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West Harford Author's Advice To Parents of Picky Eaters: Relax

By SARAH CODY, FOX CT

5:49 AM EST, February 25, 2013

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Meal time can become an incredibly frustrating event when you are a parent of a picky eater.

"If you put a vegetable in front of a kid a dozen times, eventually he will eat it!" say well-intentioned friends and relatives, but it can be difficult. Constant concern creeps in: "Is he getting enough nutrients?"

The recommendations on the Food Guide Pyramid only cause more stress. Servings of three veggies and two fruits per day seem impossible when one is a struggle. But, Kate Samela, writer of the book "Give Peas a Chance: The Foolproof Guide To Feeding Your Picky Toddler," is an author and a mother with first-hand experience who advises us to relax.

"When I had my second child, she was very cautious as an eater," says this West Hartford mom, also a pediatric registered dietitian at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. "I was really interested in putting to test all the things I doled out so regularly as advice to families, and it was much harder than I thought and it made me do better."

Her book contains user-friendly information for busy parents trying to feed their kids well and avoid a battle of wills. Samela advises that if we are cooking a new main course that could be risky, such as salmon or chicken Florentine, pair it with something very familiar, which will disarm the skeptical eater.

"Even if it's applesauce in a container that they know, or, people think this is hilarious, - I'll even put things like a small bowl of pretzels as a side dish," says Samela, who has a son and daughter, ages 8 and 5.

Samela is not opposed to being sneaky and "hiding" some nutritious ingredients. Go ahead and throw some diced up spinach into tomato sauce, but putting cupfuls of cauliflower in mac and cheese — a la Jessica Seinfeld in "Deceptively Delicious" — is labor intensive and may not work. Instead, think about tasty foods that even the choosiest child will love: "Banana bread, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, in essence you're giving them nutrient dense food without having to hide it."

This author, who will be appearing April 6 at Barnes and Noble in Blueback Square, also believes parents have a misconception about how much food a small child actually needs to thrive: "Put a couple of meatballs on toothpicks, put some veggie plates out. That's a meal. It doesn't have to be covered in pasta."

In her book, she interprets those Food Guide Pyramids for parents and explains how big an actual serving is.

Samela sees a trend of parents trying to get back to homemade meals. In her own home, she would rather ditch the coaxing and enjoy her picky eater's company, as long as she eats something from the table. As with most issues, Samela thinks our kids' food repertoire will change with time: "It doesn't have to be perfect by the time they're 5." Reassuring words for the most worried parent.

To learn more about feeding a picky eater, check out Samela's website (givepeasachanceblogspot.com) and tune into today's Fox CT Morning News.

Click here for Samela's favorite Chicken Meatball recipe!