Friday, October 1, 2010

Healthy Choices for Picky Eaters

"Moms should not be a short-order cook.  Children can learn to be picky eaters by having their preferences catered to too often."  Table Talk, 1994 by Mimi Wilson & Mary Beth Lagerborg

I was a very picky eater as a child, probably more so than my pickiest child!  I used to worry about how I would get my own children to eat healthy foods when I was so picky.  But there came a point in growing up that I realized my tastebuds were evolving.  What I use to hate, I had grown to like.  It is important to put away your own old prejudice against some foods and keep experimenting.  Children need to see us try new things.  I have one child that will try anything Dad tries whether it's fried alligator or oysters on the half-shell (ugh!).  Also, I found that kids will eat anything they grow or cook themselves.  So if you can, grow a small patch of sweet potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, etc. whatever's easiest for you.

"Research shows it may take 10 to 20 tries over the course of many meals before a child eventually learns to like a new food." (Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD & Liz Weiss, MS, RD)  Keep trying foods, since tastes might change.  However, there is no end to the assortment of foods to try. 

Kids love getting to make their own choices, so it's a good idea to provide more than one acceptable choice such as apple slices or orange slices.  Both are good choices and the child is happy 'cause they got to choose!

At times, my mom could be pretty clever, besides the old guilt trip, "There are starving children in Africa," one thing that did the trick and also works on my now teenage children is to make the food sound more interesting and exotic.  For instance letting them know that the food is French or Native American.  Also any interesting facts about the food makes it more appealing for some reason like, "bananas have a lot of potassium and will help keep you from cramping up during cross country practice."  Believe me it works!

Sometimes my 15 yr. old son will not be happy unless he gets Dominoes Pizza for dinner, so I compromise and make an attractive salad to serve on the side.  With hot dogs or hamburgers (preferably grilled), I might make (healthier than chips) Baked Potato Wedges or Rachel Ray's 30 Minutes Baked Beans.

It's true, kids, (even 20 year-old-kids), can sometimes be extremely picky eaters, which is very trying for Chef Mom!  Here are some ways I have learned to combat these picky people:

~Don't let children snack before meals.
~I make a deal that they only have to eat one bite, 
but they do have to try it.
~I experiment with recipes to find the most attractive ways to serve food.  For example, my kids were not crazy about Brussels sprouts, but I found this Martha Stewart recipe that they just love:

Brussels Sprouts in Cashew Sauce
1-1/2 lb. fresh Brussels
1/3 c. butter
1 T. brown sugar
3 T. soy sauce
2 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/3 c. cashews
If using fresh Brussels sprouts, wash thoroughly; remove any discolored leaves.  Cut off stem ends, and slash bottom of each sprout with a shallow X.  Place fresh or frozen (20-oz.) Brussels sprouts in a large saucepan; add water to cover.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain well; set aside.  Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar and soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, and garlic.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly; remove from heat.  stir cashews into butter sauce.  Pour sauce over Brussels sprouts.  Serve immediately.  Yield:  4 servings.

Baked Potato Wedges
2 med. potatoes
2 T. butter or margarine, melted
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Scrub potatoes and cut into wedges.  Place potato wedges on a sheet of foil on a baking sheet.  Brush top side of each wedge with butter or margarine and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

30 Minutes Baked Beans
6 c. Bushes original baked beans
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
3 slices bacon, copped, 1/2-in. pieces
1 med. red onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. brown sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Pour beans into a casserole dish and place in oven. In a small nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat 2-3 minutes.  Add onions and cook 3 minutes longer.  Slide the beans out of the oven.  Scatter the onions and bacon around the beans.  Sprinkle the brown sugar and black pepper over the onions.  Bake beans with toppings 10 minutes longer.

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