Your little foodie

Q: Our kid will eat nothing but carbs. What can we do to get him to eat veggies and protein, too?

A: Many families have questions about how to help their kids maintain a well-balanced diet.

In my experience, infants usually don’t object to eating vegetables or fruits. In fact, they often prefer them over other foods. It’s only later that food preferences are formed.

That’s why it’s extremely important to offer a variety of foods early on. (Introduction of some foods early can also help reduce the odds of developing food allergies.)

When it comes to protein in your child’s diet, it doesn’t need to just come from meat. Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, are wonderful sources of protein.
If you do want your child to eat meat, start introducing ground meat, or small pieces, between age 6 months and 1 year. Because of the different textures of meat compared to other foods, introducing meat later than this often makes it less accepted by kids.

Another great source of protein is nut butters. Whole nuts are great, too, but shouldn’t be given to children under
age 4 due to choking risks.

Something else to keep in mind is that young children haven’t developed social norms about what foods are supposed to go together. You can chop up cooked and cooled vegetables and mix them with fruit. You can puree vegetables and fruits together into a red sauce or cheese sauce for noodles.

I also like to make sure families are exploring new foods regularly together. The easiest way to do this is to include your children in the process. Bring them to the grocery store and get them involved in meal preparation, even if they’re just watching you cook.

Remember, parents need to try new foods, too. Kids will often follow your example, so if you don’t eat something, they won’t either. Remember that it may take a few times of them watching you eat these new foods for them to be ready to try them also. Soon, you may find them eating off your plate!

Dr. Gigi Chawla is a board-certified pediatrician and the chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota.

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