Start ’em young

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By AR­MIN BROTT

you child needs to de­velop healthy eat­ing habits now so that she can carry them with her as she grows.

DEAR Mr Dad: My tod­dler used to eat pretty much every­thing. But re­cently she’s be­come in­cred­i­bly picky. It’s got­ten so bad that I can’t get her to eat any­thing but mac and cheese, noo­dles, and rice. Is there any­thing I can do to get her back to a health­ier diet?

What you’re de­scrib­ing is a com­pletely nor­mal phase for kids. And ev­ery par­ent has had plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with tod­dlers’ dra­matic pro­nounce­ments about what they will or won’t eat. Let’s face it, ice cream and cake taste bet­ter than broc­coli, and if you didn’t know that you needed a more bal­anced diet, you’d prob­a­bly eat noth­ing but dessert.

The good news is that most kids end up get­ting enough of what­ever it is they need to run around like ma­ni­acs all day long. But that doesn’t mean you should let her eat noth­ing but the white food group. Your daugh­ter is old enough to un­der­stand that we all need a va­ri­ety of foods – fruits, veg­gies, pro­tein, and yes, an oc­ca­sional cookie. At the very least, she needs to de­velop healthy eat­ing habits now so she can carry them with her as she grows.

Here are some ways to help her get a more bal­anced diet:

> Give her plenty of choices, but no Yes or No pos­si­bil­i­ties. Of­fer­ing beans or peas is bet­ter than ask­ing whether or not she wants beans.

> If you’re feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous, next time you’re at the gro­cery store, have her pick a fruit or veg­gie no one in the fam­ily has had be­fore.

> If there’s a food she de­spises, like broc­coli, don’t push it. In­stead, choose a nutritious re­place­ment, like creamed spinach (but you’ll prob­a­bly have to call it some­thing other than spinach).

> Juice con­tains a lot of su­gar so stick with mostly water or milk. When you do serve juice, make sure it’s 100% and di­lute it by adding half water.

> In­sist that she tries two bites of every­thing – even new foods. This could be a bat­tle at first, but if she learns it’s a firm rule, she’ll even­tu­ally get used to the idea.

> Lit­tle kids tend to pre­fer crunchy things. Most of the time when they re­ject a food it’s be­cause of the tex­ture, not the taste.

> If pos­si­ble, visit a farm so your daugh­ter can see where pro­duce comes from. That might make it more in­ter­est­ing, es­pe­cially if she can pick her own.

> It’s easy to blend healthy ingredients into a smoothie – plus it’s some­thing your daugh­ter can help with.

> Throw in fruit (fresh or frozen), yo­gurt, ice and per­haps a lit­tle tufu or pro­tein pow­der.

> Get her in­volved in other food prep tasks. Bak­ing muffins is great fun. And it gives you a chance to demon­strate that some­thing can be de­li­cious even if it con­tains car­rots or zuc­chini.

> Swap your reg­u­lar pasta and noo­dles for whole wheat. The cheese and tomato sauces will cover up the dif­fer­ence in taste. You can slip all sorts of other nutritious things into tomato sauce and most kids will down plenty of fruit if it’s in their oat­meal or ce­real.

> Your daugh­ter is watch­ing and will eat what you do, so set a good ex­am­ple. And take some com­fort in the fact that kids get more ad­ven­tur­ous with age. – © Mc­Clatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices n Ar­min Brott is the author of TheMil­i­taryFather:AHand­sOnGuideForDe­ployedDads and The­Ex­pec­tant­Fa­ther: Facts,Tips,AndAd­viceFor Dads-To-Be. Read­ers may e-mail him at ar­min@askm­r­

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