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Fun ways to feed picky eaters

Posted: July 8, 2010 9:21 p.m.
Updated: July 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Parents know how frustrating it can be to get their children to try and enjoy new foods.

 In fact, a recent survey showed more than 68 percent of registered dietitians who counsel new parents frequently receive questions about getting finicky eaters to eat at mealtime.

As a nutrition expert, chef and mom of two boys, Robin Miller — host of “Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller” on Food Network — understands the challenge of preparing meals that her boys will try, enjoy and ask for again. That’s why she’s developed these “nuggets” of mealtime wisdom to help please picky eaters and build a foundation for balanced eating habits.

“Whether your child can’t sit still for an entire meal, says ‘no!’ to everything put in front of him or her, or simply doesn’t like red foods for a day, it’s important to understand that being a picky eater is a normal part of your child’s development,” said Miller. “Don’t take your picky eater’s fussiness personally. It’s certainly not your lack of culinary prowess. But to help please those picky eaters, try to be more creative with the way you serve food.”

Let’s face it. Kids prefer to eat with their hands.

Finger foods make ideal meals for kids since you can combine a variety of small portions on one plate.

Try partnering chicken nuggets with vitamin-rich green beans and complex carbohydrate-rich pasta for a nutritious meal that’s easy to eat with your hands.

“I’ve found that serving familiar finger foods, not only provides essential protein, but it also helps to introduce other important foods at mealtime, like dairy, veggies and fruit which will build a great foundation of balanced eating habits,” said Miller.

Giving fun, creative names to everyday nutritious foods may have kids asking for more.

According to a 2009 Cornell University study, when kids were offered “X-ray vision carrots” instead of plain carrots, they ate 62 percent more carrots.

Try adopting this approach in your own house by giving silly names to a variety of foods, such as “cloud fluff” for mashed potatoes or “cheese in the trees” for broccoli florets topped with cheese.

Kids love to get their hands into everything, big or small. Set up a “finger food buffet” and have your kids pick the items they’d like eat.

They’ll feel included in the process, which will increase their interest in trying a little bit of everything.

Start with a muffin tin (or any small container with compartments) and customize the meal by filling the sections with bite-size portions of colorful, nutritious foods. Some food ideas include: cubed cheese, whole grain cereals, raisins, pasta, and baby carrots. Once you’ve filled the compartments, let them pick their items, allowing them to be very hands-on with their meal.

To learn more about Robin Miller’s “nuggets” of mealtime wisdom, visit


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