In the days before color TV – yes, prehistoric times – the basic rules parents had for feeding children were not much different than today. Feed them healthy foods and they will thrive. The food pyramid was followed fairly well since it was easy to fit the number of servings required into a child’s diet. However, the present recommendations have become almost impossible to comply with. The daily number of each food group suggested for  eating may be the best for optimum health, but when considering what children will and won’t easily eat, and the time constraints of today’s schedules, the goals listed are unrealistic.

The ways of the “olden times” when “you’ll sit there until you eat your vegetables” and “what you don’t eat now will get served to you until you eat it” is proclaimed to be bad parenting, on the verge of being reportable abuse. So what can a parent do to help their children eat healthy? Everyone has their own tricks to get their child to eat healthy. Let’s first go back to the basics.

Establish regular meal and snack times every day of the week for the entire family. Especially with younger children, altering their eating times affects their cooperation levels. Do not give snacks in large amounts. Two snacks a day and no grazing. Try healthy food snacks. Never use sweets as a snack. Protein and carbohydrate snacks are the best. A glass of milk or juice is not a snack. Next, just like yourself, there are some foods your children will never eat. If you point out what another child or adult likes to eat as a comparison, you will trigger the stubborn gene immediately.

Children’s taste buds are not fully developed until age five. Colors and smells of foods affect children’s choices and willingness to try foods. And the most important and the hardest to regulate is consistency. Changing preferences concerning consistency can be a deal breaker when it comes to food. “She liked that so much just a while ago, but now refuses to eat it,” is a common saying.

Often, healthy foods have different consistencies. Changing the texture by thickening or thinning may help. Camouflaging the taste of some healthy foods is also okay to do. Suggestions of disguises to try are condiments. Add a little catsup or mustard on a vegetable. What is so horrible about that if the child eats the vegetable? Creamy salad dressings make great sauces for carrot sticks, green beans and other raw or cooked veggies. Mix small pieces of vegetables, either whole or pureed, into spaghetti or mild taco sauce or mashed potatoes.

Finally, bribery at times works. “If you eat your vegetables, you will get more milk or juice” or whatever your child requests that is part of the meal . If you want to chance a whining fit, use the “dessert” bribe. Incorporating healthy foods into your child’s diet can be a challenge, so stick to a regular eating schedule and don’t be afraid to get creative.