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Nutrition Smarts

Kids and Nutrition

Picky Eaters (cont.)

Dr. Ayoob suggests keeping kids on a regular meal and snack schedule—three meals and two to three snacks per day is appropriate. Though grazing may work for you, he advises against letting your kids do it, because what they're eating may not be nutritionally complete and it may interfere with their appetite for meals. Another factor that plays a role in decreasing appetite for meals is the intake of high-sugar drinks. This includes fruit-flavored drinks and punch, soda and even 100% fruit juice. Ayoob suggests minimizing your child's consumption of these sweet drinks. For more on new fruit juice recommendations, see our Foods in the News article.

Ayoob admits that parents need to do a certain amount of planning to make sure that kids get nutritious meals and snacks. He understands that "kids and families have a lot of things going on these days, but good nutrition and good health need to be a lifestyle priority." Ayoob stresses that good eating habits are learned and that parents are the most important role models for kids.

The Right Balance

Parents often make the mistake of offering a wide variety of packaged snack items, but only a few types of healthy snacks like fresh fruits. Ayoob stresses that even if your kids complain that they don't like fruit, you should continue offering different varieties instead of giving up. He acknowledges that "Kids are inevitably going to eat a few sweets, a few savory snacks—that doesn't bother me and they'll get that when they go out of the house anyway." Problems start when there are more unhealthy snacks like chips and candy in the house than more nutritious items like low fat yogurt, whole-grain crackers and fresh produce.

Ayoob suggests bringing your kids to the grocery store with you to help choose the food for the week. They'll enjoy picking out brightly colored fruits and vegetables just as much as their favorite cookies. Once you're back in the kitchen, "Get them involved even if it's something so simple as tearing up green beans—so they'll all be irregular, who cares—but, they are going to be more likely to eat these green beans because they had a hand in preparing them."

Kid-Sized

Just as new foods can be intimidating to children, large, complicated foods can as well. Ayoob suggests that by giving your kids smaller versions of foods, they may be more willing to try them. For example, kids may be turned off by big beefsteak tomatoes, but would happily try a bite-sized, easy-to-hold, cherry tomato. The same concept can be applied to fruits: clementines instead of oranges and finger bananas instead of regular.

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