End Dinnertime Drama for Picky Eaters

Many parents face a battle of wills around the dinner table. Fights over food are a common stress of raising children.

Kate Kelly, Managing Editor for American Baby Magazine, has said that 50 percent of parents report their children are picky eaters and worry that they're not getting balanced nutrition. However, the Mayo Clinic notes that, over the course of a week, even the pickiest of children likely gets a variety of nutrition in his or her diet and not to overly worry about what's being eaten.

Instead of battling over brussel sprouts or facing tantrums over tetrazzini, there are some steps parents can take to discourage picky eating in a supportive way.

* Involve your children. Having kids take part in selecting foods at the supermarket enables them to feel involved in the meal process -- and perhaps makes them more apt to try the foods they've selected.

* Clean-plate club. Children-sized portions are about 1/3 of what an adult would eat. Don't force a child to finish everything on his or her plate. Chances are if the child feels full, he or she probably is.

* Keep introducing new foods. It can take several tries to get a child accustomed to a new food -- up to 15.

* Stick to a schedule. Serve meals at the same time every day. Limit snacks at least one hour before meal times. A child who is hungry may be more likely to try new foods.

* Enforce a "this is not a diner" mentality. If you're playing short-order cook to children you will be reinforcing bad eating habits. They will learn to hold out on the original meal until the preferred meal is served.

* Keep distractions to a minimum. Mealtime should be focused on eating, instead of watching television or playing with toys.

* Lead by example. If your children see you eating a variety of foods and trying new things, they may want to get in on the action. Conversely, if they see you shying away from healthy foods, it could cause them to be squeamish as well.

* Make things fun. Give fun names to common foods, like "Super Broccoli" or something to that effect. Cut foods into bite-sized pieces or make faces and silly shapes. This could entice kids to eat.

* Sneak foods in. Hide foods in others. For example, mix pureed squash into tomato sauce, or make muffins out of pumpkin. Chances are if things taste good, kids will eat them.

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