The Secret to Getting your Preschooler to eat More Veggies

I am sure that you, like most parents, want your three to five year old child to eat a well balanced diet. If you’ve been around three to five year olds, however, you likely know that getting them to eat some foods, vegetables in particular, can be quite a challenge.

A recent study ( American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online July 20, 2011), looked at one way to get kids to eat their veggies. Its a bit on the sneaky side, but it seems to work. What they did was take a group of normal preschoolers and first looked at their normal amount of vegetable consumption. Then, and here comes the somewhat sneaky part - they added pureed cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini and tomatoes to triple or quadruple every dish's dose of vegetables. They were also allowed to eat non-doctored side dishes and snacks during the day, including fruit, cheese, and crackers.

On those days, the kids ate roughly twice the amount of vegetables than on a normal day. Interestingly, though, even though the main dish had so much extra vegetables added they still ate the same amount of vegetable and fruit side dishes. The kids seemed to like the dishes with the added veggies just as much as the ones without. Also, they ate about 140 calories a day less than on a regular day. With so many overweight children these days, this may be a way to help kids eat healthier.
If you want to give this a try, just puree some vegetables and mix them in to your normal meal. Match colors (broccoli stands out against a white chicken noodle casserole for example). Start out with a little bit and then gradually increase the amount you put in.

Kids still need to like eating vegetables on their own, however. So still give and encourage them to eat vegetable side dishes. Eat the veggies along with them to set a good example. Hopefully, you will have a child with a healthy diet before you know it.


EHR Live in Office!

I want to thank everyone for their patience this week as we go live with our new electronic health record. I want to extend our apologies for the longer sign in times. The system is going to be wonderful once it is up and running, but there will be a bit of data entry needed to get there. I am not going to add a blog post this week, but should be back next week with something new.

If Your Preschooler is Keeping You up at Night, TV May Well Be to Blame

Research published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that the media (television, video-game and computer) viewing habits of 3 to 5 year old preschoolers can significantly affect their sleep. So, if your preschooler is keeping you up at all hours, read ahead and think about whether a simple change in their viewing habits might give you a better night’s rest.

One of the main issues is that parents often don’t realize just how scary young children can find things they are exposed to. Characters and events that an older child or adult might not bat an eye at may be quite upsetting to young children. The problem is, children in the, say, 3-5 year old range, cannot really tell the difference between fantasy and reality. In fact, trying to explain to them that what they are seeing “isn’t real” often times doesn’t help. If your child is upset by something they have seen in the media, the best thing to do is simply hold, cuddle and reassure them.

In the study, parents of three to five year olds filled out a baseline questionnaire and a detailed media dairy for their children as well as a widely used sleep habits questionnaire. ON average the children had 73 minutes per day of media exposure, with 14 minutes after 7PM. Eighteen percent of parents reported at lest one sleep problem. If the child had a TV in their room, it is no great surprise that they watched more TV as well as were more likely to have a sleep problem. The more the evening media viewing, the more likely there was a sleep problem.

The other thing the study showed is that daytime viewing of violent content, not only on TV, but in siblings’ video or computer games also increased the likelihood of sleep problems. This was not seen with daytime nonviolent media exposure.

The bottom line - watch what your kids are watching, limit it (it’s recommended that children have no more than 1-2 hours per day of media exposure at any age), and watch it with them to answer questions, reassure them and be a part of their lives.