4 Year Old Son Needs Healthy Variety of Food

Updated on February 10, 2011
A.R. asks from Morganville, NJ
12 answers

My son only eats hotdogs, yogurt and chicken nuggets for lunches and dinners. Does anyone have any suggestions for healthy lunches or dinners?

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answers from Appleton on

I would still give him what he likes, but then pair it with a veggie & fruit like Sharie G. suggested. I would give him the veggie first, then fruit and then finally his favorite (chicken nuggets, hotdogs) make him try it at least like she suggested too. At least try it, it may take awhile, but at least he is having healthier food introduced to him.

Good Luck - I know it's easier said then done :-)

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Jacksonville on

Fruits, veggies, unprocessed foods......you are the one that needs to change what he eats by buying things that are healthy. He is old enough to understand that he eats what is put in front of him or he doesn't eat. Make a rule that he has to eat at least 2 bites of something new that meal. Serve him a hot dog with steamed cauliflower (raw or even mashed-looks like mashed potatoes). Balance it out....chicken nuggets with baby carrots, hotdog with broccoli etc. Try fresh uncooked spinach and call them leaves. My 4yr old eats them straight or on a sandwich.

My son likes certain veggies raw but not cooked so I will accommodate that but I'm not a short order cook either. My kids eat what I fix or the don't eat.

Yogurt is healthy, it's dairy. Gogurts in the freezer are a cool treat in the summer time!!

Just remember, what he eats is up to you. He can ask for something but you are the one who decides if he gets it or not.


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answers from Rochester on

the hot dogs have gone on hiatus, and so have the chicken nuggets. Dont' buy them and he can't have them. Find a baked chicken alternative that he does like - try rosemary but dust off the rosemary before serving him (leave the skin on when it bakes - it brings out the flavor much more! )

Unless the hotdogs are organic (and you have to watch the seasoning on the ones that are!) I'd discontinue them altogether. Once a month might be a good splurge on organic dogs, though. Can't say no forever!

still 4? so some texture things might get to him. Experiment. Just experiment with what YOU will eat afterwards if you get angry about wasted food. let him help with a blender or chopping (pampered chef sells a 'pumpkin knife' that is perfect for kids and veggies!) or shaving or grinding or scraping, or peeling or whatever! You can make 'carrot pasta' by using a peeler!

Make it fun. Make it interesting. Make it SHORT! And LET HIM EAT IT AS HE MAKES IT! I used to get upset until I realized - he's EATING leave him be! It's a carrot. ANd nothing spoils an appetite unless it is fruit after a meal.

Go for a basic plot for dinner: meat/veg/ preceded by fruit. Fill in the blanks, and it's easy.

If you are buying chicken tenders, do you realize you're spending almost as much for hormone laden chicken already prepared as you would for an organic chicken?

got to go,
good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Hi A.---My first suggestion is to start involving him in the selection and preparation process. Go to www.askDrSears.com and see what he has to say about picky eaters. I have a couple of great DVD's I could share with you about how to teach youngsters about healthy foods.

Another resource I share with people in your situation is a website called www.eatingwell.com. They have a huge section on healthy eating for kids and then recipes for kid-friendly foods to go along with tips and strategies to get kids to eat better.

I am taking a series of wellness classes taught by a Naturopath who has her PhD in Nutrition. I have lots of great ideas and tips and would be happy to share those with you. Feel free to contact me.

Lastly, I would highly recommend a food based supplement to help bridge the gap between what he should be eating and actually does eat. It must be whole food based as this will, as Dr. Sears teaches, cause a change in metabolic programming in his body and will cause his body to crave fruits and veggies. If you are interested, we can talk about the differences between food supplements and your average man-made vitamin and what that means for the body. Good luck, be patient and keep trying. Dr. Sears tells that it can take up to 10-15 tries to get a child to try a new food...and try different methods of preparation as well. Make it fun, involve him in picking out new foods at the grocery store and then have him help prepare. He'll be more likely to try. I think it's ok to be firm in making him try at least one bite of a new food...we would always tell our kids that the could NOT tell us they didn't like something when they've never tried it...how would they know. It's ok to give him options for meals, but they must be from healthy foods that you want him to have. Hot dogs are dangerous to health as processed meats increase the risk of colon cancer. Chicken nuggets are maybe ok if you make them yourself. Both of these contain dangerous levels of additives and preservative that increase the risk of disease (www.pcrm.org and www.kidsgethealthy.org). Ok...I know...I'm getting a bit off topic now but based on what I'm learning, I really fear for our children's health these days. One last suggestion...get some children's books about healthy eating. Dr. Sears and his wife, an RN, wrote a great book called Eat Healthy, Feel Great. When you purchase the book (amazon.com) it comes with a great chart and it is set up to teach the concept of traffic light eating. There are red light foods that we should avoid, yellow light foods that are once in awhile foods, and green light foods that we can and should have as much as possible. For additional education for your family, go to www.nutritiondetectives.com.

Good luck...let me know if you have any additional questions. D.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I like Shelley's suggestion, start with healthier versions of what he will eat, then go from there. And by all means add a healthy option along with it...if I give my son a hot dog then he gets a veggie/fruit and a whole grain with it, yougurt I try to get the ones that are all natural (just found chobani greek in adorable little child size containers! I put lightning mcqueen stickers on and it seems to be working, before that we were slaves to the marketing, he would only eat the CARS yogurt, but it was not as bad as someof the other ones so I allowed it now I'm slowly making the switch!) My sons loves your sons favorites too and I tend to go to them out of convenience but when I see he isn't eating those I realize, the child just wants some "real" food, LOL, his favorites are Turkey and Cheese Roll ups, turkey/chicken chillim with chips and cheese, baked sweet potatos, grilled chicken and pork chops (with just a little evoo, extra virgin olive oil and seasoning) pasta and meatballs, baked french fries, cheese burgers (turkey, beef and veggie varieties), hummus and wheat crackers/pretzels, carrot sticks, he loves milk, so I give him that as much as possible to balance anything else...and I try to always make everything as healthy as possible, which I do for myself and my husband too, meaning, no salt, organic, natural, low fat (for cheeses, etc). And I don't freak out about him not eating, he will eventually. He is just getting back to trying foods and eating a variety, of course there was a time when he wouldn't,but I'm happy to write this list and see that he's doing pretty good. I just keep providing it for him, even if I know he won't touch it, eventually he will touch it..I also ask him to just try something before deciding if he likes it or not...works sometimes, not always but if he does try it and doesn't like (whether for real or for power) I leave it at that and move on...I don't beg, plead, fight, punish, or anything, I provide the good foods, and the not so good foods and he can or can not eat it. If there is something thats good for him and he likes (like yogurt) then I have NO PROBLEM if thats ALL he eats, until he decides to try something else that I keep offereing.



answers from Norfolk on

Veggies are certainly the hardest thing get them to love.

Have you every tried fried squash? They look like potato chips so he might be likely to try it.

I make deal with my son once in a while. He can't only get desert if he eats 2 peas. He is so funny he takes it like a pill. Pops it in his mouth and chases with his drink to wash it down. lol

I serve the chicken nuggets with a slice of cheese and a fruit.

Will he eat oatmeal? Sometimes I think that is why they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is when we get the closest to getting all of the good stuff in.

What about some soup? So many different soups out there and you can give a little cup he might think it a neat drink.

I know soup have saved us many many dinner time arguments. My kids love egg drop soup, Italian wedding soup (it has spinach and they "love the green stuff" but only when it is made this way).

Soups are easy to make.


answers from Chicago on

My 4yr old LOVES THIS it is from the Cook Yourself Thin
Turkey Mini Meatloves w/ Roasted Root Veggies
1 slice whole weat bread
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
1 onion diced
5 ounce bag baby spinach leaves
1 1/4 lbs turkey (ground breast)
2 tbsp finely grated parmesean (kraft works)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp fresh nutmeg (ground is ok if you can not find fresh double amt)
pre heat oven to 375 arrange oven to accomodate two dishes
Grind the bread in processor until fine crumbs put in large mixing bowl and pour milk over. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large skillet (non stick) on med heat. Add onion (optional we do not use sub for 1tbsp minced garlic) cook until soft then add the spinach stir until just wilted put in bowl with milk and crumbs. Add turkey, cheese, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg combine the mixture wiht hands until mixed (will be wet). I let my son help mix this just good hand washing before and after. Take a 1cup measureing scoop and fill with mixture put it on the baking sheet this should make 4 meatloaves. Smooth them out to make them look pretty bake for 40 min.

Root Veggies:
3 large carrots (bias cut)
2 Yukon Gold potatoes (bias cut)
4 stalks of asparagus
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
toss veggies in oil salt/pepper lay flat on baking sheet bake 30-35 min
My son does not eat the asparagus that is for me and daddy but you can add brussel sprouts, broccoli, just about any root veggie you like to this.

Finally my fav part:
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1tsp hot sauce (use a milder one for kiddo if needed my son loves a kick)
mix these together and top meatloves with this as a glase as soon as they are out of the oven.
My little one LOVES this and many more from this book, he overlooks the spinach it is a great way to sneak in more iron.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I would start feeding him what you eat (assuming you eat a healthy diet) and only buying healthy minimally or unprocessed foods. If you don't have chicken nuggets and hot dogs in the house, it is much easier. Involve him in picking out and preparing food.
Things DS eats for lunch (preschool and home) - yogurt with chopped fresh fruit, peanut butter and jelly on whole grain bread, edamame, chick peas, steamed carrots, broccoli, left over vegetable sushi, last night's left overs, apples, bananas, grapefruit, asparagus, avocado. Generally one dairy or grain item, and either 2 fruits and 1 vegetable or vice versa.

For dinner - whatever we are having. Tonight - tortellini with asparagus, avocado, pears and plums. Last night - steelhead trout, peas, grapefruit.

We either do not do dessert or do fresh fruit. We do not use food as either a reward or punishment, he does not have to eat everything/anything on his plate although we encourage him to taste something if he has not had it before.



answers from New York on

Give him small portions of what you eat with the vegetable as a separate first course - no veg., no whatever is next. Don't get upset, cajole, plead, bargain or bribe. When dinner or lunch is over, he can eat what you served at that meal (which he chose not to eat) for snack and then for dinner. Just be calm, matter of fact, not grumpy. If he chooses not to eat, let him go play peacefully and be cheerful the rest of the time - not bringing up what he is not eating. Then, it is not a power struggle - he just needs to eat what you serve him. Period. It is hard work, I know - I've gone through it with my three kids who all preferred junk - I do, too! But our jobs as moms is to train and raise our children to be healthy adults who can choose to do the right thing regardless of their feelings (like we do all the time - it doesn't come naturally - our parents had to instill it in us, too.)



answers from New York on

All these suggestions are great. May I recommend that as you introduce this you try a healthier version of what you are doing now? Can you get to a Whole Foods or similar store and find turkey dogs with no nitrates or chemicals, (we buy Applegate Farms), and whole meat chicken nuggets, also from a small farm (perdue and the like use chickens treated with hormones, so avoid!). Yogurt is great; try mixing in some plain to cut down on the sugar and after while he may not crave the sweetness so much. Add to it some chopped nuts or fresh fruit for variety.
Good luck!



answers from New York on

You've gotten a lot of good suggestions. One more that worked really well with my daughter. Getting them to TASTE a new food is more than half the battle. We always told my daughter that she had to taste one bite of each new food (we made a little game out of it). We told her she could spit the bite out if she didn't like it (I would hold the napkin in front of her). I can honestly say that she only spit out a handful of things she tried and now she's 11 and eats almost every food you can think of including all fruits/veggies (even brussels sprouts), ethnic foods of all kinds (we've had sushi, thai, chinese, Turkish, etc.) She'll eat calamari and just about every type of fish in any preparation.

I believe she has a broad pallet because she was exposed to so many different tastes at a young age. I read an article recently that stated that all these kids growing up on chicken nuggets and french fries are not developing their taste buds in a way that will make them want other foods when they're older. Nothing else is going to taste good to them. So sad. Expose your son to a variety of foods now and encourage a spirit of adventure in tasting everything.



answers from New York on

Pick up a copy of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and stop giving your kid nitrate-laden, over-processed meat for starters!

Some of my daughter's faves...

for breakfast:
--Pumpkin pancakes -- http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/pumpkin-pancakes/Detail.aspx (you can even throw in a few chocolate chips for a treat) and maybe just use a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top instead of calorie-laden and messy maple syrup

for snacks
-- almond (or any nut) butter on rice cakes or wasa crackers - so crispy!
--Veggie burgers quartered with or without melted cheese
--veggie samosas
--edamame with a little salt or ginger soy sauce (I buy the frozen kind and can whip this up in 4 minutes)
-Greek yogurt (you can add some honey / granola/ dried cranberries, or buy the kind that has the little sidecar of fruit goo)

for lunch / dinner:
--scrambled eggs with a little curry powder / chopped fresh basil / diced green pepper, etc
-- chickpea croquettes (http://sogoodandtasty.blogspot.com/2011/02/chickpea-croqu...) just eliminate the jalapeno if your child is sensitive to spice)
-- in a time crunch, Annie's organic whole wheat mac'n'cheese
-- pastina in vegetable broth with peas

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