturated fat, and low sodium. You will also want low sugar, but high fiber. Not every food will contain a lot of each vitamin or minerals, but some foods are naturally high in certain nutrients, while others have been enriched with extra nutrients.

When reading the ingredients list, you might not be able to pronounce everything you see. Obviously, the less ingredients, the more natural the food and the healthier it is likely to be. Not every food additive is dangerous and some are even natural, but the more additives and preservatives in a food, the less healthy it is likely to be.

Of course, the healthiest foods don’t even have labels – fresh fruits and vegetables provide a great source of nutrition, so choose as many of those foods as you can for the freshest, healthiest source of good nutrition.

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