As seen on PBS' Creative Living
Pleasing Picky Eaters
Get your kids to actually eat their food. Sure, you can prepare the best healthiest meal, but what are the tips to ensure that your child actually eats it? It’s all about finding the balance between preparing healthy, quality meals and ensuring your child will eat it.
The best way to get your kids to eat healthier is to make healthy eating fun and get them involved with all aspects of meal planning: from menu planning, to in the grocery store and into the kitchen.
Have a frank talk. Find out their true likes and dislikes.
Talk about it first before springing a “surprise” in the lunch box. Sure, tabbouli sounds good to you… but to your child?
Pleasing Picky Eaters
Every child needs to be well-nourished to achieve optimum growth and health. Research studies and anecdotal evidence provide compelling reasons for children to eat nutritiously consistently, every day.
• Numerous studies confirm that children in better nutrition status have better grades, better scores on achievement tests and better classroom behavior in school.
• Good food choices provide the essential nutrients kids need to stay healthy and grow.
• Each meal can make a difference to the daily and weekly totals for calories, fat, saturated fat, fiber, sugar, and sodium, and setting good health patterns for their whole life.
Tips to get your kids to actually eat the food. But as every parent knows—preparing and presenting the food is one task, the challenge too often, is to get them to actually eat it Sure, you can provide the best, most nutrient-rich foods, but what are the tips to ensure that your child actually eats it?
• The best way to get your kids to eat healthier is to make healthy eating fun and get them involved with all aspects of meal and food planning: from menu planning, to in the grocery store, and into the kitchen.
• Planning; Have a frank talk.
o Find out their likes and dislikes. Just as adults have food preferences, likes and dislikes, it’s OK for your kids to have some as well.
o Talk about it first before springing a “surprise” in the lunch box or meal. Sure, tabbouli sounds good to you…but to your child?
o And be sensitive to your child’s peer group pressure. Carefully balance your health goals with your child’s comfort level in being making creative lunches. A cookie cutter sandwich shaped like a bunny rabbit may not appeal to all age groups.
o Keep up to date, and plan periodic assessments. Tastes and interest change. If you have served a “like” for 3 weeks in a row, and it starts getting rejected, it’s time to have another planning session.
• Menu and meal planning
o Involve the kids in simple cooking tasks, or setting the table
o As the child gets older, help them to pick out and plan a meal once a week
• Grocery shopping
o Allow each family member to put a favorite (healthy) food on the grocery list
o Even very young children can help shop: pick out one apple or two oranges at the grocery store.
o Tip to keep your sanity—don’t take the kids shopping if they are tired, hungry and cranky!
• And most important—be a good role model.
Start with the nutrition basics: To best meet children’s nutritional needs, look at the Food Guide Pyramid and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Make smart choices from every food group: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk & Dairy, and Meat & Beans.
• Many Americans, including our children, consume more calories than they need without meeting recommended intakes for a number of nutrients.
• As a result, many children are becoming overweight but undernourished, and their diets are lacking in calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E.
• Emphasize nutrient-dense foods – foods with higher levels of beneficial nutrients in relation to total calories, and especially those nutrients that children are lacking, to get the most nutrition out of our calories.
• Following mom’s admonition to eat your fruits and may be some of the best health advice around. Evidence continues to accumulate on the many ways that vegetables and fruits promote good health, reducing risk of major chronic disorders such as heart disease and cancer.
o Just 1/4 cup of dried fruit, such as California Raisins, counts as a fruit serving. It's easy to reach the daily goal of 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables when you focus on including a variety of them in every meal and snack.
• Include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains that help kids get more of the nutrients they need.
• Choose foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and salt.
Meal by Meal
Eye-Opening Breakfast Ideas:
• When making pancakes, waffles and muffins, sneak in some whole grains by replacing half of the white flour with whole wheat flour.
Fluffy Polka Dot Pancakes
• For a breakfast style burrito – and a protein and fiber boost – fold eggs, beans, shredded low fat cheese, lean ground beef and vegetables into a whole wheat tortilla.
• For a veggie breakfast hash, sauté shredded carrots, zucchini, peppers, onions and uncooked hash browns in canola oil until tender. Mix in one egg and cook until egg is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Top with cheese for an extra calcium boost.
Power up on the go. Toast a 4-inch whole grain toaster waffle and top with 1 cup low fat or fat-free yogurt and ½ cup mixed berries and ¼ cup California raisins.
Dismiss the Bread Blahs Lunch: After you find something your child actually likes, don’t serve it over and over and over every day. dreaded bread boredom sets—not another sandwich?!
• Think variety when “sandwiching” your lunches.
o Try whole grain raisin bread, pita bread, whole wheat tortillas to make “wraps,” whole grain rolls, mini-bagels or flavored bagels.
To jazz up a lunchtime favorite, spread 1 tablespoon peanut butter inside a 4-inch whole wheat pita pocket and stuff with ½ cup sliced strawberries, and a tablespoon of raisins.
Mayan Soft tacos
• Introduce foods in fun ways
o Hummus, with pretzels or celery sticks to dip
o Think beyond peanut butter. New butters on the shelves include sunflower seed, cashew and almond. Sprinkle on raisins, and/or send with a whole banana to slice on top.
o Leftover cold meat, sliced into strips and sent with salsa, ketchup or barbeque sauce dip.
o Roll-ups of tortillas filled with cheese and/or lunch meat around a pickle
• Up the taste of the filling
o Stir chopped celery, cashews, raisins or water chestnuts into tuna or chicken salad
o Add shredded carrots or raisins to any nut butter
o Explore new fruits and veggies from the produce aisle: kiwi, red jumbo raisins, jicama, donut peaches, mango
o Fruit Salsa Salad with a snap and a kick that older kids will love
• Go stir crazy – savor a stir-fry made with lean beef or pork strips, shredded cabbage and crunchy water chestnuts. Serve over enriched white rice (or brown rice for added fiber)
• Not your Mama’s Mac ‘n Cheese – try whole wheat noodles when preparing macaroni & cheese or spaghetti. Include chopped broccoli or other vegetable for a nutrient-rich punch!
• Add chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumber, raisins, or eggplant to soup, chili, pasta sauce, lasagna, meatloaf, casseroles, quick breaks and muffins to add nutrients and fiber.
South of the Border Bowl
California Raisin Wheaten Walnut Bread
• Provide a sweet dessert with some nutritious bits!
California Gold Bars
Baked Peaches with Golden Raisins
• Don’t get into the “good food” vs. “bad food” trap.
o Forbidden foods become all the more appealing. You can add mini-chocolate chips to a granola mix, or provide a min-chocolate bar without compromising nutrition. Just watch amount and frequency.
Conclusion: It’s all about planning healthy, quality meals and