Many of us can relate to the challenge of finding healthy food that our children will eat. Our guest this week, Gina shares some of  her experiences into the life of the busy parent and picky eater:

Are your kids picky eaters?  Well, mine are.  That’s quite a challenge when your kids are small.  My children are 5 and 3, and both have learning disabilities, so for me, it’s very important to get them to eat properly.  Between busy schedules, therapies, active children, and fussy eating, getting my children to eat anything healthier than a multivitamin is QUITE a challenge.  So what is a parent to do?

Substitution-One thing I’ve done is NOT to worry so much.  Every day you read the dangers of sugar, or wheat, or dairy, or red meat.  It’s enough to make a parent go crazy. Unfortunately, time and budget do not really allow me to buy organic, sugar-free, gluten-free, etc.  I do the best I can with what I’ve got to work with.  For example, as much as possible, I use extra virgin olive oil for cooking rather than other kinds of oil.  I believe this is probably why my good cholesterol, or HDL, levels are very high.  I happen to also like the flavor that olive oil adds to my food. It is pricier, but we rarely fry foods anyway.

Fruits and Veggies, Any Way They Want-When Amelia was little, her therapist reminded me that sweet potatoes are a good source of iron. I was surprised, because I had given up eaten potatoes years ago.  My daughter loves mashed potatoes so I make them FRESH.  My kids also like potato salad, which I make fresh with potatoes, fresh green beans, tomatoes and onion, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  My little one like anything with a red sauce and since cooked tomatoes are healthier than fresh, I frequently give her tomato sauce and salsa.  My other daughter likes fresh vegetables uncooked, but only if I serve them in a fancy tray with dip, so snack time becomes a fun mini-party for me and the kids.

Healthier Stuff-Rather than eliminating things from their diet that they like, I’ve taken the road of buying healthier versions of the foods they like. My kids are very fond of chocolate chip cookies, and Kashi makes a version with whole grain products and no sugar.  They love peanut butter, and it’s a good source of protein, so I spend a little extra and make sure there is no sugar, additives or palm oil, just “made from peanuts”.  We are not seafood fans, but buying pasta with Omega-3 and made with whole grains eases my mind that they are getting this important nutrient as well.

Plenty of Liquids-I’ve noticed my kids are thirsty a lot and it’s hard to keep them in milk and juice all the time.   I’ve started giving them more water, or glasses full of ice (they love to munch on it), and that makes me feel good that they are getting their fill of liquids.  I keep lots of juicy fruits, like oranges, on hand as well.

It isn’t easy, but with a little creativity, patience and LOTS of label reading, meal time does not have to be the most difficult part of child rearing.  Making sure that kids think of meals as a time to socialize with their family and enjoy themselves can also go a long way to helping busy parents get their picky eaters to eat right.

Thanks Gina! We have so much to learn as parents. Follow @ginabad on Twitter and her blog at Mom-Blog. For more on the picky eater check out the post from a couple of weeks Are your kids picky eaters?