Help has arrived for coping with finicky eaters


Jack will only eat chicken nuggets and Isabella turns her nose up at vegetables. Sound familiar? Help is on the way. A new food pyramid designed to help frazzled parents plan meals and cope with the perennial picky-eater problem was recently unveiled by the federal government. The MyPyramid for Preschoolers interactive Web site ( offers individualized nutrition guidance to meet the needs of children, age 2-5.

This new nutrition tool is part of the ongoing Project M.O.M. campaign spearheaded by Brian Wansink, executive director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. When Wansink, the father of two preschoolers himself, unveiled the new pyramid at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference& Expo last fall, he explained that the USDA is"honing in on the nutritional gatekeepers who purchase and prepare most of the family food.”

New features

MyPyramid for Preschoolers is a handy tool for parents because this age group can really stump parents when it comes to eating, according to Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, LDN, owner of LivingWell Communications, a nutrition communications consulting company in Chicago."Typically, the common complaint from parents of toddlers is that their kids are picky eaters and tend to get into‘food jags’ in which they want the same foods every day.” Retelny is enthused about the extra features this pyramid provides."It also offers individualized eating and activity plans based on the child’s age, gender and activity level.”


Does wasting food on your plate still invoke guilt (remember the starving children in China or Biafra)? The new Web site shows parents and caregivers how to implement healthy eating behavior advice without guilt.

For example, the Phrases that Help and Hinder section provides parents and caregivers suggestions on how to reframe their food discussions to sound more positive. Rather than enforcing the"clean plate” rule, the section gives sample phrases so you can help your child recognize when she is full."Is your stomach still making its hungry growling noise?” This contrasts with phrases that teach your little one to eat for your approval or love:"If you do not eat one more bite, I will be mad.” A phrase that helps:"These radishes are very crunchy!”

Fussy eaters

Other useful features are the strategies for picky eaters and creative meal planning. According to Retelny, a mother of two toddlers,"Through role play and scenarios, the Web site actually directs you on how to handle food issues for this age group, which are a normal part of development and becoming independent.” For example, parents should be role models by trying new foods and give small portions, especially with new foods, as a way to combat picky eating.

A favorite section of mine is Get Creative in the Kitchen, which suggests you name a food your child helps create. Make a big deal of serving"Olivia’s Salad” or"Tyler’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner.

Other features of MyPyramid for Preschoolers include:

•MyPyramid Plan where you can create a customized eating plan that can be printed and posted on the refrigerator.

•Growth During the Preschool Years answers the universal question,"Is my child growing the way he should be?”

• Food Safety for parents to pay attention to choking hazards, hand-washing tips and allergenic foods to avoid.

• Physical Activity provides tips to help preschoolers be more active, including a list of indoor activities you can do with your preschooler. Remember old-fashioned treasure hunts and"hide and seek”?

• Sample Meal and Snack Patterns, which may be one of the most popular pages.

The new MyPyramid for Preschoolers is an outstanding resource so young children make better food choices during the critical time when food habits and taste preferences are getting established. It also might make mealtime more fun.

Rice Pudding


• 1 cup milk, fat free or low fat• 1 cup water• 1 cup rice, uncooked• 2 eggs• 1 cup evaporated milk• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract• 1/4 cup sugar• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In saucepan, heat milk and water. Add rice, bring to boil, lower heat to simmer; stir mixture every 10 minutes. Cook covered until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

In large bowl, mix eggs, 3/4 cup evaporated milk, vanilla and sugar. Set aside. Add remaining 1/4 cup evaporated milk to rice mixture.

Spoon 1 cup of rice mixture into egg mixture and stir. Pour egg-rice mixture into remaining rice. Heat pudding until it boils, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Makes 8 servings, 1/4 cup each

Nutrition Information: 190 calories, 3.5 g fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 11 g sugars, 7 g protein, 2% DV vitamin A, 0% DV vitamin C, 15% DV calcium, 6% DV iron.

Recipe from:​smart​play​hard​healthy​lifestyle/QuickandEasy/Recipes/Week1/RicePudding.pdf

Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a Naperville-based dietitian. She can be reached at

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