Parents of small children know the drill. They encourage their children to eat fruits and vegetables, but the kids just say “no.”

If it’s a major struggle at every meal, it might be time for parents to try a new strategy. A Denver nutrition expert says there are ways to get children to acquire a taste for healthier choices.

CBS4 recently interviewed the Franciscus family, whose well-balanced meals for their growing girls include protein and dairy, grains and fruit. But the Food Pyramid collapses where vegetables are concerned. They make it to the plate, but not to the palate.

Elle, 6, assembles a good selection, but 4-year-old Blair refuses all fruit and vehemently declines vegetables. Her parents set a good example by eating their vegetables, and they’re not beyond bargaining, but it’s a very tough sell.

“What about the green beans? Are you going to eat the green beans?” Blair’s mother Rebecca asked while CBS4’s crew was filming. “No,” Blair replied.

“I’m a little frustrated with how best to approach it,” Rebecca told CBS4. “It always seems to be a battle.”

Marilyn Day, a Denver-based registered dietician, said she thinks all parents have the same struggle. She works with overweight children at The Children’s Hospital and says better choices start at the supermarket. She recommends letting the children pick the produce they want to try and that parents make it like a treasure hunt.

Day says it’s a good idea to limit sugary drinks and ti get creative by offering healthy snacks like chips with fat-free beans and salsa or banana splits with yogurt. She also recommends regular family meals. Another good tip is to impose the “one bite rule.”

Day suggests parents take the approach of “Anything I offer you at dinner time you take a bite of, if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat anymore this time. The next time it’s offered you’ll need to take another bite because it may taste different next time.”

“It might take 100 times trying something before our taste receptors get used to it and like it,” she said.

Day encourages parents not to give up.

“I would love to have a meal where my child says, ‘Please may I have some more beans.’ It may take years to come and that’s what I’m waiting for,” Rebecca said.


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