Dr. Corinne Brooks has been sharing her tips on how to help children who are picky eaters – in the last installment of our series, she discusses dessert, older picky eaters, and how busy parents can put easy, healthy meals on the table!
Does the threat of withholding dessert or TV if they don’t eat their vegetables really work? Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which may only increase your child’s desire for sweets. I would also avoid daily desserts due to the excessive sugar and fat content. Instead, I would encourage you to select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week. Alternatively, rethink desserts by offering healthier choices like fruit or yogurt.If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack. Parents and children each have different roles during mealtimes. The goal for parents is to provide their child with a balanced meal that includes a variety of foods from all the food groups. Your child then has the job of choosing what and how much to eat from their meal plate. I advise against bribing or punishing children for not finishing all of their food, as this may only cause or reinforce a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might start to associate mealtime with negative emotions such as frustration and/or anxiety. They may also become less sensitive to their own hunger and fullness cues.
What about older children who didn’t “grow out” of the picky eating stage? There are definitely strong-willed children out there. But don’t forget to be patient! Remember that your child’s eating habits will not change overnight. Keep taking small steps each day to help promote a lifetime of healthy eating and your child will follow suit. Children’s taste buds change as they grow, so their food preferences will likely change with time. I would continue to offer new foods with each meal. Avoid becoming a “short order cook” and preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal. Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime, even if he or she doesn’t eat. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
For working parents, it’s sometimes easier to throw a frozen pizza or chicken nuggets in the oven. Are there any quick, healthy meals that busy parents can easily put together? The key to a busy life is planning and organizing. Grocery shopping for the week with specific meals planned and a grocery list to purchase the ingredients is helpful. Also, making larger portions of food and freezing leftovers is another time saver. With Pinterest and other information available online, it is relatively easy to find quick and delicious meals for the busy family. I would also try to keep it simple! Each day of the week can have a theme, such as Taco Tuesday or “Wacky” Wednesday, with breakfast for dinner. Another great idea for snacks after school is to have fruits or vegetables already cut up and in an easily accessible part of the fridge for the kids to grab when they get home from school.
Corinne Brooks, MD joined PHN in February 2017 and provides pediatric medicine services at Sandy Lake Community Health Center. Dr. Brooks earned her medical degree from the Ohio State University College of Medicine. She has a three-year-old daughter, a pug named Maggie, and being from Cleveland, she is a Cleveland Browns fan!