Eating Too Many Carbs
Why it's bad
Children who refuse protein-rich foods like meat and poultry may not get all the valuable nutrients they need, such as zinc and highly absorbable iron. If they're eating a lot of carbohydrates like white bread and noodles, which the body digests quickly, they'll also complain that they're hungry again pretty soon after meals.
How to break the habit
- Go soft. "Many kids don't like meat because of the texture," says Piette. "It can be tough and takes a long time to chew." That's one reason most children love chicken nuggets -- the meat inside is chopped up and easy to eat. Try braising meats and poultry (cook them with broth in a covered pan), or use the slow cooker to make them supersoft. Hide lean ground beef or turkey in spaghetti sauce and casseroles or finely diced chicken in soup. Your child might also go for lunch meats like turkey or roast beef rolled up in a tortilla.
- Provide protein. If your child won't budge on meat, include some kind of protein source at meals such as beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy products. But don't stress out too much: Most kids get plenty of protein. The average toddler only needs about 16 grams a day (roughly 24 for a preschooler). A cup of milk has eight grams, two tablespoons of peanut butter have seven to eight, and a reduced-fat string cheese has six to eight.
- Upgrade the carbs. Whole grains are more filling, plus they're packed with fiber and nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium. Dr. Trachtenberg recommends the "Rule of Three" when you're choosing cold cereal: at least three grams of fiber and protein per serving, and sugar should not be one of the first three ingredients listed.