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Conquering picky eaters: mealtime tricks for parents and children

02 JULY 2010

There's no doubt that in some homes, dinnertime can be a real nightmare. Meats, fruits and vegetables often become little ones' archenemies, leaving mum and dad trying all kinds of tricks to get them eat. But the situation can lead to deficiencies of certain essential nutrients, making the maintenance of a balanced diet a priority for families. To ensure your child gets all he or she needs to grow, try these tips.


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Make them your helpers
What better way to get your kids used to food than to ask them to help cook? "Hire" them as your new kitchen helpers and get them involved in family meals. You can teach them to cut potatoes, chop garlic or peel onions. Younger children meanwhile can take part in simpler tasks, like stirring a sauce or beating eggs, which at mealtime, will inspire them to try the fruits of their labour.

Eating is growing
Once they reach a certain age, children begin to think about how much they're going to grow and how tall they'll be. A simple explanation about the benefits of certain foods like meat and fish can encourage kids to give them a try.

Quantity or quality?
While it's important that children fill-up on food, it's also crucial to recognise the difference between quantity and quality. Be sure their diet includes all the nutrients that they need on a daily basis: proteins from meat, eggs and fish; the carbohydrates of bread and cereal; fibre found in fruits and vegetables; the calcium of milk. All are essential for going to school, running, playing and the countless tiring activities they undertake each day.

Imagination is power
The presentation of meals also matters. From a mashed potato face made with hotdogs and carrots to rice shaped in a mould, you can turn mealtime into a fun game.

We all eat the same thing
Children acquire a large percentage of their habits from observing and copying adults, and eating is no exception. It's important that parents eat the same things as kids and keep an open mind to trying new foods.

Don't give in to bribes
Children of course only want to eat those things they like, which tend to be pastas, sweets and fried foods. But if your little one has a small appetite or simply doesn't like healthy foods like spinach, it's fundamental to not give in to bribes or blackmail, or to reduce yourself to yelling or anger. No matter how much time you spend with the fork in hand, forcing children to eat isn't useful, and neither is always preparing what they want. Be patient.

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