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Picky eater help: 12 tips for parents

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Getting kids to try new foods

It's awful to sit down to dinner and have to field a flurry "I don't want" and "I don't like" exclamations. How can you raise healthy eaters who aren't picky? We asked Food Network's Robin Miller to offer some advice.


Expose them

Since everyone's tastes are different, it's pretty likely that you and your kids will have different likes and dislikes. So, it's important to expose them to new foods -- even if they are foods you might not enjoy.

Miller says that her son, for instance, loves tilapia, which isn't tops on her list of favorite fish. She says that if she had not allowed him to try it, he'd never know that it happens to be one of his favorite foods.

However, Miller cautions to introduce new foods smartly by pairing them with foods that you know your child will like. She says that in her work for Tyson foods, she developed a number of inventive dips for chicken nuggets that allow parents to introduce new foods (in the dip) while giving kids something they love (in this case, chicken nuggets).

And whatever you do, don't try to introduce all new foods at a meal -- that could lead to major mealtime meltdowns. "You are putting yourself at the risk of nothing getting eaten," says Miller.

Don't be afraid to have kids try foods a second time -- even if they didn't like it the first time, says nutritionist Larissa Alonso. "Don't be swayed if they don't like a new food for the first time as it takes time to develop a palate," says Alonso.

If they still don't like it, then Miller says not to force the food.


What if you're the picky one?

Miller admits, she's a picky eater herself -- partially because of an allergy to egg yolks and partially because she just doesn't like certain foods like lamb. However, she keeps that to herself. "My kids don't know that I am picky because I didn't want them to be," says Miller.

They do know about her allergy though, and understand that sometimes she eats a substitute foods since she can't eat eggs. "For Thanksgiving, I will make something egg-based for dessert, but I also make an egg-free pumpkin pie," explains Miller.

Mom of three Julie Parrish says that she is a picky eater but doesn't want her sons to be. "I started when they were younger by putting my yuck foods on my plate so they'd at least think I was eating it. Now that they are a bit older, when they ask if I am going to have green beans, I just tell them it's not really my favorite, so I'm going to stick to salad tonight instead," says Parrish.

"My advice – keep introducing it and find ways to prepare it even if you don't like it, and then involved the kids in the produce shopping and gardening choices. My boys oooh and ahhhh over peaches and nectarines in the produce department and beg for them – I don't think it gets any better than that!"

For more tips on managing picky eaters

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