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Gentle Reader Questions Answered: Picky Eaters Unite!

Gentle Readers, there are few things more irksome than the way one’s gentle offspring can try one’s nerves at the dining table. This week’s mailbag features two such challenges. For everyone who has sworn they wouldn’t say things about the starving children in Africa, this post is for you.

The Hippie Answer to Lucky Charms: Marshmallow Oaties

The Hippie Answer to Lucky Charms: Marshmallow Oaties

Question 1: What would be the best sugary, decadent cereal, which is actually healthier than regular cereals like Special K or regular Cheerios? I need something that will fool the kids into thinking they’re getting something traditionally off limits in our household. –Virtual Cook

The Practical Cook Answers: Great question, and it depends on what you consider healthy. Sometimes you want a cereal the kids will actually eat, sometimes you want low salt and sugar, high fiber, etc. I believe in letting some sweet cereals in the house on occasion (like the small boxes Santa delivers into the stocking, or the experimental one above), because it demystifies them. They are not always delicious every morning.

Relying on my team of experts, The Practical Cooks Junior, here are three faves that will hopefully suit the bill:

Frosted Mini-Wheats, Grape-Nuts, Autumn Wheat

Frosted Mini-Wheats, Grape-Nuts, Autumn Wheat

Frosted wheat cereals are not the worst, and they look like forbidden fruit. The shredded wheat underneath is pretty darn healthy. Grape-Nuts is not overly sweet, but The Youngest eats it by the metric ton. It has a great crunch and a lot of umami for a cereal. It’s more salty/malty and pairs incredibly well with fruit. If your offspring are fruit fans and anti-soggy, it’s a great choice.

And of course, you know I love Autumn Wheat. It’s actually very sweet, but extremely simple. You’ll note a trend here, whole wheat cereals are naturally sweet tasting. Opt for those first.

One last thought, I am also a fan of the Barbara’s line of cereals, especially the Puffins, but only eaten dry. Oftentimes cereals are less appealing (texture and flavor) in milk. The Eldest used to eat dry cereal exclusively with a milk chaser. Give that a try for something different. The slightly sweet cereals taste that much sweeter.

Beautifully varied snack saves the day.

Beautifully varied snack saves the day.

Question 2: My 3-year-old is currently asserting her independence and says she doesn’t want to eat her food. This  would be fine, but then she wants a treat (either something she really likes, such as grapes, or a dessert), which takes me to the “you don’t get that if you don’t eat your dinner” conversation, which seems to negate the whole what/when/if/how much thing because it puts  me right where I don’t want to be–negotiating over food. –Blended Familia

The Practical Cook Answers: I would suggest putting a reasonable amount of a favorite item, like grapes, on the table with dinner. Dessert isn’t even discussed as a regular option, and that way you’re always able to choose to serve it at the end of a successful meal or not.

Hungry people eat, and I feel sure your child will. Perhaps she gets to pick a favorite dinner once a week as part of the meal plan?

So there you have it, problems solved. I am coming to see the difference between picky eaters and discerning. I was a picky eater for a long time, and I became a discerning ones. I’m discerning that I won’t eat eels in Barcelona, for instance. 🙂

But that is a blog for a different day. What food challenges do you have with your kids? Any other helpful advice for our Gentle Readers? Post a comment below!

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus from Barcelona.

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