Helping picky eaters make healthy choices
Making sure kids eat a healthy diet can be challenging, especially if they are picky eaters.
Experts agree that serving a variety of foods from the five major food groups can help ensure children get the nutrition they need.
“If a child does not get adequate nutrition or eats too much of a particular food, such as fried foods, this can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, mood issues, and poor growth,” says Angela Malinowski, dietitian at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “It also affects concentration in school.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers these healthy choices from the five basic food groups:
- Grains: couscous, brown rice, whole-grain cereal, oatmeal, buckwheat, whole-wheat bread, corn tortillas, pasta, barley, pitas and wild rice
- Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, squash, carrots, avocado, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, kale, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin, cucumbers, potatoes, green peas, celery and corn
- Fruit: grapefruit, cantaloupe, apples, applesauce, peaches, berries, bananas, raisins, and plums
- Protein: deli meats (make sure it’s reduced-fat), skinless turkey or chicken, ham, pork, lean beef, canned and fresh tuna, salmon, beans, tofu, almonds, and eggs
- Dairy: low-fat milk, soymilk (if fortified with calcium), regular and frozen yogurt, cheese, and pudding
For a healthy snack, AAP also suggests keeping the kitchen stocked with fresh and dried fruit, rice cakes, pretzels, high-fiber cereals, precut veggies, baked snack chips, whole-grain crackers and natural peanut butter.
The amount of food needed from each group depends on age, gender and level of physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s important to talk with a pediatrician about the right diet for children.
“When planning meals, have the plate method in the back of your mind,” Malinowski says. “Provide a lean protein, whole grain starch, such as brown rice, and then the rest of the plate should be fruits and vegetables. It may not happen immediately, but over time the child will eventually try them.”
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