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You beg, you plead, you bargain, you worry. But no matter what you try, your child refuses to eat anything but grilled cheese sandwiches, no crusts allowed. Heís violently opposed to vegetables of all kinds and colors, and seems to have a love/hate relationship with the few fruits he will eat. Occasionally heís ravenous, but most of the time he only picks at his food. Yet at every check-up, your pediatrician says your son is doing great. Heís energetic and growing well. How can a child who eats so little stay so healthy?

The fact is, most kids do quite well nutritionally despite erratic eating habits. Your child might not eat very much, but he doesnít need to. Kids get the nutrients they need from a helping of about a tablespoon per year of age. Although it might not seem like it, a bit of this and a piece of that add up to a nutritious diet. This is where you come in. As the parent, itís your job to decide what your child is offered to eat, as well as when and where Ė and even whether Ė he is offered something to eat. Itís the childís responsibility to choose how much to eat. As members of a population where almost 75 percent of adults are overweight, we need to allow our children the option of not eating too much. We tend to love our chil-dren with food. There are also a lot of control issues when a baby moves from babyhood to childhood. In fact, parents need to learn to trust their childís judgment on this one.

If your child complains she doesnít like the food on the table, donít jump to get an alternative. It sends the message that you donít expect her to adapt to whatís available. At mealtime, offer a range of nutritious items: a protein, two fruit/vegetable choices, and a grain product. Be sure to include at least one food she usually eats. If she refuses to eat or just nibbles, itís okay. Maybe sheíll be more hungry at the next meal.

Snacks for children are a great idea. Just be sure that theyíre chosen from foods that are as nutritious as what you would serve at a regular meal. As your child gets older, make snack foods available so she can get to them when she needs them, not when you want her to eat. If your child wonít drink milk, donít get uptight. There are lots of alternative sources of calcium, like yogurt, cheeses, and leafy green vegetables. If your child wonít eat meat, use alternatives like eggs, peanut butter, beans, or wheat germ. Itís unfortunate that we adults in the house canít eat chocolate, soda, and chips in front of our children, but itís part of the price we pay for being responsible for that little person who lives with us.