Q: Hi there! I'm a 17 year-old baby sitter. I watch 6 year-old Brandon from the time he gets out of school, which is 3:00 P.M. to about 8:00 P.M. This means that I cook him dinner. I don't think I've ever met such a picky eater! He literally makes himself throw up when I tell him to at least try something new. I'm very worried, because the only things he seems to eat without gagging are macaroni and pizza, and we all know that is not a healthy diet! What can I do to improve his diet?
A: Don't try to totally revamp his diet at once. Small changes add up. Pizza can be healthier if you add vegetable toppings. Try to make a game out of it, giving Brandon options and letting him choose his own toppings for the day. Then let him help make the pizza. Don't turn eating into a miserable experience for him -- this leads to unhealthy attitudes towards food, which is definitely not the goal. Small substitutions are a good start to eating healthier. Swap in whole wheat pasta for the noodles in the macaroni and cheese and try throwing some very small veggies into the cheese sauce. Gradually introduce new foods into his diet and be patient. He may reject a new food several times before deciding he actually likes it! And remember, you're also not alone in this -- it is important to consistently communicate with the parents and work on a plan together. Good luck!