Do you have a preschooler at home who will only eat French fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Getting a picky child to eat healthy can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. In honor of National Nutrition Month, The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital’s Clinical Dietitian, Whitney Villegas, is offering parents advice to help avoid those mealtime battles. Here are her top three tips for parents:
One: Offer children a variety of colors at each meal
Villegas says giving children options at mealtime is one way to encourage children to eat healthy. “Parents should incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetable in fun and unique ways at family mealtime,” says Villegas. “Keep in mind children under the age of three will need multiple exposures to the same foods before acceptance.”
Two: Encourage family eating time
Villegas says eating together as a family is very important. “By coming together and enjoying mealtime together, its gives a positive meal experience to the child and helps the child want to eat more at the table,” says Villegas.
Three: Be mindful of portions
Villegas says for a well-balanced diet, parents need to make sure the portion sizes are appropriate for all types of foods. “Parents need to be conscientious when choosing those portion sizes for children, remembering they have smaller stomachs, than adults. Portion sizes are something that can get out of control quickly,” says Villegas.
As a dietitian at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, Villegas says her goal is to provide nourishment to the Hospital’s patients, while they’re undergoing therapy and treatments. In a typical year, Villegas works with an estimated 150 patients in the Hospital’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Medical Unit and Complex Care Unit. Villegas says her favorite part about her job is being able to provide supportive nutritional therapy to patients when they’re in need. “I enjoy being able to bring that aspect to the table in a realm where they have a lot of other things going on medically,” says Villegas. “So for families and for patients to know that somebody else is keeping track of their nutritional needs; that’s something that’s really rewarding.”