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BellaOnline's Pediatrics Editor

Nutrition and Your Child

With fast food, processed food, and junk food rapidly becoming commonplace in many families, making sure your child is receiving proper nutrition can be a challenge. And if you are dealing with a picky eater, that challenge can seem insurmountable. Consumers know that you are concerned for the health and well-being of yourself and your children, which is why they increase the cost of organic, healthy, natural foods. Itís all about supply and demand, right? The problem is that for the family whose budget is stretched thin as it is, paying double for organic carrots is the last thing on their minds. It is simpler, quicker, and cheaper to buy processed cheese packets and bags of chips rather than try to deal with the protests that are sure to arise if they do otherwise. And so it is that we as parents settle, feeling as though there is nothing else that we can do.

I know what you are waiting for... a magic answer to solve all your problems. To make your picky child eat and your dollar stretch further without any extra effort. Unfortunately there is no quick and easy solution. Making healthy food is work, it takes time that we donít have and it takes effort to then force it upon our children. However, is the health of your child not worth that effort? So grab a coffee, get in a quiet corner of your house, and I will pass along the few secrets I have found in promoting proper nutrition in my household.

My mantra as a mother is, ďbe prepared!Ē It will always cost you more time and money to constantly be blindsided by meals. Every day we know that we will have to prepare a colorful menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we may as well get used to it! On the weeks that my husband and I donít plan out our meals, we make way more shopping trips to pick up that ďone thingĒ we need and usually end up coming home with 50 things we donít. There are literally hundreds of websites to help us come up with some meal ideas, such as www.healthy-eating-made-easy.com. One of my favorite books in the kitchen is my Cooking for the Rushed cookbook. It is full of quick (under 30 minutes), easy to prepare meals that have been tested on numerous families and young children (in other words, they pass the taste test).

Making your kids eat what you have prepared is a different story. The key is this: snacking is your enemy. If your kids are anything like mine, they beg for snacks all day long and then wonít eat their dinner. I put them to bed feeling like I have lost a battle towards their health, growth and development. However, it doesnít have to be a losing battle. If your child is hungry, they will eat. I donít like the idea of starving my child between meals. If they are begging for food, I offer them something healthy like an apple or a piece of cheese. If they take the bait, I know they truly are hungry and I donít feel as though I am ruining their appetite. Another trick is while I am preparing dinner I set out a plate of vegetables as I dice them for the meal. The kids munch on those and even if they eat less of their supper, I feel confident that they received at least some of their nutrients that meal.

There is no question about it: preparing nutritious meals for your family is work and effort. It is often a thankless job, receiving whines and complaints rather than smiles and hugs. However, it is an effort that can be far worth the trials. It is a known fact that the foods a child grows up eating, especially in their first years of life, they will come back to in adulthood. Donít lose heart! Most likely your picky little eater will come to love food because of you. So put on your apron, prepare your meal plan, and take the steps towards a healthy lifestyle.

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