Respecting Picky Pupils

MADISON, Wis.—A few simple tips can pacify your picky pupil.

“You cannot force a child to eat something, whether it’s in a packed lunch or something served in the school cafeteria,” said Donna Weihofen, senior clinical nutritionist at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.


With millions of kids going back to school, parents all over the country are looking for creative ways and ideas to get them to eat during the school lunch break. Weihofen says instead of waging a battle of wills, parents should relax about food choices for their children.

“You have to respect the child’s pickiness,” said Weihofen, a former school nutritionist.

“Most of us have a particular food that our parents pressured us to eat. And I bet that as adults, the very same foods turn us off. If you force a child to eat something, they’ll remember it forever.”

Weihofen says parents shouldn’t worry that their kids are so picky, that they want to eat the same thing, day after day. She says parents should focus on whether their children are getting enough calories and protein, especially calories from milk and protein.

“You can make sure they’re getting what they need by making a deal with your child to get enough milk and dairy every day. You can do simple things like put a little chocolate flavoring in their milk.”

Weihofen says the rule of thumb is that for every pound your child weighs, they should get 0.5 grams of protein. For example, a 50-pound child should eat 25 grams of protein each day. The daily requirement is not hard to reach if high-protein foods, like one cup of milk or yogurt (8 grams), 1 ounce of cheese, two tablespoons of peanut butter or 1 ounces of meat (7 grams), are chosen. Weihofen recommends these tips:

•    Let the child choose one treat for lunch each day

•    Cut and peel foods so that they are easy to eat. Weihofen says most of the foods that kids dump into the garbage are hard to eat like unpeeled oranges.

•    Get the school menu and find out what your child would like to eat. On days when an undesirable food is served, pack a lunch.

•    Ask your child to help you pack their lunch.

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