For many parents, mealtimes mark the age-old struggle to get your child to "eat your veggies!"
Of course we all want our children to be healthy and have a balanced diet, but when your child gravitates to nothing but white foods like bread and pasta, what can you do?
Here are some tips for dealing with a picky eater that might just help to ease the mealtime strife.
Relax. A recent study suggests that when you become upset while eating, the stress hormone cortisol actually blocks the body's absorption of nutrients.If your goal is to optimize your child's health then power struggles, threats and punishments are not likely to accomplish this goal regardless of your good intentions.
Provide only healthy options. Fill your refrigerator and pantry with only healthy and beneficial foods - no junk! That way, everything your child reaches for will be acceptable and your child will feel empowered making his own choices about what he puts in his body. However, at mealtimes, if you know your child is only going to eat the croutons on the salad or the crackers with the soup, don't even put those items on the table. Or, make sure your child has eaten some of the healthier option first and then bring out the bread later in the meal.
Try juicing. A great way to get a power-packed dose of vegetables is by investing in a juicer and making green beverages a part of your family's day. Add kale, celery, cucumber, zucchini, spinach, carrots, apple, and pineapple. The apple and pineapple sweeten the juice and make the flavor of the vegetables nearly undetectable. Have your child drink it first thing in the morning and you'll worry less about what he eats or doesn't eat throughout the rest of the day.
Start early. Babies develop taste buds by 14 to 21 weeks gestation and research suggests they begin formulating their palates and preferences in the womb. So, if a mother is eating a healthful and varied diet while pregnant and continues to do so while nursing, chances are greater that her child will have already begun to establish a liking for foods that often are an acquired taste. Once your little one begins to eat solids and has some teeth, try substituting very thoroughly cooked vegetables (like baby carrots) for teething biscuits.
Small bites. Sometimes a child's aversion to a particular food is more about the texture than the taste. The smaller the bite, the easier to chew and swallow. This is also a time to put table manners aside and let your child eat with his fingers.
Education and enlightenment. Inspire your picky eater to try new things by informing him as to why certain foods are nutritious. Give him specifics about what he's eating and what it does for his body.
Again, relax. Mealtimes are meant to be fun, a time to be together and share. Be confident that you are setting a good example for your kids in the way that you eat, and keep plating up foods you want your child to eat so he can at the very least get used to seeing them as part of a complete meal. Know that taste buds mature and palates change and that much of what we are doing as parents is planting seeds -- seeds that may take a while to germinate.