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May 17, 2013

3 Ways to Boost Nutrition in Kids

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Mother's Day, my favorite day of the year, has come and gone, but the memory lingers, and of course, it revolves around food.

Every year, my kids and husband prepare an elaborate breakfast in bed for me (and they clean up the kitchen, too!).  This year, we feasted on bacon, scrambled eggs, cinnamon toast slathered with butter, and chocolate-dipped strawberries and bananas.

I wish I could tell you that such high-calorie eating happens only on occasion in my house, but I can't.

People assume that because I'm a dietitian that I eat only the healthiest foods at every meal and snack, and that my kids are genetically programmed to prefer baked potatoes to French fries, roasted chicken to fried chicken nuggets, and fruit to candy.  Not true.

Our Mother's Day menu makes it clear that calorie-packed foods are high on my kids' list, and on mine. Obviously, our eating habits are far from perfect, and I prefer it that way.

There's no need to eat "healthy" 100% of the time. It's very difficult to do, and being hyper-vigilant and restrictive about your child's diet may backfire, especially when they're older and making their own food choices.

Still, we try to eat healthy most of the time. I think you'll agree that helping children to make smart eating choices is not always easy. Here are three strategies to get your kids interested in good food.

• Provide veto power. Allow older children to plan meals with you and figure out what to buy to keep healthy ingredients on hand.  Let them choose between nutritious foods, such as apples and oranges, for snacks or to have at meals. Take the younger ones shopping to get them accustomed to the grocery store.

• Let kids help in the kitchen. When she was only three, one of my daughters began cooking dinner with me. She would drag a kitchen chair over to where I was standing at the counter. I admit, it took more time to prepare meals, but to this day, she is an avid cook and adventurous eater.

• Put the brakes on picky eating. Kids are naturally selective eaters whose preferences are evolving. One day they love broccoli and the next day they won't even look at it.  Don't take your child's food choices personally; they often go through phases where they favor certain foods. Continue to offer a variety of healthy foods, and show kids that you think it's important to eat those foods, too.


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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