Preparing Food for Kids

How to Trick Your Kids Into Eating Meat & Veggies

Pretend you prefer the broccoli or bit of roast beef on your plate to the baked potato with cheese even if you don't. If you make a big deal about how good the broccoli is and show your excitement, your little one might be more inclined to be excited about it, too. PBS reported that toddlers' food choices mimic their moms'. The younger a child is when you try this the better, so start when your child is 2 to 3 years old.

Play the guessing game, which turns trying new foods into a fun activity. Put five to 10 different foods in separate bowls. Cut all the foods into small bites. Some bowls should contain foods your child already likes, such as cut up french fries or cookie pieces. The other bowls should contain new foods you want your child to try, such as peas or pieces of chicken. Blindfold your child, put a piece of food on a spoon and let him taste the food. Your child needs to guess what the food is. If he is correct, he gets a point. If he gets a certain number of points, he wins some sort of prize. Then, let him blindfold you so you can guess.

Sneak vegetables into foods your child already likes. Put frozen spinach into a macaroni and cheese casserole. Make a cheese quesadilla with shredded beef or chicken mixed in. Or put carrot and zucchini shavings in muffins. Once your child develops a taste for meats and vegetables hidden in more friendly foods, he might eat the meats and vegetables even when you don't hide them.

Involve your child in the food preparation process. This can begin with growing a backyard garden together and letting your child pick the foods when they are ready. When you cook dinner, involve your child in shredding lettuce leaves for salad or mixing ingredients in a bowl. When children are involved in making meals, they are more likely to try them.

Tip

Don't offer dessert as a reward for eating meat, fruit or vegetables. That signals healthy foods are something a person must endure to get to the good stuff. Instead, act as if salads or other healthy foods are the "good stuff."

Warning

Don't get into power struggles over food because if you lose the battle, it will be even more difficult to get your child to eat healthy foods later. Don't bribe or command your child to eat, either. That can cause unnecessary anxiety and frustration over meals, according to MayoClinic.com.

Ways to Overcome Food Sensory Issues in Children

Signs and Symptoms

Children with food aversions are more than just picky eaters. Many actually fear the food put in front of them. Some may eat only crunchy or smooth or salty food, or they may refuse an entire food group. Infants may resist breastfeeding or taking a bottle and may arch their bodies in resistance when fed. As children grow older, they may resist foods of different textures, or gag or vomit when new foods are introduced. Some children develop frequent respiratory infections or do not gain adequate weight.

Start With What She Knows

If there is a food your child loves, try to find other foods with similar textures. For example, if she likes chips, she may like pretzels. If your child prefers crunchy foods, she may not eat soft bread, but she may eat peanut butter on a cracker. If she likes soft foods, like applesauce, she may accept other pureed fruits, like pears or bananas. If you introduce too many foods at once, you may turn your child off to eating entirely. Instead, make slow, small changes. If she likes yellow cheese, introduce her to different types of yellow cheese. If she likes mashed potatoes, give her a baked potato and mash it slightly.

Let Him Play

Even if you cringe at the thought of the mess, let your child pick up and look at, touch, feel and smell his food before eating it. This allows him to process the food through a different sense before he puts it in his mouth. You may want to let your child play with plastic food first. Let him build a sandwich with play bread, meat and lettuce, and then make the transition to making a sandwich with the actual ingredients. You may be surprised when he eats it.

Focus on the Food

When you sit down to eat, turn off the television or other distracting stimuli. Make sure the table is clear of everything not necessary for the meal, and make sure there is adequate lighting. Serve your child at least one food that the rest of the family is eating, as well as one of her preferred foods.

Do Not Beg

As tempting as it may be, do not beg, threaten or bribe your child to eat, or it will result in a battle of control that will ultimately backfire.

Does Fructose Affect Children's Behavior?

Fructose

Fructose can be found in any number of foods naturally and man-made. Sometimes called fruit sugar, fructose is naturally in honey, some root vegetables and fruits such as apples, pears, berries and melons. Fructose is also be man-made. It is used in many processed foods as a sweetening agent. Princeton University notes that 240,000 tonnes of crystalline fructose are produced each year. Much of this goes into the manufacturing of high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose and its products are at the forefront of much controversy involving children's health issues, according to a 2011 article in the New York Times.

Fructose Intolerance

Fructose intolerance is a hereditary disease where your child is unable to break down the fructose in his body due to a missing enzyme. This intolerance develops in infancy once your child begins eating formula or food and continues throughout her lifetime. Symptoms caused by the fructose can be behavioral in nature and include irritability, convulsions and excessive sleepiness, as per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Fructose and Mercury

Dietary factors and the toxic contaminants the foods are exposed to have a prominent affect on behavior. A 2009 article on the website Behavioral and Brain Functions shows that mercury contamination during the manufacturing of high-fructose corn syrup can cause behavior disorders, learning disabilities and have an impact on kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It also notes that consumption of high-fructose corn syrup can cause a zinc deficiency in your child. Zinc is necessary for your child to eliminate mercury from her body.

Allergies

A food allergy in your child can cause alarming reactions. Most parents think of these immune responses strictly as physical, such as hives, swelling, itching, diarrhea and congestion. However, if your child is allergic to a food or the ingredients in them, these reactions can manifest as behavioral issues. MayoClinic.com states that 6 to 8 percent of kids under the age of 5 have food allergies. If your child has a corn allergy, high-fructose corn syrup may cause depression, fatigue, memory loss and aggressive behavior.

What Are Good Foods to Give to a 1-Year-Old?

Milk

Put away the bottle. Begin serving whole milk in a sippy cup.
Put away the bottle. Begin serving whole milk in a sippy cup.

Milk provides an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, which aids in the growth of strong bones and healthy teeth. Don’t worry about the fat contained in whole milk. Children under the age of 2 should consume whole milk for the dietary fats needed for continued growth and brain development. A child may not take to the taste of cow’s milk right away because it’s different from the breast milk or formula she is used to. If this is the case, mix the cow’s milk with the milk she is used to. Gradually adjust the mixture until it is 100 percent cow’s milk. Other acceptable dairy products to introduce to your 1-year-old include organic yogurt and soft cheeses.

Fruits

Keep fruits organic.
Keep fruits organic.

Stay away from hard fruits, such as whole apples. Introduce softer fruits in small portions, such as sectioned peaches and watermelon. Seedless grapes should be cut in half and the skin should be removed. Organic applesauce is a healthy option at mealtime. Cut up some strawberries or section an orange for a snack treat. Young children will enjoy a fruit smoothie made from healthy products, such as yogurt and bananas.

Vegetables

Puree hard vegetables.
Puree hard vegetables.

At the age of 1, vegetables should be a common staple in your child's daily diet. Be sure all vegetables served are soft. Some acceptable types include baked potato wedges, mashed potatoes, peas and string beans. Cooked carrot sticks are a nutritional snack option. Include vegetables in child-friendly recipes. For instance, serve your 1-year-old finely chopped spaghetti, or other pasta noodles, with a sauce that includes pureed carrots. Other tasty veggie options include spinach, nonseasoned collared greens and squash.

Considerations

To ensure your child does not have any allergies, always introduce one food at a time. Delay introducing foods that you or other family members may have an allergic reaction to. If you notice an allergic reaction in your child, do not introduce any other foods. Take your child to the doctor right away.

Can What Kids Eat Affect Their Behavior?

Food Additives

The effect of food preservatives and food coloring on children's behavior has been studied since the early 1970s, when allergist Benjamin Feingold looked into the connection. The U.K. Asthma and Allergy Research Center conducted a study on a group of 227 3-year-old chiildren from the Isle of Wight. Researchers gave the children a fruit drink for two weeks that contained preservatives and artificial coloring, and then followed this with two weeks of a similar fruit drink, minus the preservatives and artificial coloring. The study found that the children were more likely to have problems with concentration, lose their temper, interrupt and have problems sleeping when they drank the beverages that contained additives. Kids who's diet has a large amount of additives may also exhibit more hyperactivity than other children. The British authorities responded to these findings by asking that harmful additives be removed from foods and drinks that appeal to children. The FDA did not make a similar recommendation.

Sugar

Research has not been able to show conclusively that too much sugar in a child's diet affects his behavior. Some studies have debunked the "sugar high," whereas others have demonstrated a connection. However, some parents have communicated personal experiences in which their children were hyperactive after consuming large amounts of sugar.

Allergies

Allergies and a link to hyperactivity has been researched since 1989. The Medscape website states that several researchers throughout the 1980s and 1990s used a restrictive oligoantigenic diet, a diet that has the least possible risk of allergic reaction. The research process included eliminating foods that were common allergens and the slow reintroduction of foods one at a time. The studies concluded that food sensitivities could provoke behavioral problems in some children. A study in the Netherlands found that a hypoallergenic diet reduced ADHD symptoms in 63 percent of the 4- to 8-year-old children who participated in the study.

Deficiencies

Children who lack the necessary nutrients and vitamins in their diet may have other behavior disorders, including anxiety, depression, autism, lack of ability to focus and mild hyperactivity. Scientists have researched the relationship between vitamin deficiencies and depressive states, which they published in the British Journal of Psychiatry and other journals. Deficiencies in one or more B vitamins have been linked to memory loss, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, mental slowness and confusion.

Nonbinding Foods for Toddlers

Whole Grains

One of the easiest ways to start introducing nonbinding foods into your toddler's diet is to swap out the white breads, crackers and other processed grain foods for whole-grain versions. Choose whole-grain breads, crackers and pasta instead. Your toddler might resist these at first, but if you start small and pair them with other favorite fixings such as peanut butter and jelly for the sandwich or marinara sauce for the pasta you are likely to overcome any objections.

Beans

Beans have their reputation for a reason: They're loaded with fiber. They won't just make you toot, they'll make it a whole lot easier to use the bathroom. Toddlers are likely to resist a side of whole beans. However, you can urge your toddler to eat more beans by making them into a nice dip for some vegetables or crackers, such as a hummus or a refried bean dip. Beans are also easy to slip into soups, chili, or a pasta sauce.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with healthy fiber and plenty of options that your toddler will enjoy. Stay away from binding fruits such as apples and bananas, but feel free to load up on berries, pears, oranges, peaches or apricots. If you can get your toddler to drink prune juice or to eat dried prunes, they are effective at relieve constipation. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes are on the do-not-eat list, but just about all other vegetables are a good choice. Try broccoli, peas, or carrots to get your toddler to eat more vegetables.

Watery Foods

Water intake is another effective way to relieve constipation. In addition to giving your toddler more water, you can also give him more watery foods. Some good choices include watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, or citrus fruits. If your toddler won't eat these plain, you can try blending up a smoothie. Steer clear of yogurt, which can be binding. Make your smoothie with water and a little bit of honey or stevia for sweetener.

The Best Cookbooks for Picky Toddlers

One Bite Won't Kill You

"One Bite Won't Kill You" is full of ideas for picky eaters and their families, with one section devoted specifically to toddler recipes. Not only will this book help solve your snack and mealtime problems, it will provide comical relief through tips from other parents who have been in your shoes. As your toddler grows, you'll be able to keep turning to this book for new recipes for preschoolers and older children.

The Sneaky Chef

If you can't get your toddler to eat his veggies, this cookbook by Missy Lapine may be the solution you've been looking for. "The Sneaky Chef" will teach you how to sneak pureed vegetables into kid-friendly meals such as mac 'n cheese, chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes. Your toddler will be eating healthy foods that he otherwise would not touch, and he won't suspect a thing. If you're worried about getting your toddler enough vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, this is the book for you.

The Baby Bistro Cookbook

"The Baby Bistro Cookbook" is full of tasty cuisine ideas for both infants and toddlers. It contains recipes for meals at home and on the go, ideas for toddlers with food allergies and instructions on how to make and freeze meals ahead of time, which is great for busy moms. This book will help you understand the best way to transition your toddler from simple first foods to complex and delicious grown-up meals.

Toddler Café

The "Toddler Café" cookbook focuses on making mealtime a fun family event. The author, Jennifer Carden, provides fun ideas for naming foods and including toddlers in both meal prep and clean-up. All of the recipes in this book are geared specifically toward toddlers, making this a great resource for your recipe collection.

How to Choose Foods for a Child With Braces

Toss out any sticky foods, as these can cause parts of the braces, such as the wires, to come loose. Sticky foods include chewing gum, fruit snacks, fruit leathers, caramels, certain fruit bars, toffees and muesli.

Avoid hard foods that could crack or break the braces. Hard foods include ice cubes or ice chips, nuts, hard candies, popcorn, mints, lollipops, burned toast and hard cookies.

Remove foods that are hard to chew from the diet. These may also loosen the bands on braces or even damage the braces themselves. Common foods that are hard to chew include apples, bagels, cereals that have not been softened by milk, raw carrots, pretzels and licorice.

Use acid and sugary food items sparingly. Always brush teeth immediately after consuming these items. Examples of acid and sugary foods include soda, tomato sauce, sugary juice drinks, citrus fruits, vinaigrette dressings and pickles.

Things You Will Need

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

Tip

Children with braces should also avoid chewing on pencils or fingernails.

Warning

Seek treatment from your child's orthodontist immediately if a wire or bracket ever comes loose.

Multicultural foods for children

Getting Started

At first, you may find it easiest to introduce more familiar foods to children. If your child likes pasta, consider an Asian noodle dish as a variation on the family's usual spaghetti. If he likes scrambled eggs, perhaps it's time to try a quiche or a frittata. Keep in mind that many children may refuse foods that are totally unfamiliar.

Kids Cooking

One of the best ways to interest your children in multicultural foods is to bring them into the kitchen to cook. Kids of all ages are more apt to eat foods when they have a hand in preparing them. Even young children can stir ingredients, tear lettuce or mix dressings. Older children may be able to prepare simple meals with minimal assistance. Teens might take over cooking one night a week, trying new multicultural recipes each week to share with the family.

Types

Each country has its own ethnic cuisine. Consider exploring different types of foods. For instance, India, Thailand and Indonesia all serve curries; however, the flavours, spices and ingredients differ. Rice usually appears on the menu in Asia, South America and Central America, while variations on pasta are common in Europe and in some parts of Asia. Consider experimenting with these types of multicultural foods for children.

Expand the Lesson

Multicultural foods are a great part of a learning experience. Consider taking advantage of an evening of spaghetti and antipasti to teach the children a few words of Italian, find Italy on the map and maybe look at pictures of Rome. Making your multicultural meals with kids is fun and can help them be more adventurous about trying and tasting new foods.

Desserts

Even a reluctant eater may be willing to try ethnic foods if they are sweet treats. If you are not inclined to bake, visit local ethnic foods markets for treats and dessert items to entice reluctant children to try multicultural foods. Japanese pocky, German chocolates and French eclairs are sure to appeal to even picky eaters.