Dilemmas? No Problem!
toddler is a huge fan of macaroni and cheese-and practically nothing
else. Your preteen sneaks out the door without so much as a bite
of breakfast. Your grade schooler has developed an acute case of
sandwich phobia.... Sound familiar? Here are some parent-proven
solutions to your top biggest mealtime challenges from Ann Douglas,
author of the recently published Mealtime Solutions for Your Baby,
Toddler, and Preschooler.
Now that my baby is no longer eating purées, I don't know
what to feed her. Any tips?
can serve her many of the same foods you're eating, with a few important
exceptions. Avoid foods that pose a significant risk of choking
and go slow with foods that pose an allergy risk. As for what types
of foods babies love as they move on to table foods, try experimenting
with some of the following foods:
pasta and sauce
4 soups with lots of vegetables
5 soft meats or beans.
your baby's developmental stage in mind when you're deciding how
finely to chop or mash her foods, but don't be afraid to challenge
her with increasingly complex textures as she is ready. Babies learn
by doing-or chewing, in this case!-after all.
My toddler would be overjoyed if our cupboards were filled with
macaroni and cheese and nothing but. He has a fit if we serve him
something else. How do other parents deal with this?
can either try to get him to kick his macaroni and cheese habit
cold turkey or you can give him a small serving of macaroni and
cheese at dinnertime, alongside whatever else the rest of the family
is eating. When the macaroni and cheese serving is gone, it's gone.
(No second helpings.) If he's still hungry, he needs to figure out
which of the other foods on the planet he's going to fill his tummy
with until it's time for his next macaroni and cheese fix.
My five-year-old hates vegetables. Any tips on encouraging him to
add at least a few varieties to his diet?
Try grilling potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other mild-tasting vegetables
on the barbecue. This idea is likely to score points with the child
who is a hamburger or hot dog nut. (If it comes off the grill, it's
got to be good-right?)
Find a dip that appeals to your child and then team it up with the
vegetable he hates least. Let him dip to his heart's content. Don't
limit yourself to things you think of as veggie dips. Some kids
are wild about mustard or plum sauce.
My three-year-old hates the texture of meat. He chews it for a while
and then spits it out on his plate.
can make meat more palatable by sticking to tender cuts of meat,
serving meat in broths or sauces, and cooking with lean ground meats.
And don't forget that there are also all kinds of protein-rich alternatives
to meat, such as chicken, fish, beans, peas, lentils, peanut butter,
eggs, and cheese. Consult some vegetarian cookbooks for ideas on
healthy meat-free meals.
My five year old and my six-year-old are constantly fighting at
the dinner table. It's so annoying.
kids may be tired, hungry, and restless by the time they arrive
at the dinner table. If you can serve them a healthy snack before
dinner-perhaps a fruit and veggie platter with dip-they might not
be quite as famished (or irritable) by the time everyone sits down
to eat. It's worth trying.... And don't worry about them filling
up on all those healthy foods before dinner. Worse things could
My seven-year-old hates milk. Is it okay to give him chocolate milk
as a way to encourage him to drink milk?
Chocolate milk is just a chocolate-ier version of regular milk.
And it actually contains less sugar than unsweetened fruit juice.
My kids eat way too much junk food. How can I wean them off the
slow with the menu makeover or you could end up triggering a backlash
that will have your kids holing up in the linen closet with a loaf
of white bread and a container of chocolate spread. Instead, aim
to introduce one or two nutritional improvements to your family's
eating habits each week. Here are a three quick tips to get you
Up your kids' intake of fruits and veggies so that they'll fill
up on naturally healthy foods. Serve these foods in fun and kid-friendly
ways (fun veggie shapes with healthy dips, etc.)
2 Go for whole grains. Zero in on whole-grain varieties of breads
and pasta products that kids naturally love: pita bread, tortillas,
and pasta in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
3 Stock healthier snack options like low-fat popcorn, low-fat frozen
yogurt, and frozen fruit-juice bars.
What kind of lunches can you send to school with a kid who hates
up with healthy and kid-friendly food combos: cereal, yogurt, and
fresh fruit; a pita slathered in refried beans (or cut into triangles
with a container of refried bean dip); soups, stews, and salads;
a side serving of bread and cheese alongside a jumbo-sized chef's
salad; etc. For best results, get your child involved in menu planning
and grocery shopping. Sandwich-o-phobes are notoriously picky, as
you're all too aware.
My preteen skips breakfast most mornings. I don't know how big a
deal to make of the situation.
kids have a harder time focusing in school, which can lead to academic
problems. If your child is rushing out the door because she's in
a hurry or she's suddenly decided she hates the standard breakfast
menu fare, see if you can brainstorm some ideas for some almost-instant
breakfasts (like a healthy and yummy fruit-and-yogurt smoothie).
another point to keep in mind: Sometimes preteens skip breakfast
in the mistaken belief that doing so will help them to lose weight.
That, in turn, tends to lead to poorer food choices later in the
day, which can set up a cycle of unhealthy eating.
How many times should I ask my child to try a food that he "hates"
before I finally give up on that food?
have found that it can take 10 to 20 exposures to the same food
before a child finally decides he likes it. Of course, you don't
want to serve that food the same way 15 nights in a row if your
child gives it a thumbs down the first night. Serve it in slightly
different way every couple of weeks. For example, serve sweet potatoes
grilled on the barbecue, mashed like regular mashed potatoes, or
sliced into julienne fries. Sometimes it can take a whole lot of
trial and error to crack the code of your child's food likes. Your
parent detective skills really pay off at a time like this.
Ann Douglas is the author of Mealtime Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler,
and Preschooler (Wiley, 2006). Find more of her tips at www.having-a-baby.com.
information presented on this site is intended solely as a general
educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for
any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional
advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar
with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician
or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical
condition and before starting any new treatment.