- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

Sometimes it does take a few tricks to get children to try new foods and enjoy healthier choices. Here are a few ideas:

Babies and toddlers have a natural preference for sweet foods, therefore, they often gravitate toward fruit rather than vegetables. Offer their favorites in season, but when fruit is out of season, buy canned or frozen items and puree them into molds and freeze, says Dr. Christine Wood, a California pediatrician and author of “How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It!”

Very young children might not be able to tolerate raw vegetables, so cook before serving. Toddlers may try a vegetable if cut into finger-sized portions (carrots, zucchini, green beans) or even cut into fun shapes with a cookie cutter, Dr. Wood says.

There are ways to sneak veggies into other foods. Grated vegetables can be hidden in muffin batter or spaghetti sauce, for instance.

Offer fruits as dessert, either on their own or with ice cream or pudding. Dr. Wood says try not to offer dessert as the ultimate reward for eating dinner. For very stubborn children, offer dessert with the main meal. Many children will not get full with a small dessert, then they are free to eat the rest of the meal.

Encourage the “one-bite” rule, Dr. Wood says. This means the child tries all the food on the plate. If he doesn’t like it or want to finish it, that is fine, but sometimes a few tries of a new food can open the door to more adventurous eating.

Limit snacking to twice a day: midmorning and midafternoon, says Dr. William Wilkoff, a Maine pediatrician and author of “Coping With a Picky Eater: A Guide for the Perplexed Parent.” Snacks at specific times enforce limits and routine and will help in the efforts to get a child to eat what is being served at dinner.

For toddlers, limit drinks to one four-ounce cup of milk at each meal, one four-ounce cup of juice at each snack and unlimited water. Many young children are not hungry at meals because they are drinking too much during the day, Dr. Wilkoff says.

Make mealtime a pleasant and predictable routine. That includes turning off the television and focusing on the meal and family conversation.

Registered dietitian Keith Ayoob says families who eat together can encourage good eating habits. “Dinner is an important bonding time. It is also a way to learn adaptation skills — that you must adapt to the world; the world doesn’t adapt to you,” he says.

Be a good role model. It is hard to get children to try new things and healthy foods if parents eat a limited, unhealthy diet.

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