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Some kids want only hot dogs for lunch and dinner. Others will have nothing to do with anything green or with one food touching another. Whatever your kid’s particular penchant, there will always be finicky eaters and parents who are looking for painless ways to broaden their child’s appetite.

One way to do that, say child nutritionists, is to encourage your child to cook with you, even if only by adding ingredients and/or stirring the bowl. Children who engage in cooking a meal are more likely to eat it.

Also, because children tend to imitate what others do, another way to tempt your child, without fraying nerves or deepening resistance, is to offer alternatives in a casual way that encourages new food choices:

  • Personal Pizzas – Create personal pizzas from store-bought dough and top each with a favorite sauce. Then, lay out a toppings bar so that each family member can ‘build’ their own pizza from choices like sliced ham, shredded chicken, pepperoni and even sliced hot dogs, if that’s your kid’s favorite—plus cheese and a colorful, tempting array of chopped veggies and pineapple chunks. Pop the finished masterpieces into the oven and watch young eyes light up when they come out ready to eat.
  • Nacho Bar – Who doesn’t love a pile of tortilla chips topped with melted cheese? Build on that by microwaving the base, then letting everyone choose from extra toppings, such as shredded chicken, cooked ground beef, chopped tomatoes, kernel corn and beans. Watching others pile on their favorite toppings may encourage reluctant little eaters.
  • Pancake or Waffle Buffet – Cook up a batch of pancakes or waffles, keeping them warm in the oven. If your kids are old enough, they can help make the batter or turn pancakes on the grill. Set out syrup if that’s a must, but add a few options like sliced bananas, fresh or thawed berries and little extras like chopped nuts, raisins, shredded coconut or chocolate chips.