The best way to treat a child who is a picky eater is to prevent it in the first place, says a registered dietitian who works at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont.

“It is much easier when they are toddlers,” says Joanne Saab, a mother of twin girls. “We do ourselves a disservice by feeding children similar foods that they will like.

“Then when they say no to some food we don’t continue giving it to them and that just reinforces picky behaviour.”

This is just one dietary issue that she and her co-author Daina Kalnins tackle in the second edition of “Better Food for Kids: Your Essential Guide to Nutrition for All Children from Age 2 to 10” (Robert Rose, $27.95, paperback). Kalnins is a pediatric nutrition researcher at the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto.

Saab says that many eating problems in children can be solved by taking them to farmer’s markets, grocery stores and ethnic restaurants so they can discover new foods.

“And we encourage families to cook more at home and involve their children in the meal planning,” she says.

Now that children are heading back to school, Saab has some handy suggestions for how to cope with breakfast and school lunches.

“I think it is imperative to sit down on the weekend and plan what types of breakfast and lunches we will be having,” she says. “And that should include dinners especially on those nights where the kids have extra-curricular activities or when we will all be home for dinner as a family.”

Saab says that going back to school “is a rude awakening after a summer of eating a lot of junk such as pop, ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs.”

She makes a big batch of oatmeal cereal in advance for breakfasts so that her girls can simply microwave a bowl of it in the morning.

Then when it comes to school lunches, Saab likes to give them variety so there might be a sandwich one day and leftovers to be heated up at school.

“Homemade soups are something you can make easily and then can be frozen in small containers, defrosted and poured into thermos bottles,” she says.

Other topics she and Kalnins address are tips for introducing unfamiliar foods, top 10 nutritional recommendations for parents of young children and ideas for boosting energy in children.

The following recipe is one of 200 included in the book.

Tuna Veggie Wraps

1 can (170 g/6 oz) water-packed tuna, drained

30 ml (2 tbsp) light mayonnaise

15 ml (1 tbsp) light sour cream or plain yogurt

15 ml (1 tbsp) pickle relish

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

2 leaves leaf lettuce

2 25 cm (10-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas

75 ml (1/3 cup) sliced English cucumber

1/2 carrot, grated

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced (optional)

In a bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise, sour cream, relish and pepper.

Place a lettuce leaf on each tortilla. Top with tuna mixture, cucumber, carrot and avocado, if using. Fold up bottom of tortilla. Fold in sides and roll up.

Cut in half and wrap tightly in plastic wrap for lunch to go.

Makes 4 servings.

Tip: You can substitute whole-grain pitas for tortillas or simply make sandwiches using whole grain bread or buns.

Nutritional information per serving: 263 calories, 24 g protein, 9 g fat, 20 g carbohydrates, 4 g fibre, 573 mg sodium.

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