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Straight Talk for Good Eaters

Don't beat yourself up about your child not wanting to eat his veggies. Instead, arm yourself with powerful info to encourage him!

Hands at the hip, you stare into your child's eyes. He stares right back. It's the beginning of the dinner-time battle. He does NOT want to eat his vegetables. But, who will win? YOU, if you prepare for this reaction from him from the start. Arm yourself with the right info about the foods you put before him.

Healthy Benefits

Nearly every fruit and vegetable has a healthy benefit like sharper night vision, better memory, stonger bones, etc. Know them. Be ready to tell your child what's good about them when he says he doesn't want to eat them. In fact, a new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior by Washington State University and Florida State University scientists, shows that if you tell your child things like, "You'll run faster if you eat …" or "You can jump higher if you eat …" he's more likely to eat that food. The study also reveals that kids ate twice as much of the healthy food after being told how it would benefit them. Of course, choose you you tell him wisely, because it needs to be in terms he can understand. This works better than putting the food on the plate repeatedly with no explanation and expecting him to eat it.

"Every child wants to be bigger, faster, able to jump higher," said Jane Lanigan, associate professor in the WSU Department of Human Development and lead author of the study. "Using these types of examples made the food more attractive to eat."

Know about more than one, too. Kids are smart and you can't get away with telling him the same benefit as if it goes with each vegetable.

Don't Force Feed

It makes you angry that he's not eating what you cooked. You don't want to fall into the pit of no return by offering him his favorite foods. What are you to do?

"It's natural for parents to have a lot of anxiety about their child not eating, but they should remember that kids will eat when they are hungry," says Gregory Plemmons, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Pediatric Weight Management Clinic at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. "I never recommend forcing a child to eat if he doesn't want to."

A child's sense of taste changes drastically between 15 and 36 months. So, it's important to keep offering him new options on the dinner plate, even if he doesn't seem to like it. Felisa Gilbert, M.D., a pediatrician practicing with Tennessee Medicine and Pediatrics in Smyrna, says to at least insist on your child taking one bite of something new. If he doesn't like it, don't force it.

"Make sure to always offer things on the plate that you know your child will eat, and be prepared to introduce something new several times before a child may decide he likes it," Gilbert says.

Ready to Eat Healthy?

Visit a local farmer's market for fresh produce and other yummy finds to add to your home menu.

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