Ask the Expert – Moving from Excessive Snacking to Healthy Foods

Ask The Expert is a weekly column on The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.

There are so many handy snacks around these days. No wonder kids get hooked on them at an early age, so much that they don’t eat anything else. This week, registered dietitian and exercise physiologist  Susan Dopart advises parents to get their kids involved in shopping and cooking as they try to introduce them to vegetables and other healthy foods.

Susan Dopart, MS, RD
  • B.S. Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics, UC Berkeley
  • M.S. Exercise Physiology & Sports Medicine, CA State Univ. Hayward
  • Child and adult medical nutrition: diabetes, endocrinology, heart disease, weight management, cancer, infertility, PCOS
  • Currently in private practice for over 18 years
  • Consultant for UCLA Medical Center, UCLA extension, Beverly Hills Country Club, Sebastien International and P&G
  • Contributor to The Huffington Post and various magazines
  • Book – A Recipe for Life by the Doctor’s Dietitian
  • Website: Susan Dopart
  • Twitter: @smnutritionist
  • Contact:
  • Question: My 5 1/2 yo prefers not to eat! She will “snack” on muffins, goldfish crackers if you let her, but will only eat a handful of other things, none that include vegetables. She weighs 34 lbs and is almost 6 years old; 25% percentile on weight since she was 1 or 2. What should I do?

    Children will eat what you feed them.  If you offer your daughter a variety of healthy choices (and not the muffins, goldfish or other) eventually she will give up and pick one of those.

    Involve her in the shopping and cooking process.  Bring her grocery shopping and have her pick out 2-3 favorite fruits and vegetables each week.  Educate her at the store about what vitamins and minerals are in each one so she knows why they are important to eat.  For example, a strawberry has vitamin C which is important for healing when you scrape your knee.

    In my office I show children the list of multiple ingredients in snack or processed foods.  I then tell them it take their bodies longer to process and digest those foods rather than foods without a label, like fruits and vegetables.

    Taking the snack foods out of house will eliminate temptation and keep the environment clean.  If those foods are not around or accessible, and nutritious foods are in their place it will encourage healthy eating.

    There are ways to make vegetables more kid-friendly.  I have a vegetable casserole that combines vegetables with eggs and cheese in tomato sauce that kids love.

    To encourage new foods have your daughter try a no thank you serving.  Since many children have aversions to vegetables due to their strong flavors, their taste buds need conditioning over time.  A “no thank you” serving is having her try a bite or two (one or two teaspoons) of something she does not like each time it is served.  Research shows a child may need to eat a new food 10 times before they start to like it and ask for it.

    One of the most important aspects of feeding your child is being a healthy role model.  If a child sees you eating vegetables each day, it is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating.

    With respect to your daughter’s size that may be what is normal for her. There is not a concern about her size unless she falls below the 10% percentile for height or weight.

    Good luck.

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    Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by


    1. Dr. Anders Cohen, brooklyn, NY

      My 4 year old tot is also a picky eater. What I did is buy stuff that he has no choice but to eat it. So far she can eat vegetables without hesitation except brocolli.

    2. I sometimes cheat by adding some grated vegetables to an otherwise relatively unhealthy meal. For example, adding grated carrot, corn kernels, peas and pieces of fried egg to 2 minute noodles. That way everyone's happy… until next night when Mum has time to cook properly!

    3. Gluten Intolerance

      I think I have the same situation with GrowingRaw. My mom also adds fried eggs to our noodle snacks and especially for meals. My 3 year’s old little sisters truly loved it, and my mom never tried to add some vegetables from it instead of egg every day. Now my younger sister’s weight is still the same after year.

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