LAWRENCEVILLE -- From babies to teens, parents feed their children meals three times a day to create strong bones, healthy brain development and lean muscles. But not all youngsters eat the same.
Whether they're "picky" eaters or adventurous foodies, there are ways to teach children how to eat properly to support the growth in their flourishing bodies.
Since we are taught to eat by through those who raise us, the first rule of thumb is to lead by example for your children, especially in the early years when young taste buds are constantly evolving.
"Parents, siblings and other adults act as role models for eating as well as other things," said Amy Tella, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Gwinnett Medical Center. "It is important for these role models to set a good example for healthy eating. Kids develop rapidly during these early years and it's very important to get the nutrients for growth, but it's just as important that they don't get too many calories."
Charles Cole of Sugar Hill couldn't agreed more with Tella about his family's, wife, Whitney and 2-year-old son, Charlie, lifestyle.
"One of the best ways to eat healthy at our house is to not have junk food around," he said. "When it's at the store and not in your drawer, it is a lot harder to eat. Another way we eat healthy is using phone apps to check on nutrition. Some things you wouldn't think twice about are so unhealthy."
Children should try as many flavors as possible while they are growing, but only one at a time. Serving an Indian meal with 10 spices, four vegetables and lots of curry probably isn't the best route.
"Early in life our taste buds are continuously changing, so it's important to not just offer things to your children once and then write it off," Tella said. "It often takes eight to 15 times of trying, smelling or seeing something to decide you like or dislike something. Introduce new flavors or smells one at a time to avoid overwhelming the kids pallets."
Some parents have found that the 'no thank you bite' helps to get their kids to try new things. This is where you have to have at least one bite of something new or something they say they don't like. This at least gets them to try new and different foods."
Cole has let his son become his own food investigator.
"As long as it is safe to feed him a food, I will let him try it," he said. "I have never stopped him from stealing from my plate. If he sees me eating it, he wants to try it, too. It's the best way I have found for him to learn new food. I let him decide what he likes and doesn't, but he has to try it. He doesn't like my spicy food, but surprisingly he really liked my quinoa the other night."
Another way to get the kids interested in their food is by getting them involved in the grocery shopping and meal preparation.
"If they have a hand in making dinner, they are more likely to eat it," Tella said. "Have them pick out something new at the store each week to try. Another idea is to make it a challenge to see how many different colors of foods they can put on their plate for the week."
If the grocery store isn't exciting enough for your little ones, take them to the farmers market and show them the variety of fruits and vegetables that are used in different cuisines from around the world. Then, plan a night a week -- or every other week -- to make meals from around the globe.
But even as picky eating adults, we can retain our taste buds to try new things or learn to love those flavors that we always despised.
"My one piece of advice (to parents) is to lead by example," Tella said. "If your kids see you eating healthy then they are more likely to follow in your footsteps. Don't keep foods in the house that shouldn't be eaten on a regular basis. If the junk food is not there, it can't be eaten by the kids or you. Reserve the more unhealthy foods for special occasions."