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Can you give me some meal suggestions that are tasty, convenient, and nutritious for my children?

Feeding kids can be challenging because kids can be very picky eaters. Read on for more information about how to please fussy eaters.

Off to a Good Start…Breakfast
Breakfast gives children energy to carry through an active morning. Children who skip breakfast may not concentrate well at school or may lack energy to play. They also tend to eat unhealthy foods as snacks.

Cereal with low-fat milk is a favorite, but sweetened cereal can have a lot of added sugar. Check the nutrition facts label before buying. Although the percent daily values on food labels are based on calorie levels for adults, they can still be used to select more nutrient-rich cereals (and other foods). Choose cereals with less than 10 grams of sugar and at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. If your child prefers a sweet taste, jazz up unsweetened cereal with sliced peaches or bananas, strawberries, or blueberries.

For children who don’t like traditional breakfast foods, like cereal or toast, try one of the following recipes:

  • Breakfast shake: Combine milk, fruit, and ice in a blender.
  • Frozen banana: Dip a banana in yogurt, then roll it in crushed cereal. Freeze.
  • Leftovers: Serve whole-wheat spaghetti or chicken hot or cold.
  • Peanut butter snack: Spread peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers, a tortilla, apple slices, or jicama slices. (See “Safety Check.”)

Lunches Worth Munchin’
Children who help make their own lunches are more likely to eat them. The following are ideas to make lunches fun!

  • Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun, interesting shapes.
  • Decorate lunch bags with colorful stickers.
  • Put a new twist on a sandwich favorite. Top peanut butter with raisins, bananas, or apple slices.
  • For color and crunch, use a variety of veggies as “sandwich toppers”: cucumber slices, grated carrots, or zucchini.

Picky Eaters
Even the most nutritious meal won’t do any good if a child won’t eat it. Some children are picky eaters. Others eat only certain foods – or refuse food – as a way to assert themselves. If your child refuses one food from a food group, try another from the same food group. Try these ideas to make your family meals pleasant.

If Your Child Refuses… Instead Try…
Green vegetables Deep-yellow or orange vegetables
Milk Low-fat flavored milk, cheese, or yogurt
Lean beef Chicken, turkey, fish, or pork
  • Boost the nutritional value of prepared dishes with extra ingredients. Add nonfat dry milk to cream soups, milkshakes, and puddings. Mix grated zucchini and carrots into quick breads, muffins, meatloaf, lasagna, and soups.
  • Serve a food your child enjoys along with a food that he or she has refused to eat in the past.
  • Try serving a food again if it was refused before. It may take many tries before a child likes it.
  • Invite children to help with food preparation. It can make eating a food more fun.
  • Add eye appeal. Cut foods into interesting shapes. Create a smiling face on top of a casserole with cheese, vegetables, or fruit strips.
  • Set a good example by eating well yourself. Ideally, eat at least one meal together as a family every day or try for 3 to 4 times per week.

Safety Check
Food safety: Remember 2 important rules to prevent food-borne illness.

1. Everyone should wash their hands well before and after meals.

2. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

When there’s no refrigerator to store a bag lunch, the following are ways to keep food safe:

  • Tuck an ice- or freezer-pack into the lunch bag. Or use an insulated container to keep hot foods hot.
  • Add a box of frozen 100% fruit juice (unsweetened).
  • Freeze the sandwich bread and filling – or other freezable foods – the night before.

Choking hazards: Do not feed children younger than 4 round, firm food unless it is chopped completely. The following foods are choking hazards: nuts and seeds; chunks of meat or cheese; hot dogs; whole grapes; fruit chunks (such as apples); popcorn; raw vegetables; hard, gooey, or sticky candy; and chewing gum. Peanut butter can be a choking hazard for children younger than 2.

Peanut allergies: If your child has food allergies, or is diagnosed with peanut or tree nut allergies, avoid nuts and any food that contains or is made with nut products. If nuts are to be eaten away from home, check to make sure there are no children present with nut allergies.

What’s to Eat? Healthy Foods for Hungry Children (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)