Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

Will Calorie Counts on Menus Help Kids Eat Better?

Monday, December 1st, 2014

To help kids and their families make more informed choices when eating out, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just finalized two rules for restaurant-type foods (foods usually eaten on the premises, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location) and foods purchased from vending machines.

According to the new rules, chain restaurants, and similar retail food establishments such as pizza places, salad bars in grocery stores and delis, ice cream shops and movie theaters with 20 or more locations—are now required to post calorie information on menus and menu boards. Operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines also are required to share calorie information with consumers.

In an effort to reduce the incidence of obesity and improve nutritional intake—and offerings—to Americans, menu labeling was originally spearheaded by the consumer advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, in 2003. But it wasn’t until 2008 that menu labeling was mandated for the first time in the U.S. in New York City. Supported by dozens of consumer and professional groups including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, several cities have since adopted similar measures. And in 2010, the national health care reform bill that included a menu labeling provision was passed. Although final menu labeling regulations were expected within a year, they weren’t finalized until recently, at the end of 2014. (Better late than never, I guess!)

Chain restaurants and other retail establishments have one year, and vending machines have two years, to comply with the new federal rules that, incidentally, trump local laws. Although many chain restaurants have already implemented menu labeling laws, following the new rules will be costly for grocery stores and other establishments that before now weren’t required by law to post calorie information.

It’s unclear at this time how menu labeling will impact kids’ overall calorie and nutrient intake. Still, it’s important to pay attention to calories and other nutrients such as fat and sodium derived from foods purchased away from home since they make up a large part of the daily diet. In the press release announcing the new rules, FDA commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. says, “Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home.” The question is, will knowing how many calories are in different foods help consumers—including kids—purchase and subsequently consume fewer calories?

Although we need a lot more data before drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of menu labeling (the few studies on its impact on adults and teenagers have thus far yielded mixed results), a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concludes that “menu labeling will likely cause small, but meaningful, reductions in calories purchased at chain restaurants and cafeterias overall, and particularly for patrons who see and use the labels.” It also suggests that the full impact of menu labeling won’t be apparent until chains throughout the country comply with federal menu labeling regulations.

Many experts support the new rules requiring calorie information for fast food and other restaurants and food sold at movie theaters and other venues and in vending machines. Registered and licensed dietitian Joan Salge Blake, a Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University, says, “The new, and long overdue, labeling guidelines will allow families to better understand the amount of calories in their choices at restaurants, and then, balance those decisions among the other family meal options for the week.”

Lisa Young, R.D., PhD., author of The Portion Teller Plan, says, “It’s good that people will now know how many calories are in the foods they eat. They may even see some surprises that may help them make better choices.” David Katz, M.D., Editor in Chief of the journal Childhood Obesity, agrees. He says, “I support the measures because more informed decisions are better than uninformed decisions.” But he also says we have to be very careful not to conflate calories with nutritional quality. “Being cognizant of calories is important and potentially useful to both adults and children, but only if it is in the context of also thinking about the importance of food quality,” Katz says.

Although I would never recommend that parents teach kids to obsess over or focus solely on calories in each and every item that passes their lips, it’s important for parents to model healthier eating by making mindful choices themselves and offering small portions to their children when eating out. Having calorie counts available provides parents and kids with an opportunity to have a conversation about how a favorite fast food meal, slice of pizza, scoop of ice cream or muffin or cookie measures up compared to different foods or portion sizes of those foods. Choosing more healthful (or at least, less caloric) options in appropriate portions for young kids when dining out can be a first step. But as kids age, it’s important to empower them so that when they’re older, they can make their own healthful choices when eating away from home (e.g. at school, or at a friend’s house). Also, showing kids how the foods they eat fit into their total daily calorie and nutrient needs can really be eye opening. Modeling healthier eating habits and showing kids how they can fit in treats (e.g. high calorie, nutrient poor foods like French fries and cookies) as occasional indulgences rather than staple items can also be a valuable lesson.

Although higher calorie foods like nuts can pack in nutrients, many of the items kids grab when they’re on the go are often loaded not only with calories but with added sugar, fat, and sodium—things that should be limited in kids’ diets. Showing kids how the choices they make and the portions they choose when they’re eating out fit into the rest of the day can be a good lesson, especially when kids need to try to make room for many of the nutritious foods they tend to skimp on like fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

According to the new rules, the statement, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” will appear on menus and menu boards to show consumers how the calories in different foods fit into their daily needs and in the context of their entire diet. Although some older kids calorie needs may be on par with that of some adults, younger kids typically require less. According to the new rules, the following may also be used on menus and menu boards targeted to children:

“1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years, but calorie needs vary.”

Or

“1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years and 1,400 to 2,000 calories a day for children 9 to 13 years, but calorie needs vary.”

I hope that menu labeling will be an empowering wake-up call to kids and parents alike about what’s really in their food. With obesity and diet-related diseases at high levels, it’s critical that we find solutions to help create a more healthful environment that supports making better food choices. This one federal effort may not be THE solution, but it can certainly be part of the solution, especially if it leads restaurants and any venues that serve food to offer smaller portions and/or more nutrient-rich foods. Hopefully, future studies will show that menu labeling can make a dent in our collective calorie intake to help all of us maintain healthy body weights and avert diet-related health problems down the road.

To learn more about the new calorie labeling rules, check out the FDA website.

Also, check my previous Scoop on Food blogs: How Kids Can Eat Better When They Eat Out and New Nutrition Guidance for 2 to 11-Year-Olds.

Do you think providing calorie counts will help kids eat better?

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image of pizza nutrition facts via shutterstock.

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Cook Up Family Fun With The 52 New Foods Challenge

Monday, November 24th, 2014

As we inch closer to Thanksgiving and a new year, it’s likely you’re at least thinking about how to help your family, especially your children, eat better—and more nutritiously—after what will likely become an indulgent holiday season. To help you get your family into the kitchen to cook and prepare more healthful meals, the new book, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year is here to help. Written by Jennifer Tyler Lee, creator of the award-winning nutrition game Crunch a Color and contributor at the Huffington Post, the book offers plenty of practical solutions to make meals fun, boost variety (and bust boredom) at the family table and to help families cook together (rather than having parents cook for their kids).

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Tyler Lee via email. Here are some highlights:

Why did you feel compelled to write The 52 New Foods Challenge?

JTL: This story begins at my family table. My daughter’s diet was dominated by white foods. How was I going to get her to eat anything other than pasta? Parents across the country struggle with this same issue, and it can be immensely frustrating. But this is part of a much bigger problem. We are in the middle of a massive health epidemic, and at the heart of it is nutrition. Home cooking is at an all time low, and processed food intake is at an all time high. Diabetes and obesity are rampant. Most troubling is how this trend is affecting our kids—one in three children are overweight or obese. This is of great concern because researchers have seen the diets of children being related to risks of cancer and other conditions later in life. We need to get kids to eat real food to set them up for a lifetime of healthy habits. But parents are overwhelmed. What they need is a simple plan to transform the way their families eat. The 52 New Foods Challenge is my solution to that problem.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

JTL: Math is fun when it’s a puzzle. Reading is fun when it’s about decoding the words. Food is no different. I created a simple game with an easy to remember structure: try one new food each week. It’s manageable, which gets families to take the first step. The book is designed to change your family’s behavior the slow and sustainable way. It’s all about taking small steps to make big changes.

The idea of 52 new foods may sound like a lot to parents. Can those who find that number overwhelming encourage their kids to try fewer new foods and still provide them and their families with some nutritional and other benefits?

JTL: I suggest that parents start by trying one new food, and cooking it together. Don’t worry about how you’re going to get through all 52 weeks. Start with one. Let the seasons be your guide. Remember that “new” can mean a familiar food prepared in a new way, like something as simple as Baked Apple Chips.

What are your two top tips to help families get started on the challenge?

JTL: First, let your kids lead. Put your kids in charge of your new food adventure. Head to the market together and let them pick a new food that they would like to try. Together, choose an easy recipe that you can cook together. Then let them serve it. Second, focus on the fun of the adventure, rather than forcing tasters, and you’ll find that it’s easier to keep going. It’s about the journey the foods take you on.

How do you encourage your kids to eat their colors?

JTL: In the book I say, “Colors in your diet are like instruments in a symphony—the more you have, the richer the experience.” There are a couple of easy ways to boost color at your table. At the market, challenge your kids to fill the cart with color. Aim for five. Bonus points if one of your colors is a new food. It’s also helpful to set up a snack drawer for your kids, organized by color, to make it easy for them to grab healthy food even when it’s hectic (this works equally well for adults). Plan your meals to feature three colors. To make it easy, offer one cooked veggie, like Ridiculous Radicchio Chips, and one raw veggie, like rainbow carrots. Dessert can be colorful too—try seasonal fruit on weeknights, simple treats made at home on the weekend.

JTL: Can you share a recipe to please parents and young children alike? 

Brussels Sprouts Chips* (see recipe below) are the current favorite at our family table. The crispy, crunchy chips are delicious and the recipe is super easy to make. They will definitely be making an appearance on our holiday table.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed (look for small, tight heads with no yellow or brown leaves)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Using your fingers, peel away the leaves from the sprouts.

3. Place the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the oil and salt and toss to combine.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the leaves in the pan. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the sprouts for 15 minutes more or until leaves are crispy and almost burnt. Let your kids watch closely to figure out the best timing for your oven.

Tip: The easiest way to peel the leaves is to cut off the ends, turn the sprouts over and gently pry the leaves away starting at the stem. Keep trimming off the ends as you go to make it easier to peel off the layers. This takes patience (and time), but it’s a fun activity for your kids. As you get closer to the center, the leaves will become too tight to peel, so simply save the small pieces to saute or roast.

*Source: The 52 New Foods Challenge.

How do you encourage your family to try new foods?

Image of Brussels Sprouts Chips via Chris Chowaniec.

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6 Ways Kids Can Deal With Tempting Foods

Monday, November 17th, 2014

If the upcoming holiday season gives you angst when it comes to food and all the temptations, this guest post by Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. provides some great tips to help you and your kids eat better and still enjoy yourselves. Read on to see what Ward, my esteemed colleague and the author of My Plate for Moms: How to Feed Yourself and Your Family Better, has to say about how to navigate this time of year—and all year—without sabotaging your family’s healthy diet.

Healthy babies are born with the knack to regulate their appetite; they eat when they’re hungry and they stop when they’re full. But early in life, most of us learn how to override that inborn ability. We discover that brownies tastes better than broccoli, salty crackers trump fruit, and soda is more fun than plain milk, and we want more junk food whether we are hungry or not.

Sure, some kids (not my three!) naturally clamor for carrot sticks and hummus, and could care less about overdoing it on cookies, snack chips, and sugary drinks, but they are the exceptions. Truth is, many children, especially younger ones, lack self-restraint—putting the brakes on when they’ve had enough or avoiding a certain food altogether—in favor of instant gratification.

It’s really no wonder why self-restraint, a.k.a., willpower, is so difficult to practice. Restraint is pushed to the limits in a world where children and their parents are bombarded all day long with messages and opportunities to eat sugary and fatty foods, and lots of them.

As parents, we want to teach our children self-restraint (many of us parents would like to have more of it ourselves, at least sometimes). The trick is to help kids pay attention to their hunger without policing every bite they take and to avoid food fights. Excessive monitoring of a youngster’s food intake stifles his or her independence, and may lead to overeating when you’re not around.

How to Build Willpower

Self-control is a lot like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, according to researcher Roy Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. The authors of a recent study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine suggest that healthy lifestyle choices may help better preserve the part of the brain that governs self-restraint. The authors also theorize that certain environments help reduce the temptation to overeat.

Here are six tips to help you help kids limit their intake of junk food without becoming the food police:

• Plan to succeed.  It’s much easier to make poor food decisions when you’re famished.  Plan meals and snacks with adequate protein, such as dairy, lean meat, beans and eggs, and fiber-filled foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help you and your kids feel fuller for longer. Don’t keep tempting foods like candy, cookies, and chips in the house (Note from Elisa Zied: If you do keep a few empty calorie, nutrient-poor treats in the house, store them on a high shelf behind closed doors to minimize mindless eating.)

• Sleep your way to self-restraint. Researchers suggest that when you’re well rested, it’s easier to walk away from that pint of premium ice cream that’s calling your name. It’s the same for children: self-restraint is more likely with a consistent pattern of adequate slumber. Show your children that you value sleep as part of healthy living.

• Model restraint. Actions speak louder than words. Limiting yourself to two cookies instead of gorging on six helps teach your children to better control themselves. In addition, by committing to modeling good eating habits for the sake of the kids by not overindulging, you strengthen your own willpower “muscle.”

• Create positive peer pressure. Other children and adults may play a role in what your child eats. For the most part, surround yourself with people who will make it easier for your child to consume reasonable portions of high-calorie foods on limited occasions. Take the lead by serving healthy foods and limiting treats when your children have play dates.

Recognize the limits of self-control. Willpower is a limited resource. All day long you and your child do things that sap your inner energy reserves, like get up early for work when you’d rather sleep in, or, in your child’s case, sit quietly at his desk when he’d like to be running around the playground. It’s much more difficult to control the urge to splurge when you’re feeling stressed, which makes it that much more important to organize your household and eating routine to reduce temptation.

• Trust your inner child.  Your internal hunger cues may have dulled with time, but there’s plenty of hope for your son or daughter’s (and yours!). Start today to trust your child’s instinct by not overfeeding them. Don’t use any food, particularly sugary or fatty treats, as rewards. The earlier in life you start to do this, the easier it will be to teach self-restraint in the long run.

To help kids eat less and better, check out a recent Scoop on food post here.

How do you help your kids eat less and better?

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image of willpower via shutterstock.

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Greek Yogurt Recipes Your Kids Will Love

Monday, November 10th, 2014

If you’re looking from some new, healthy, kid-friendly recipe ideas using the ever-popular Greek yogurt, you’ll enjoy this guest post by registered dietitian Toby Amidor. A mother of three, she’s the author of the terrific new cookbook, The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Recipes for Every Meal of the Day. Read on to learn about the nutritional perks of this versatile, easy to use food and to find a few of Amidor’s delicious recipes to incorporate it into family meals your kids are sure to love.  

After writing an entire cookbook on Greek yogurt, my nine-year-old daughter is now obsessed with the high protein dairy delight. She was my avid taste tester for many of the recipes and now I seem to be preparing her favorites on demand! But if you think Greek yogurt is just a snack, think again. There are many other ways to enjoy it.

The Nutritional Benefits

Greek yogurt is less watery than traditional yogurt because it is strained to remove the whey. This results in a yogurt that has a thick, creamy consistency and rich flavor. Greek yogurt also has about 40% less sugar, 38% less sodium, twice the amount of protein, and less lactose than traditional yogurt. It also contains live and active cultures, many of which act as probiotics.

Incorporating Greek yogurt into your child’s healthy eating plan can help them meet the USDA’s recommendations to have 3 daily servings of dairy each day.

Oh, the Versatility

There are so many kid-friendly ways to enjoy Greek yogurt that go beyond the yogurt cup.

Blend It

Kids love smoothies, but oftentimes they don’t know how healthy the ingredients in their smoothie really are! Greek yogurt not only adds a ton of good-for-you nutrients, it also adds frothiness and a thicker texture kid’s adore.

Mama’s Berry Smoothie

Serves 1

Prep time: 5 minutes

 

1 ½ medium bananas, peeled and frozen

½ cup frozen raspberries

½ cup frozen blueberries

1 cup fresh whole strawberries

½ cup nonfat milk

¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons honey

 

Place ingredients in blender; blend until smooth.

 

Serving size: 6-fluid ounces

 

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 116; Total Fat: 0 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Protein: 3 grams; Carbohydrates: 27 grams; Fiber: 3 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 23 milligrams

 

Dip It

A 2013 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that kids were more likely to eat their vegetables when they dipped them first. The study looked at pre-school aged children who told researchers that they enjoyed eating their veggies when paired with a favorite flavored dip compared to eating a veggie without a dip or with a plain dip. The results found that 31-percent of kids liked a veggie alone compared with 64% who liked a veggie when it was served with their favorite dip.

Researchers from the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University conducted a second experiment where they found that kids ate significantly more of a veggie they disliked or previously rejected when it was offered with a favorite reduced-fat herb dip compared to when it was offered without any dip.

Greek yogurt makes a delicious base for many dips, including my Mango Guacamole.

 

Mango Guacamole*

Serves 8

Prep time: 20 minutes

 

2 Haas avocados

Juice of 1 lime

1 serrano chile

1 clove garlic

½ medium red onion

½ medium red bell pepper, seeded

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 mango, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice

 

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh and place it in a medium bowl. Add the lime juice.

Halve the serrano chile lengthwise. Discard the seeds and cut the chile into 1/8-inch dice. Mince the garlic. Peel and finely dice the red onion. Slice the bell pepper in half, discard the seeds, and cut into ¼-inch dice. Add the chile, garlic, red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, yogurt, salt, and black pepper to the avocado in the bowl, and stir to combine. Using a sharp knife, cut the avocado into a small dice. Gently stir the mango, and serve.

 

Serving size: ½ cup

 

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 116; Total Fat: 8 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Protein: 3 grams; Total Carbohydrates: 12 grams; Sugars: 6 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 154 milligrams

 

Bake It

Better-for-you cookies, brownies, and muffins? Yes, it’s possible! Greek yogurt is a healthy substitute for butter found in most baking recipes. For each stick of butter a recipe calls for, use two tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt and ½ stick of butter instead.

 

Trail Mix Cookies*

Makes 40 cookies

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes

 

Cooking spray

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup seedless golden raisins

1/3 cup unsalted shelled sunflower seeds

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and yogurt. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until each one is incorporated, and then add the vanilla extract. Whisk until the mixture is light brown and thoroughly combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, folding gently until combined. Using one ingredient at a time, fold in the oats, raisins, and sunflower seeds.

Scoop up 1 heaping tablespoon of the dough and drop it onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake until the cookies are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling for at least 10 minutes before serving.

 

Serving size: 1 cookie

 

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 97; Total Fat: 3 grams; Saturated Fat: 2 grams; Protein: 2 grams; Total Carbohydrates: 16 grams; Sugars: 10 grams; Fiber: 1 gram; Cholesterol: 15 milligrams; Sodium: 45 milligrams

 

*Recipes from “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen” by Toby Amidor. Copyright © 2014 by Toby Amidor. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

 

What is your favorite way to infuse Greek yogurt into meals?

Image of strawberry banana smoothie via shutterstock. 

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5 Advantages of Having a Picky Eater

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Think you’re raising a so-called picky eater? If the answer is yes (and if picky eating frustrates you) this guest post by Maryann Jacobsen, a registered dietitian, blogger and author of the new e-book, From Picky to Powerful: Transform Your Outlook on Picky Eating and End Food Battles Forever!, can help you out.

Have you ever noticed that books, articles and well-meaning friends and family seem to be on a crusade to fix picky eating? We know the advice all too well. Have them take a bite, serve one meal and get kids growing and cooking their own food. And there’s always the if-you-don’t-get-them-to-do-it-now-they-never-will sentiment as well.

As a result of this crusade, parents are left in a tough spot. They feel guilty when their actions don’t result in a child who eats willingly, and they often give up or feel like they are doing something wrong.

But what if I told you there are real advantages to having a picky kid? What if all those crusaders are, well, maybe a little off base?

Here are 5 advantages to having a child who is slow to warm up to food:

1. Food regulation: Excess weight, one of the biggest health issues of our time, stems from trouble regulating food intake, such as the inability to stop when full, etc. Normally developing picky kids (different from problematic picky eating I discuss here) tend to have low appetites, because their growth slows considerably after the first two years of life.

When you think about the health challenges your child is likely to face in the next 20 years, eating small amounts at dinner doesn’t seem so bad. I know from experience that parents who have kids who eat anything also have children with big appetites, causing them another type of worry. While that doesn’t have to be a bad situation either, it makes sense to look on the bright side of a child who doesn’t need a lot of food to be satisfied.

2. Discerning palate: Kids who are more cautious with food are often overwhelmed by different tastes and textures. We know this is why vegetables tend to be disliked–they are bitter. In fact, one study showed that 70% of preschool children are considered “tasters” of bitter compounds, also called 6-n-propothiouricil (PROP).

But this taste sensitivity mellows out over time and can turn into quite an asset. Having a discerning palate is helpful to chefs who refine recipes based on tastings. As long as parents keep serving a variety of wholesome food, picky kids can come to appreciate quality, the delicate balance of flavors and may even take an interest in cooking.

3. They challenge our cooking skills: Before I had kids, I cooked a handful of meals, but after having kids I can’t even count how many meals I’ve experimented with (and I’ve had more failures than I care to admit). I have attempted at least 5 different versions of macaroni and cheese. I have mastered easy meals in the slow cooker. I have discovered the beauty of roasting veggies which are great for kids because they are crunchy and less bitter. And I even came up with what I consider the best homemade chicken tender recipe.

Whether meals stick or not, cooking for choosey kids has enhanced my cooking for the better. But if my kids ate everything, I probably would still be in my rut.

4. They teach life lessons: Where do I start on the life lessons of dealing with picky eaters?  I’ve learned patience, how to put my own agenda aside and how to trust my kids instead of fight them. I simply cannot control what they eat or prefer but I can control the circumstances that help them eat well—meals, structure and how pleasant (or not) meals are.

But most importantly, I’m reminded of the small step-nature of lasting change and learning. There are no magic tricks to get kids to eat just like there are no quick fixes to obtaining good health. Kids are learning about food the same way they learn to read or write. We need to trust that they will get there in their own time and in their own way. Anything worthwhile is an investment and I am in this for the long haul.

5. Picky-ness is part of your child: My five-year-old son is very cautious and a late bloomer with everything, including food. I wouldn’t try to change this aspect of his personality because it is part of who he is. And I love him dearly.

Now that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I just have accepted that his food acceptance will be slow and steady. And when you think about it, being extra cautious isn’t such a bad quality to have.

It’s time to start a whole new conversation about picky eating. Underneath the refusals and food requests, kids really do want to learn and grow with food. The advantages of having a picky kid are real, if you take the time to look at it—and your child—in a completely different light.

For additional tips to help feed ‘picky eaters’ over the holidays, check out a previous Scoop on Food post here.

Image of a young boy is making a funny disgusting face at a fork with a healthy piece of broccoli via shutterstock.

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