Your Child’s Health: The ways to please a picky eater

The dinner table doesn’t have to be a battlefield over who’s going to win the ‘veggie fight’ — you or your child.  As we find out in today’s Your Child’s Health report, parents should forget the pressure approach and have a little patience and some creativity.

Shaun Cummings is like most moms who would like her child to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.  But, two-year-old Eve is like many youngsters. “She’s a picky eater.  She’ll eat the basic things like corn.  She doesn’t eat broccoli.  She doesn’t eat peas.  Every once in a while she’ll eat string beans,” Cummings said.

Janet Kramer, Clinical Dietician with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital says it is best for a child’s overall health to eat a variety of vegetables.  Parents should forget the pressure approach and take the family approach. “Whether you’re talking about picky eaters, or getting kids to eat vegetables — the most important thing — is to be a good role model. Set the example, eat the vegetables yourself,” Kramer said.

Gradually introduce your child to different vegetables, and don’t give up if the veggie gets pushed aside on the first try. “Research shows that you have to introduce new foods 10 to 20 times before a child is going to accept it,” Kramer added.

Raw, cooked, frozen or canned — all vegetables count.  And, there are ways to make them appealing to your child.  “Make them fun, colorful; get creative cutting up slices of red and green peppers for example or carrot coins or cucumber rounds, making faces on a plate or on a sandwich,” Kramer suggested.

Parents might need to be a little creative and start slipping vegetables into foods that their children already eat.  “Spaghetti sauce is a really great agent to hide vegetables.  Try doing a rainbow of mashed potatoes. So, one night you have orange mashed potatoes because you’ve pureed carrots and mixed them with mashed potatoes.  The next night you have green mashed potatoes because you have pureed broccoli,” Kramer said.

Kramer added that parents don’t have to win the food fight every meal – just keep offering healthy food choices to win the smaller battles.