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Troubleshooting a Preschooler's Eating

Your Child Won't Drink Milk
Milk is among the most calcium-packed foods going. And milk contains vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium after digestion and fosters its deposition into the skeleton. Despite milk's many benefits, skipping it does not necessarily make for dietary disaster.

Perhaps presentation is the problem. Some kids do not like to drink a plain glass of milk. Hannah drank only chocolate milk for about a year and a half, yet had no trouble accepting milk on top of her breakfast cereal. Disguise milk as chocolate or strawberry; make your child a fruit smoothie with milk; or prepare hot chocolate, pudding, and condensed soups, such as tomato, with milk instead of water.

Kids who shun milk can make up for lost calcium with other dairy foods such as yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese. Fruited yogurt supplies about the same amount of calcium as milk, while plain yogurt supplies about a third more. One and a half ounces of hard cheese such as cheddar, Swiss, or Havarti equals eight ounces of milk for calcium, while cottage cheese contains half as much of the mineral unless fortified with added calcium. Calcium can sneak into foods that won't evoke a fuss from kids. Cheese pizza and macaroni and cheese are calcium-packed bid favorites.

Calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, soy and rice beverages, and cereal can make up for missing calcium from dairy foods. (To maximize calcium absorption, purchase brands of juice with added calcium citrate malate. Check the ingredient list.) Tofu processed with calcium sulfate helps meet calcium needs, too; a quarter cup provides nearly as much calcium as 4 ounces of milk.

If milk allergy is the reason why your child does not drink milk, then he or she must avoid all dairy products to head off reactions.

Your Child Won't Eat Meat
Children often reject meat and poultry for their texture; tougher cuts of meat may prove too difficult to chew. Sneak lean ground beef or ground 100 percent turkey or chicken meat into spaghetti sauce, tacos, and burritos for greater acceptance. Should you worry about your non-meat eater's nutrition? That depends. Meat packs protein, but so do plenty of other foods. Eggs, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, tuna fish, legumes, and nuts make up for missing protein in a meatless diet, but not for the lack of iron and zinc, which are critical to your child's cognitive development and his overall growth. The likes of beef, pork, and chicken are particularly rich in iron and zinc. Fortified breads, cereals, and other grains contain zinc and iron, but your child may need a vitamin/mineral supplement if he completely avoids meat.

Your Child Eats Too Many Sweets and Other Junk Foods
Don't keep the likes of cakes, cookies, donuts, ice cream, or salty snack foods in the house. That doesn't mean you must deprive your little one of treats, however. Offer healthier alternatives such as mini-muffins, graham crackers, animal crackers, fig bars, and gingersnaps. Popcorn, pretzels, and flavored rice cakes topped with peanut butter or hummus are kid-friendly snacks, too. When my children crave something sweet, I make my own trail mix by combining semisweet chocolate chips, raisins or dried cranberries, and nuts (this snack is for children four and older, given the risk for choking in younger kids). If you don't mind whether they have the real thing, purchase just one treat every few weeks or so and dole it out judiciously. But don't use snack chips or cookies as bribes or rewards. Instead, include them as part of meals and snacks, and stay low key about it. When kids get wind that you think certain foods are special, they start blowing their value out of proportion.

Your Child Drinks Too Much Fruit Juice
Serving juice between meals can wreck your child's appetite. Offer water or milk instead when your child claims to be thirsty. Cap your youngster's juice intake at 6 ounces a day, diluting it with water to extend his juice allowance.


Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.

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