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Archive for Wednesday, February 19, 1997

TODDLER NEEDS TO LEARN GROUND RULES FOR GOOD EATING HABITS

February 19, 1997

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Susan Krumm answers questions

I am really concerned about my preschooler's eating habits. Some days she hardly eats anything at all. How can I force my child to eat the right foods?

If you preschooler dawdles over food, any of several reasons may apply. Perhaps she just isn't hungry. Preschoolers grow more slowly than infants, so they need less food to satisfy energy needs. Your child may be too tired or overexcited. Or maybe she is just trying to assert some independence -- a common behavior at this age.

Whatever the reason, avoid nagging, bribing or turning mealtime into a battleground. This tug-of-war creates problem eaters. Here are a few ideas for encouraging positive eating habits.

  • Do not force your child to eat. Feeding demands a division of responsibility: Parents are responsible for what they offer the child to eat, and the child is responsible for what and how much of it she eats. Keep introducing and offering healthy food, but acceptance is up to her. Real acceptance of food comes when it's her idea, not yours. Expect refusals, but insist that they be polite.
  • Schedule regular times for meals and snacks. Your child will know when to expect food, and will come to the table hungry. Also, your child looks forward to being with the family. Mealtime will soon be regarded as "family time," and add to your child's enjoyment.
  • Avoid short-order cooking. Children who are hungry before your meal is ready can be demanding. Try to stick to regular meals and snack times. Occupy your child with an activity, and save her appetite so she learns to eat at regular times. This will also save you from her expectation that you'll fix something whenever she desires.
  • Expect some food jags. As long as the child eats a variety of foods, consuming a favorite food repeatedly can do no harm. Avoid making an issue out of your child's food likes and dislikes.
  • Avoid using food as a reward. Find other rewards or punishments, and keep food as strictly something to eat.
  • Lay out clear expectations for mealtime behavior. From the beginning, your child needs to know what you will and won't tolerate. That way, if you must ask her to leave the table, she'll understand why.
  • Serve small amounts of food that the child can easily eat. Let her ask for a second helping rather than feeling unsuccessful.
  • Use appropriate utensils. Small hands may handle eating better when utensils, dishes and furniture fit.
  • Consider food taste, texture, temperature and appearance. Preschoolers like foods that are not extreme in spiciness or temperature. They do enjoy bright colors and shapes. (Just for fun, get out your cookie cutters and let her create her own designs in cheese slices, bread or luncheon meat.)
  • Keep mealtime calm, relaxed and cheerful. Avoid feeding the overexcited or overtired child. Also, avoid arguments or discussions about serious subject matters (like finances or job dissatisfaction) at the table.
  • Allow plenty of time for eating. But after a sufficient amount of time, quietly remove any uneaten food.
  • Set a good example. As the strongest model of healthy eating habits for your preschooler, it's important that you are aware of what your own eating patterns and behavior are saying.

Can I use my regular home canning jars in the freezer?

Since food expands straight upward as it freezes and does not take the shape of its container, it may cause a standard home canning jar, such as a wide-mouth or regular-mouth quart jar, to break. If you want to freeze food in jars, I recommend freezing in jars designed for freezing. These jars may be used in a freezer since they are wider at the top than at the bottom and have tapered sides rather than shoulders.

I spotted a sugar substitute called Sweet One. It sounded like a good product, but it had no warning label. Do you suppose this is one of those too-good-to-be-true items?

This product is good and it is true! Sweet One contains acesulfame-K -- its brand name is Sunette -- which was approved by the FDA in 1989 after more than 90 studies. Acesulfame-K is 200 times sweeter than sugar so only small amounts of it are required. It is not metabolized -- that is, it passes through the body unchanged and is therefore noncaloric.

Acesulfame-K doesn't break down when heated and it can be used in baked goods and other cooked foods, unlike aspartame (NutraSweet), which can't be used in most baked goods. Be careful, however, about using the product to replace all sugar in a recipe. Many recipes need some sugar for proper volume, texture and browning. Try using only half the sugar or less when you use acesulfame-K.

But there is one final note of caution: Artificial sweeteners can give a false sense of security to dieters. They think it's OK to eat chocolate cake if they drink diet colas. Not true. There's very little evidence to indicate that artificial sweeteners actually help people lose weight.

Can you freeze tofu?

Freezing tofu drastically changes its properties and transforms it into a unique protein food. When you freeze it, thaw it and squeeze out the water, the tofu resembles a spongy lattice work, which has a more meaty, chewy consistency than regular tofu. It soaks up marinades and sauces more readily than the regular form.

To freeze, keep tofu in its original brick form, drain it, wrap it in aluminum foil or freezer bags and store it in the freezer.

-- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in home economics and consumer science with K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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