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More Peas, Please


By Patricia Berry

Your child is lunching on chicken nuggets and carrot sticks. Correction -- she's nibbling the coating off the chicken and ignoring the vegetable altogether. You've given up on anything as exotic as, say, fish or asparagus. If only your child would stop turning his nose up at the basics.

The first step to raising a healthy eater is taking the negative term "picky eater" out of your vocabulary. The second is making variety an everyday event. "Toddlers are selective eaters. They graze," says Rebecca Swan, M.D., director of the pediatric residency program at Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "But the fact is, two to four year olds get the nutrition they need. Maybe not in a 24-hour day, but certainly in the course of a week."

And that's good enough. The thing to remember is not that your toddler must clean her plate, but that she develops nutritious eating habits. Swan has several more tips for raising healthy eaters.

Pass the protein Have a little protein such as meat, cheese or beans -- as well as fruits and vegetables -- on your child's plate at every meal. By the end of the week, they will have consumed a balanced diet.

Don't ditch their favorites Keep in mind that toddlers go through food "jags" when all they'll eat is one thing. That's fine. Let them have mac and cheese every day, but serve it with fruits and vegetables and vary those with each meal. Beware the extended diet of a particular food, however. A carrots-and-chicken-nuggets eater at three has a way of becoming a carrots-and-chicken-nuggets eater at 12. Having a variety of other foods on the plate can make the difference.
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Categories: Toddlers, Pre-Schoolers, School-Age, Newsletter,

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