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Top Five Tips for Picky Eaters

01/09/2015 01:25 EST | Updated 03/11/2015 05:59 EDT
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three kids eating burgers

Co-authored by Monica Matys, Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

It's hard to remember back to what things were like when I was a kid and everything was new: sounds, faces, food. I guess that's the beauty of parenthood: you get to live it all again from a different perspective. It can also be the curse when it seems like everything you are serving for dinner spends more time being pushed around the plate than eaten. My dad always told me, "Hunger is the greatest chef." He is a wise, wise man.

Of my two kids, one is a particularly picky (and not to mention slow) eater. It even took some convincing to have him try ice cream a few years ago. Can you imagine? Ice cream! But there you go, it's all new and kids have no idea until they try it. So how can you get them just to try it?

Research supports the introduction of a variety of foods in the toddler years as it gets harder to introduce new options the older kids get, says registered dietitian Annie Hoang. And the older kids get, the more independence they also like to exert. Let's face it, childhood is filled with rules and instructions from adults. Refusing to eat that pile of chicken is actually a natural stage of developing some independence. It's the reaction that refusal can illicit that can and should be avoided, say experts.

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To prevent world war three from breaking out at the dinner table, rely on a simple division of responsibilities. Hoang recommends parents decide what, when and where to eat. Kids decide whether to eat and how much. She also says to limit meal time to between 20 to 30 minutes. Simple. Done. If you've done your due diligence and they aren't eating, c'est la vie. It goes back to what my dad advised.

Hoang offers some other helpful approaches and explanations in the video below. I have actually been doing a few things wrong and will now try a different tact with my own picky (and slow) eater. I guess as he is asserting his independence, I'll be asserting my latest know-how.

Read more tips from our medical experts: Your Health Matters

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