The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Health & Family

October 4, 2012

Choosy children: Nutritionist offers advice to resolve pesky picky-eating habits

JOPLIN, Mo. — It isn’t easy convincing picky-eating children to get the proper amount of nutrition they need, said Andrea McGrew, a registered dietitian and Freeman Health System clinical nutrition manager. But, luckily, there are still ways parents can make sure growing kids get necessary nutrients, she said.

Elementary and middle school-age kids should get from three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, McGrew said. Fruits usually aren’t a problem, she said, because they are sweet.

Vegetables, on the other hand, are sometimes picked out by picky eaters. As kids get older, they start to see them as gross, McGrew said. She offers parents pointers on how to sneak those undesirable greens into kids’ food.

Start them young

“The best thing to do is start them off early,” McGrew said. Building a healthy nutritional foundation for kids will help them stick to those habits as they get older.

About 17 percent of children and adolescents age 2 to 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Because several recent reports have projected obesity to steadily increase, getting the proper amount of nutrients is particularly important.

Health risks associated with childhood obesity include high blood pressure and cholesterol, breathing problems such as asthma, and even self-esteem issues, according to the CDC. The CDC also states childhood obesity makes kids more likely to be obese adults, which puts them at risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.


Be persistent

Kids need vegetables presented to them multiple times, McGrew said.

“It usually takes about three times before they start liking (the vegetable),” she said.

Parents can include vegetables in sauces, or incorporate them into other meals by pureeing them -- parents should get creative with healthy eating, she said. McGrew recommends mixing mushrooms with meat as an example, or including vegetables in a food kids already like.

Putting vegetables on pizza can be a helpful trick in getting kids to eat them, she said.

Regardless of the method, McGrew said parents should maintain consistency and incorporate the disliked vegetable into meals two to three times per week.

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