Thursday, April 11, 2013

Deal with Picky Eaters

“No dessert unless you eat your vegetables!” “You’ve got to join the Clean Plate Club!”

These were motivations to eat that many baby boomers heard as they were growing up. Families across America were learning how to eat by the rules. But, according to current research, those rules may have done more harm than good.

These days, developmental psychologists and nutritionists are teaching a new approach, one based on research. For example, research has shown that offering children dessert as a reward for eating their vegetables teaches them that vegetables are less desirable than dessert and makes them less likely to want to eat their string beans or broccoli.

Some old habits, like eating everything on the plate and getting dessert only when the plate is clean, have contributed to eating disorders and obesity in many baby boomers. So what are the options when teaching kids, especially those picky eaters, how to eat properly? University of Florida faculty offer several suggestions.

First, establish a comfortable meal environment without television or other distractions.

Next, be aware of child-size portions. As a general rule, serve one tablespoon of each food per year of life. Let children ask for more if they are still hungry. If you are having dessert, include a small serving on the plate along with the meal, and let your child decide when to eat it.

Third, respect food preferences. Allow your child to politely decline food he doesn’t like.

Always have something at each meal that your child enjoys.

Finally, allow children to stop eating when they are full, and leave the Clean Plate Club in the past as an old relic.

Source: Suzanna Smith for Family Album Radio, Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

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