Are picky eaters making you cook more?
Try these 9 tips:

You've seen picky eaters. They won't eat veggies. They eat only chicken nuggets or boxed mac and cheese. And forget trying anything new. Not only can it be frustrating, but unhealthy for your young person. Many parents give up on this battle and let kids make their own (poor) eating choices. Don't be one of them.

If your child isn't hungry at dinnertime, or is refusing to eat what you prepare, you need to make some changes. Here's what to do:

1. Limit snacks, quantity and proximity to dinner
If your child is eating a snack at 5pm, no wonder they are turning up their nose at what you prepare. They're not hungry! It should be no surprise that the only thing that might lure them into eating is “food” with artificial flavors, high sodium and/or sugar.

2. Offer only healthy options—sooner or later they'll take it.
This means no processed food or frozen junk. I know these items seem like a great deal in terms of their convenience, but they are not worth the health and emotional issues that come with them.

3. Stop cooking a separate meal for them.
If they know that they can have an alternative, why should they expand their palates to try different, more healthy food? Some families insist on offering an alternative in case their child doesn't like the food. This is a personal choice, but I maintain that hungry kids are not picky eaters. And no one is going to starve in twelve hours, either.

4. Require exercise.
Active kids are more hungry, and the hungrier they are, the less likely they are to refuse what you've prepared.

5. Limit tv
This encourages activity and also limits temptation for the junk food that is advertised, targeting your child.

6. Give them opportunities to cook for the family.
Show them how to plan, shop for and cook a meal that they choose to increase buy in and ownership over the experience.

7. Read labels carefully!
We are lucky to have so much nutritional information on the food we buy. If you look at these labels, you might have a few surprises. Did you know that a “fruit-at-the-bottom” style yogurt has about as much sugar as a regular sized Hershey chocolate bar?

8. Explain the new plan at a family meeting.
If following these tips constitute a significant change in your lifestyle, give everyone advance notice. Explain the health and time benefits. The rest of the family will be more likely to get on board if they don't feel tricked. Encourage communication along the way to get the buy in.

9. Don't be afraid to stick to your guns.
Changing your lifestyle impacts the whole family and I didn't expect excited compliance immediately, but I always insist on manners. The one and only time one of my kids made a disparaging remark about what I had prepared, I was up in a flash, had removed the plate of food and had dismissed him from the table. End of story.

Picky eaters will probably resist your changes to offer only limited snacks and only healthy meals. Your child may fight with you, argue with you, cry, yell, do anything that might make you cave in. Stay strong! In time, if picky eaters realize that healthy changes are here to stay, they will adapt to your new program.

The picky eaters in your home (and you) will be better off in the long run. Here's why.

Poor nutrition impacts physical and emotional health in older kids and adults. In the United States, foods are specifically targeted at kids that are very high in sodium, artificial flavors and colors, sugar and fat. The flip side is that there is little exposure to healthy green veggies and whole grains and healthy protein.

Another problem is that you end up cooking a meal for your child and a meal for yourself, which wastes and disrespects your time. You are teaching your child that they don't need to eat with the family.

Picky eaters didn't exist 100 years ago. What's changed?

Food has changed and our attitudes have changed. Food is manufactured and designed to taste good with chemicals and artificial additives. One hundred years ago kids ate real food and now food aimed at our kids contains large quantities of sodium, sugar, artificial colors and flavorings. Did you know that Europe has banned certain artificial dyes in food? In the U.S. there has been little response to health concerns of food chemicals.

100 years ago, after a hard day, the family would sit down together for a meal. I wasn't there, but I don't think there were complaints; I think there was appreciation.

It's possible that your child is literally addicted to sugar, sodium, artificial flavorings. So really what you need to do is detox your child. Don't be surprised if he exhibits some withdrawal symptoms (seriously).

Stay strong! You can do it! Change the habits of your picky eaters and enjoy a new life. Your family be healthier by eating together one healthy meal.

Go to Getting Kids to Eat Healthy from Picky Eaters