Picky Eaters – Choose Healthy and Tasty Foods for Children

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Feeding children can be difficult, especially if your child is a picky eater. Many parents find themselves having to cook multiple meals when dealing with a picky eater, or resort to less healthy ‘kid’ foods like chicken nuggets, hot dogs or macaroni and cheese. Finicky eaters typically fall into 2 categories- neophobics and picky eaters. A neophobic is not willing to try new or unfamiliar foods, whereas a picky eater is unwilling to eat a variety of familiar foods.

Neophobics may have mothers that are reluctant to try new foods, while pickiness could reflect a real dislike of foods or an effort to resist parental control. Researchers believe that neophobics may eventually learn to try new foods, but this may be innate. Picky eaters are less likely to change habits, but may grow into liking a wider variety of foods as they age. Before you give up and continue to cook multiple meals for your family, try the tips below:

  • Offer a variety of foods, but don’t nag, hassle or bribe
  • Model good eating behaviors
  • Be non-judgemental about food choices
  • Do not try to sneak healthy food into dishes your child normally eats
  • Offer new foods with favorite dishes
  • Monitor your child’s development through regular pediatric visits
  • Supplement your child’s diet with a daily multi-vitamin
  • Do not use food as a reward
  • Relax! The more anxious and upset you are, the more your child may refuse food

Parents may worry that their child isn’t getting adequate nutrition when he’s a fussy eater. But, which nutrients are most important? Carbohydrates, protein, fat? Check out the list below for the top 10 nutrients to focus on for normal growth and development. You may be surprised at how many choices your picky eater has.

  1. Protein– For growth, strength and immunity (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, dried beans, nuts, tofu)
  2. Iron– For blood, immunity and normal development (meat, fish, poultry, fortified grains & cereals, dried beans)
  3. Calcium-For strong bones & teeth, and blood pressure control (dairy products, calcium-fortified juice, dark/green/leafy vegetables)
  4. Vitamin C– For wound healing, immunity and iron absorption (citrus fruit, kiwi, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes)
  5. Vitamin A– For skin integrity, immunity and bone growth (orange and dark green fruits and vegetables, liver, egg yolks, dairy
    products)
  6. Zinc– For growth, immunity, sexual maturation, skin integrity (meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, whole grains)
  7. Vitamin D– For normal calcium absorption, healthy bones & teeth (fortified dairy products, casual sun exposure)
  8. Carbohydrate– For energy production and fiber (grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy products)
  9. Fat– For energy, fat-soluble vitamin transport, shock absorption (cook with unsaturated fats such as olive, peanut or canola oil, limit saturated and trans fat, fried foods, high fat desserts and processed meats and cheeses)
  10. Water– For digestion, transport & absorption of nutrients. Prevents dehydration, maintains BP & regulates body temperature. (aim for at least six 8 oz cups of water per day)

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About Author

Lisa Andrews

Lisa Andrews has been a dietitian in Cincinnati since 1990. In addition to her clinical experience counseling patients and teaching weight loss classes, she has also worked as a professional writer, speaker and nutrition consultant. See my profile page for more information!

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