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Allow three-year-olds control of their menu planning: The height of picky eating is around age 3, which is also when every instinct in their little bodies is telling them to separate from you and also when they are experiencing lots of new things such as preschool. This independence is a little scary so they may want the same thing every day. Those things are usually starchy and lack any discernible colour. Do not fall for it.

Pressure them to clean their plates, nag them about their diet: A new study by the Journal of American Dietetic Association found a clear link between how much pressure a mother (why is it always the mother?) puts on her kids to eat healthy food and the level of the kids' fussiness about food. That is an inverse correlation, by the way. So that means the more pressure you put on kids the more likely they will be picky eaters.

Always go for the quick and easy: Processed food is high in salt and fat, which appeals to little (and big) palates. Homemade food has a wider range of colour, texture and taste, opening up their minds and their tongues to a lifetime of different foods.

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Make some foods verboten: Forbidden foods become the most desirable foods on the planet. It is much better to teach moderation instead of demonizing foods.

Do not allow kids to learn about hunger: When we insist our kids clean their plates, or have one more spoonful, we are overriding the natural impulse they were born with to know when they are hungry and when they are full. The way they learn to recognize those signs is by serving themselves and choosing how much to eat. They need to learn how much fills them up by making mistakes and feeling a bit hungry.

Short-order cook: You knew that already.

Assume there is such a thing as kid food: Food is food. Kids eat curry and tomatoes and all sorts of things all over the world. They do not need to be catered to with dumbed-down meals.

Be a bad example: If you are not a healthy eater or have food issues, then your kids will too. If you eat healthy meals that contain lots of flavour and lots of food groups, your kids will most likely learn to as well.

From Emma Waverman's Embrace the Chaos blog, Dec. 1

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