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Picky Eaters

What You Didn't Know About Picky Eaters
Why your child is a picky eater and what to do about it.

Is mealtime a struggle in your household? If you spend more time begging your child to eat than enjoying your own meal, you're not alone.

One in five preschoolers is a picky eater, several studies show. If your child only eats yellow foods, you may worry that she isn't getting adequate nutrition. Many children outgrow pickiness by age 4 or 5, but it can be difficult to endure.

“Let them choose the clothes they wear, not the foods they eat,” says Atlanta-based pediatrician Jennifer Shu, MD, co-author of Food Fights. “Kids get so used to mac and cheese, they forget that asparagus isn't so bad.”

Research suggests that picky children may become overweight, so it's beneficial to get kids eating a variety of healthy foods. But trying to coerce them to taste new things is tricky, as Jennifer Gunter of Mill Valley, Calif., can attest. Her 7-year-old son was so averse to solid foods, he consumed nothing but PediaSure until age 3.

“If we managed to get food past his lips, he'd gag and vomit,” she says. “It looked like he'd be taking a sippy cup and PediaSure to college.”

Gunter persisted until she found something her son enjoyed: thin slivers of milk chocolate, which melted in his mouth.

“Since you can make so many things with chocolate, I had something to work with,” she says. “I made chocolate cake to introduce textures, chocolate-covered bananas to introduce fruit, and peanut butter cups to introduce peanut butter.”

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