They come in many forms, those wily picky eaters. There are the ones who draw lines across plates, and never two colors shall meet. There are those who refuse to put any color other than white in their mouths. And there are those who declare such doozies as, "If it's Tuesday, I won't eat anything but plain rice."
It's as if those little noggins dream up ways to confound the ones in charge of getting food to their plates. But therein, grown-ups, lies the secret: It's your job to get healthful food onto plates; it's a kid's job to choose to eat it -- or not. All the nudging, cajoling or flat-out threatening will not get the job done. Fact is, it'll backfire, making a battleground of the breakfast table.
"It's best for parents to determine a few non-negotiables, and not to try to tackle too many new foods at once," said Carol Wagner, a holistic nutritionist with three kids of her own. "For example, if they're trying to get more fruit into their kids, ask them to name their favorites plus one -- be sure to praise the heck out of them for trying that one new one. Try lots of different places to get that fruit into them. Maybe a fruit salsa as a topping for a chicken dish. Or a smoothie that has milk or yogurt and fresh fruit.
"If it's whole grains, start slowly," she cautioned. "If all a kid has been exposed to is white bread, the consistency of a whole grain bread can sometimes seem as if it has 'sticks and twigs' in it. Just take a small step up the food chain and, first, go to simple whole wheat. At least they're heading in the right direction."
Chew on these morsels, all courtesy of Wagner:
Taste test central: Bring home two different breads and let kids do a taste test and tell you which one they prefer. Or take them to the store so that they can check out labels. Let them pick the two that you'll taste test together.
Whiz bang blender: Most kids think blenders are cool. If they're not old enough to use one themselves, they can load the ingredients and perhaps push the button with an adult at the ready. Challenge kids to come up with recipes.
Color me bold: What's your picky eater's favorite color? Maybe on Tuesdays you eat food of a certain color, and your little one has to help brainstorm foods of that color. He just might try some red pepper on red night.