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Advice from Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., and author of “Eat Your Way to Happiness” and “Food & Mood”

Feeding your children right might seem to be one of life's greatest challenges, but the trick is to prepare and offer a wide variety of nutritious foods and let the child help decide how much of what is on their plate.

  • Adopt the philosophy that it is your job to supply your child with a wide variety of nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk products and protein-rich meats or beans. It is your child's responsibility to help choose what and how much of those foods he or she eats. This eliminates the food wars and takes the pressure off both the parent and the child.
  • Model the behavior you want to nurture in your child. You must eat and love vegetables if you want your child to do the same.
  • Stock the kitchen with nutritious foods and limit or remove the candy, potato chips, soda and low-quality items. Left with only nutritious foods, your child is more likely to eat a nutritious diet.
  • Your child doesn't need to eat perfectly at every meal. It's the overall quality of the diet that is most important and, in that case, even finicky eaters can succeed. That is, as long as they are choosing from only nutritious foods.

Elizabeth Somer offers up these tips to parents of picky eaters:

  • If your battles are getting a finicky eater to sit at the table for a major meal, throw out the three-square-meal plan and instead offer your child nutritious mini-meals and snacks throughout the day that include fresh fruit, cheese cubes, fat-free crackers, low-fat yogurt, soup (try adding extra vegetables to canned soup) or low-sugar cereals.
  • Get kids involved in the purchasing and preparation of food. A reluctant eater is much more likely to eat something he prepared himself.
  • If your child won't eat vegetables, try fruit. They are both from the same food group. If your child won't eat either vegetables or fruit, you have two options: 1) add vegetables to familiar foods, such as adding finely chopped vegetables to spaghetti sauce or hiding dried fruit in muffins. 2) Ask your pediatrician about the best multivitamin and mineral supplement for your child.
  • Give your child a choice. Rather than ask "What do you want to eat?" ask, "Do you want a banana or orange slices with your sandwich?"

To fill in the gaps when your child doesn’t eat perfectly, a multivitamin and mineral supplement may be offered. If your child doesn’t eat fatty fish, such as salmon, at least twice a week, then supplement that multi with a DHA supplement, an omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain development and brain health. A calcium-vitamin D supplement may be necessary if your child doesn’t consume daily at least two glasses of calcium-rich milk or soymilk and lots of magnesium-rich whole grains, nuts, dark green leaves and legumes.

About the Eat Smart, Play Safe Campaign:

The Eat Smart, Play Safe program is an educational campaign focused on promoting healthy nutrition and sports safety for active kids, on and off the field. DSM Nutritional Products and Pop Warner have partnered to bring valuable nutrition and safety information to young athletes, parents and coaches.

This program targets building awareness for families about the important nutrients children should have in their everyday diets, for example, the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, vitamins D and E, calcium and iron.

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