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Tip of the Week

7 Steps to Winning the Battle with Your Picky Eater

By Denise Mira

Have you noticed all the journalistic space dedicated to the "dilemma" of getting little Junior to eat his veggies? I can't quite relate to a crisis of this magnitude, especially pertaining to a forty-pound child. My five boys have always been expected to eat what's set before them. But in today's touchy-feely, politically correct culture, sometimes common sense gets thrown right out the window. Parents find themselves confused about very simple matters. So, what to do about your picky eater? Let's be discerning in an age of preschooler-pleasing parents.

1. Our kids need to be guided in their diet. When we consider what Junior's shoveling into his mouth is, quite frankly, a life or death matter, I think some parents ought to be arrested because of how they're feeding their children. Check it out: Type 2 diabetes is deadly1, leads to heart disease, and has reached epidemic proportions in our nation, but most often can be avoided by improved lifestyle choices, starting with a healthy diet.

2. Clean out the cupboards, fridge and freezer and remove the decoys. Everywhere I go, kids seem to exist on non-nutritive, refined products loaded with white flour, fillers, chemicals, sugar and salt. Ingredients are clearly listed on the items we purchase. Read the labels. Food is defined as 'any nutritious substance people eat or drink, in order to maintain life and growth.'2 Much of what's going down the hatch simply can't be considered real 'food.' Put it where it belongs - in the trash bin.

3. Keep an arsenal on hand of everything that grows in the ground. This is crucial to counter the indiscriminate appetites of the immature. Require the daily eating of fresh, colorful salads with a variety of vegetables and fruit in the mix.3 Radishes, broccoli, oranges, sweet red peppers, sugar snap peas, purple cabbage, sprouts, sweet onion, spinach, apple, romaine, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, grated carrot, and turnip are some great salad ingredients. I didn't say iceberg lettuce drowning in bottled ranch dressing with so many preservatives it will never die.

4. Ensure your child's 'hunger factor.' I never cease to be amazed by moms who overlook what their little ones are consuming throughout the day, so when meal times roll around, there is no hunger to motivate them to eat something healthful. Cut out in-between-meal munching, unless you're offering things like fresh fruit, sliced veggies, and natural peanut butter and honey on whole grain toast. Many popular snacks peddled to modern moms will fill the void but not the need. You'll be amazed at what a hungry kid will eat.

5. Use the "eat it or go hungry" line. Mean it. Enforce it. Buddy Hackett said, "My mother's menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it." Don't wimp out and fix two meals. You're not a short-order cook. You're a hard-working parent who happens to be training up those little ones to live healthy and grateful lives. Spoiled children regularly turn their noses up at healthful foods. We should be ashamed of ourselves if we let them get away with it.

6. Ration minimal and rare portions of processed foods such as sweetened breakfast cereals, deep-fried chips, cheese crackers, white bread, snack bars, and candy. We all love our occasional treats, but remember why they're called 'treats.'

7. Make water the drink of choice at your house. Buy distilled or invest in a filter if the taste of your tap water isn't nice. Apple juice, soda, energy drinks, and iced coffees belong in the 'occasional treat' category. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

We cannot feed our kids a standard American diet4 and expect them to excel. Dad, Mom, perhaps you didn't have the privilege of learning this as you were growing up, but the power for change in your household is in your hands.5  You can pioneer a path of 'eating to live' for your family.

Don't limit your child's future by teaching him to eat only what he likes. Train him to enjoy new and valuable flavors, textures and recipes. Before you know it, these forays into nutritious eating will become lifelong habits with long-term benefits. Begin today!

Denise Mira, public speaker, educator, author of No Ordinary Child:  Unlocking the Leader Within Your Child, monthly columnist, and contributing author to many publications, has been married to Gregory for 31 years. They are the parents of five sons. For more information visit  Permission granted for use on

1 13 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. Excess blood sugar can lead to atherosclerosis. Readers Digest pp 49-50, March 2008 Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz

2 New Oxford American Dictionary

3 38% of breast cancers, 45% of colon cancer and 70% of endometrial cancers could be prevented with a plant-heavy diet, exercise and healthy weight. Good Housekeeping Magazine March 2011 page 52

4 America spends more than $100 billion on healthcare needs related to obesity every year with prescription drugs for controlling diabetes making up much of that cost. Costco Magazine January 2010 pg 35.

5 'Why Kids Are Still Obese' Parents have the greatest influence over what their children will eat. July 5, 2007

Tags: Diet, Eat Less-Move More, Health, Nutrition
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