Monday, February 7, 2011

Perturbed With Picky Eaters?

Is there anything more frustrating than putting in the time and effort to make your child’s favorite dinner, only to hear her say, “I don’t like that anymore?” Kids’ tastes seem to change with their moods, and can be difficult to follow. One day my daughter announced, “Now that I am five, I don’t like shrimp and I don’t like cheese on my macaroni.” When she turned six, she informed us that these dislikes had passed.

If you struggle with picky eaters in your kitchen, don’t worry. For each meal of the day, make something for your entire family that your child is likely to enjoy. Don’t become a short-order cook who makes a different meal for every member of the family. Encourage her to try at least one bite of each item on the plate.

If she pushes it away, let her know that choosing not to eat is perfectly fine, but that you are not making anything else until the next meal (even if that meal won’t come until tomorrow morning). If she is hungry but doesn’t like her meal, she may get something else on her own, as long as it is healthy and she cleans up after herself. My kids are allowed to replace disliked meals with things like lunch meat, cheese, yogurt (keep an eye on the sugar level and ingredients in the yogurt), or rice cakes topped with almond butter. You could even convert the small meat tray in your refrigerator to a “kids compartment” and keep it stocked with approved foods the kids can get for themselves when they want a meal replacement.

It is important that meal times remain pleasant. Don’t engage in a battle of the wills over food. Trying to force your child to eat something will just result in everyone being upset and frustrated for no real gain. Don’t be concerned if your child doesn’t eat much (unless she is having growth or nutritional issues). Consider what your child eats over the course of a week, rather than an individual meal, to make sure she is hitting all of the food groups. On the flip side, encourage your good eater to listen to her body and stop eating when she is full. It is better to throw food away than to form the habit of overeating.

Trust that your child will not starve. She may skip meals, but as long as she is healthy, she will eat when she is hungry. Set her up for success at meals by making them a fun time of reconnecting as a family.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Looking for a new side dish? Try quinoa!

If your family is getting tired of rice, or if you need to pack some extra protein into a picky eater, try quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). It is delicious, easy to make, and not very expensive. Best of all, it is very healthy.

Although it looks and cooks like a grain, it is actually related to leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard. It has a nutty flavor and a slightly crunchy texture. Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it includes all nine essential amino acids. It is also a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus, and it is gluten free.

I normally make it just like rice and top it with a little butter and salt, but one day my husband decided to make it like Thanksgiving dressing. My whole family loved it, and it tastes warm and homey on chilly winter nights.

Simply boil 1 cup of quinoa, 1 teaspoon of rubbed sage (you can use more or less depending on your preference), and 2 stalks of chopped celery in 2 cups of chicken broth. When it comes to a boil, cover and reduce the heat (just like you do when cooking rice) and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. It is done when the water is gone and the grains are tender. Stir in ¼ cupped chopped parsley and salt to taste.

You can also cook quinoa with chopped carrots, celery, green peas, onions, and curry for an Indian flare.

For the best price, buy quinoa from the bulk bins at your local health food store or Sprouts Farmer's Market. It will be near the rice and dried beans.

Quinoa also makes a great breakfast. Ancient Harvest makes quinoa flakes that cook like instant oatmeal. Top with a sprinkle of brown sugar for a hot, hearty, healthy start to the day. I buy this at Vitamin Cottage, but it is available at many stores in the cereal aisle.