Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Picky Preschoolers? Here's help.

I confess this isn't an area of expertise for me. My children are food freaks and will pretty much give anything a go.

However.... I realize that, well, they're freaks and some children aren't as easy to please. The USDA has come out with some tips for getting children to open up to more than chicken fingers and fish sticks:

Audrey and her sister Valerie, both preschoolers, have drawn a line in the sand -- Audrey doesn’t eat vegetables and Valerie only eats foods that are white. However, with Thanksgiving and the holiday season just around the corner, Audrey and Valerie will be introduced to many new foods that will challenge their taste buds (and their parents’ patience) -- turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, candied yams, spiced crabapples, acorn squash, and pumpkin pie. So the question is, will they eat it? And, what can parents do to introduce their picky eaters to new foods and tastes to avoid a meltdown at the Thanksgiving table?

The Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) has come to the rescue with its new website MyPyramid for Preschoolers designed specifically for parents and caregivers. This new, interactive website, found at MyPyramid.gov, provides unique, individualized nutrition guidance to meet the needs of preschoolers 2 to 5 years of age.

CNPP Executive Director Brian Wansink said, “Since we launched MyPyramid for Preschoolers less than a month ago, we have had a tremendously positive response to it from both the public and nutrition professionals. This a great tool for all parents of preschoolers but particularly those of finicky eaters. It’s loaded with great ideas and suggestions for families so they can help their kids eat a more varied and nutritious diet. What I find most useful is how to talk with kids about what to eat and tips on how to have fun with food around the dinner table.”

Common Sense Tips to Help the Finicky Eater:
· Set reasonable limits for the start and end of a meal. When you see that your child is no longer interested in the meal, excuse him or her from the table.
· Encourage your child to try new foods. But, don’t lecture or force your child to eat.
· Talk about fun and happy things. Try to make meal-time a stress-free time.
· Cook together. Encourage your preschooler to help you prepare meals and snacks

Other key topic areas of MyPyramid for Preschoolers include:

· MyPyramid Plan where users can create a customized eating plan.
· Growth During the Preschool Years answers the question -- Is my child growing the way he or she should be?
· Developing Healthy Eating Habits provides parents and caregivers with what they can do to help children develop healthy eating habits.
· Physical Activity provides answers to questions about physical activity for preschoolers and provides tips to help them be more active.
· Food Safety provides information on keeping foods safe to eat.
· Sample Meal and Snack Patterns help translate the “MyPyramid Plan” into individual meals and snacks.

Research shows that parents and caregivers want to know more about nutrition for their preschool children. In addition to the broad spectrum of topic areas covered on this site, are the interactive components including a customized “MyPyramid Plan” that can be printed and posted on the refrigerator door. Wansink concluded, “We are offering a variety of unique, cutting edge, online tools to help the American public make more healthful food choices.”

Developed by CNPP in collaboration with Team Nutrition of the Food and Nutrition Service, this new website provides nutrition guidance consistent with current scientific research and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The subject areas and content were identified and developed with assistance from a wide array of experts from the USDA, Health and Human Services, academia and related research fields.

The interactive components can be found in the MyPyramid Plan and Growth sections of the website. They include a customized MyPyramid Plan, Body Mass Index (BMI), and Height-for-Age charts. The personalized MyPyramid Plan provides a general guide for what and how much to offer daily from each of the food groups. The BMI and Height-for-Age results are calculated and displayed on a printable, user-friendly graph.