1. Find Your "Peaceful Plate"
As the host of her own Food Network show, a nutrition expert and mother of two boys, Robin Miller knows all too well the mealtime struggle many parents face. She shares her strategies to ensure children get the balanced diet—rich in protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables—their bodies need.
One way to make sure your little one is eating a variety of healthy foods is by imagining her dinner plate has a peace sign drawn on it, Robin says. Fill the larger areas with whole grains and fresh vegetables and fruits and the smaller area with protein. "This balanced 'peaceful plate' allows you to put a variety of bright colors and flavors on the plate and ensures you child is getting the right balance of essential nutrients and foods from all food groups," she says.
2. A Rainbow of Colorful Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are colorful and sweet, so kids are often naturally drawn to them—meaning parents should not make them seem any different than the other foods kids enjoy, Robin says. Offer a variety of fruits and vegetables at every meal to complete your "peace sign." Broccoli, spinach, diced tomatoes, carrots, green beans, apples, strawberries and bananas all make great choices—the more colors of the rainbow your kids eat each day, the better, she says. Try Robin's Chicken Pizzettes with "Choose 'Em" Vegetables!
3. Something Old and Something New
For most people, trying something new isn't quite as scary if they can pair it with something familiar—the same goes with food, Robin says. Pair one of your child's favorite foods with a new food or flavor. For example, if you usually serve nuggets with ketchup, try a variation—mustard and honey mixed with fresh chopped peaches. "The sauce is sweet and delicious, and your child will add peaches to his repertoire of new favorites," Robin says. Try Robin's Honey-Peach Sauce!
4. Sous Chefs Needed!
Get your little sous chefs involved in the kitchen. "One of the best ways to get your kids excited about eating is to make them feel invested in the preparation process," Robin says. She suggests having them snip fresh herbs with kid-safe scissors, crack eggs, stir, mix and, of course, shape things with their little hands. "They love being involved, and when they feel a part of the process, they're more likely to try the finished product!" she says.
5. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
While feeding your kids a balanced diet is important, not every meal can be a balanced one—that's just life, Robin says. Cut yourself some slack and aim to give them meals filled with protein, whole grains and fruits or vegetables whenever possible. "Show your kids that mealtime is fun and let them play with their favorite finger foods, like veggies and dip," she says. "Don't make mealtime unnecessarily stressful by forcing your kids to eat foods they're just not in the mood for. If you don't push the issue too hard, there is a good chance they'll be game for a bite the next time it hits their plate." Robin's top 10 foods for picky eaters