Modeling healthy eating is beneficial to children

My little boy is at the age where he has decided he does not like to eat vegetables. As a parent, how can I instill better eating habits in my child?

Photo: Getty Images

While it’s normal for young children to be picky eaters, there are ways that you can help them develop healthier eating habits. One easy way is through modeling healthy eating habits yourself. One of the most common ways that children learn new things is by watching and imitating parents’ actions.

In fact, research has shown that parents’ eating choices can have a major influence on their children, said Ingrid Adams, state specialist in food, health, and human behavior for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Studies have found that parental modeling of healthy food choices has been positively associated with those same parents’ children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables. And children whose parents modeled healthy eating behaviors were more likely to meet their recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, Adams said.

“By modeling unhealthy eating behaviors, parents may increase the likelihood of their children being overweight or obese, putting them at greater risk for chronic diseases that can affect their health now and in the future,” she said in Modeling at Mealtime, a recent Ohioline fact sheet. Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu.

Adams offers these helpful tips for parents to model healthy eating habits in children:

  • Be willing to try new and healthy food options yourself. Offer new foods without forcing or bribing your child to eat them.
  • Show your kids how to make healthy choices during meals and snack times by choosing nutritious foods—and avoiding “junk foods”—yourself.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables as snacks in place of chips and candies, and replace sodas and other sugary, sweetened drinks with water. In other words, make water your dink of choice.
  • Make meals nutrient dense by including foods from each of the five good groups: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy.
  • Take kids with you when you go grocery shopping. Show them how to choose fresh produce, compare nutrition labels on foods, and how to shop on a budget. This can help them understand where their food comes from, how to make healthy choices, and how to use money wisely.

“Planning and making healthy meals with your children is another way to teach healthy eating habits. It is also a great way for children to learn about nutrition and food safety, and develop cooking skills and creativity,” Adams said. “Encourage creativity by having children create a new menu item from a list of ingredients you picked out together.”

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: Ingrid Adams, field specialist in food, health, and human behavior for OSU Extension, reviewed this column.

Understanding symptoms of food poisoning

How do I know if I have food poisoning?

Photo: Getty Images

The symptoms of food poisoning vary depending on the type of germ to which you’ve been exposed, but there are some common signs that can indicate whether you’ve been exposed to a foodborne illness.

The most common signs include stomach cramps, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Some bacteria, such as Listeria can cause flu-like symptoms.

It’s important to note that symptoms of food poisoning can range from mild to serious and that some of them can come on as quickly as 30 minutes after you eat or as long as four weeks after you’ve eaten something that contains a foodborne pathogen, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The time it takes for symptoms of a foodborne illness to manifest really depends on the germ. For example, according to the CDC, if you consume foods that are contaminated with:

  • Staphylococcus aureus (staph), symptoms could appear as soon as 30 minutes to six hours later.
  • Clostridium perfringens, symptoms could appear as soon as six to 24 hours later.
  • Norovirus, symptoms could appear as soon as 12 to 48 hours later.
  • Salmonella, symptoms could appear as soon as 12 to 72 hours later.
  • Clostridium botulinum (botulism), symptoms could appear as soon as 18 to 36 hours later.
  • Vibrio vulnificus, symptoms could appear as soon as one to four days later.
  • Campylobacter, symptoms could appear as soon as two to five days later.
  • coli, symptoms could appear three to four days later.
  • Cyclospora, symptoms could appear one week later.
  • Listeria monocytogenes, symptoms could appear one to four weeks later.

Some people may experience symptoms that last several hours or several days, said Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“While most people experience only a mild illness, people with underlining conditions that weaken their immune system may experience severe outcomes that require them to be hospitalized,” she said.

So how do you know if you should see a doctor for your symptoms? The CDC advises people to seek medical attention for severe symptoms, including:

  • Blood in your stool.
  • A high fever, typically over 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, measured with an oral thermometer.
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than three days.
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents you from keeping down liquids, as this can lead to dehydration.
  • Signs of dehydration, which can be marked by a decrease in urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy upon standing.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state food safety specialist for OSU Extension.

Dietary supplements to gain increased federal scrutiny

I’ve been thinking about adding a dietary supplement as part of my daily routine. But I’m not sure how or if dietary supplements are regulated.

Photo: Getty Images.

Unlike over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements are regulated more like food products than like drugs. Supplements, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, will now be subject to “new enforcement strategies,” including a new rapid-response tool that can alert consumers to unsafe products, the FDA said in a written statement this week.

The move is “one of the most significant modernizations of dietary supplement regulation and oversight in more than 25 years,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “FDA’s priorities for dietary supplements are to ensure that they’re safe, contain the ingredients listed on the label, and are made according to quality standards.”

This is significant, considering that there are now close to 80,000 dietary supplements on the market, with three of every four American consumers now taking a dietary supplement regularly. For older Americans, the rate is four out of every five.

Dietary supplements regulated by the FDA include vitamins, minerals, and herbs. In the 25 years since Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which gave the FDA the authority to regulate dietary supplements, the dietary supplement market has grown significantly, the agency said.

“As the popularity of supplements has grown, so have the number of entities marketing potentially dangerous products, or making unproven or misleading claims about the health benefits they may deliver,” Gottlieb said.

Some of the new FDA oversight steps will include:

  • communicating to the public as soon as possible when there is a concern about a dietary supplement on the market.
  • ensuring that the FDA’s regulatory framework is flexible enough to evaluate product safety while promoting innovation.
  • developing new enforcement strategies.
  • continuing to engage in a public dialogue to get valuable feedback from dietary supplement stakeholders.

For example, the FDA recently sent 12 warning letters to certain supplement companies whose products the FDA considered as being “illegally marketed as unapproved, new drugs” because they claim to “prevent, treat, or cure Alzheimer’s disease, as well as health conditions like diabetes and cancer.”

Per Commissioner Gottlieb, “Dietary supplements can, when substantiated, claim a number of potential benefits to consumer health. They, however, cannot claim to prevent, treat, or cure diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for OSU Extension.

Protecting yourself from hepatitis A

I just heard about a recent health warning advising people who had visited a central Ohio restaurant last month to get a hepatitis A vaccine. What is hepatitis A, and why would people who were at the restaurant need a vaccine?

Photo: Getty Images

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that infects a person’s liver. It can be spread through close contact with a person who has hepatitis A or by eating food prepared by a person with hepatitis A.

The recent warning concerns consumers who patronized Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 479 N. High St. in Columbus, Ohio, from Jan. 1–16 of this year. Columbus Public Health issued the warning after a person who had direct contact with food at the restaurant was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

According to Columbus Public Health, consumers who ate at the restaurant from Jan. 1–16 are encouraged to get a hepatitis A vaccine as soon as possible. The agency also said that those same consumers should watch for symptoms of hepatitis A.

Symptoms can include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, fatigue, fever, a loss of appetite, joint pain, dark urine, and gray stool. These symptoms can develop from two to six weeks after the infection occurs. During that time, infected people can spread the virus to others.

There were 10,582 confirmed hepatitis A cases nationwide last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is part of an increase in reported cases in recent years, the government agency said.

Between 2015 and 2016, reported cases increased by 44.4 percent from 1,390 in 2015 to 2,007 cases in 2016. The 2016 increase was due to two hepatitis A outbreaks, each of which was linked to imported foods, CDC said. In Ohio alone, there have been at least 1,531 cases of hepatitis A last year, health officials said.

In fact, the Ohio Department of Health “has declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A after observing an increase in cases linked to certain risk factors since the beginning of 2018. Outbreaks of hepatitis A are occurring in several states across the U.S., including neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia,” the agency shared in a written statement.

Handwashing is one of the most effective means of preventing the spread of hepatitis A, especially for people who are preparing or serving foods or beverages, the CDC says. This is because food and beverages can become contaminated with the hepatitis A virus when microscopic amounts of feces are transferred from an infected person’s hands.

Additionally, the virus can survive on surfaces and isn’t killed when exposed to freezing temperatures, health experts say. 

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Prep and freeze food for later use in oven, slow cooker

When I get home from work some nights, I am exhausted and simply don’t feel like cooking. Any tips on what I can do to still eat healthy those nights without having to go out to eat or spend a lot of time making a meal?

Photo: Getty Images.

On a nonworkday, you could make several meals in advance and then store them in your freezer to defrost at a later date. On a day when you don’t have the time or energy to make a full meal, you’ll have access to quick, easy, nutritious, homemade meal options.

Freezing meals in advance can be helpful anytime you need a ready-to-go meal or when you take a meal to someone in need, said Shannon Carter, an Ohio State University Extension educator with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Freezer meals can save you time by prepping all the ingredients ahead of time, and then only taking minutes to put in the oven or slow cooker after they are thawed,” she said. “Freezer meals can also save you money because you can purchase ingredients when they are on sale to enjoy them later.”

One way to get started is to plan both the amount and the kinds of meals you want to make in advance and freeze, Carter said in a recent blog post.

“Once you have an idea of what you want to prepare, you can make the entire meal and freeze it, precook a portion of the recipe to freeze, or assemble ingredients to freeze and cook later,” she said.

Here are some other tips from Carter:

  • Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate as a guide for your menu. Plan a variety of low-fat proteins and dairy along with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Consider avoiding ingredients that don’t freeze well, such as mayonnaise and lettuce.
  • Gather ahead of time all the ingredients and containers for freezing. Freezer bags or cartons work well. Label the bags or containers with a permanent marker before filling. Label with the name of the recipe, date, and instructions for cooking.
  • Lay freezer bags flat in the freezer so they are easier to thaw. Consider placing the freezer bags on a pan or baking sheet until frozen and then stacking them in the freezer, or stand the bags vertically once frozen.
  • Foods kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit are safe indefinitely, although quality might deteriorate after 3–6 months.
  • The safest way to thaw frozen foods is in the refrigerator. A gallon-sized bag of food will usually thaw in the refrigerator in about 24 hours.
  • You can also defrost frozen foods in the microwave and then cook them immediately.
  • When using a slow cooker, completely thaw the food before placing it into the slow cooker. This ensures that the food does not enter the “danger zone,” a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit at which bacteria grows most rapidly.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was edited by Shannon Carter, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Meal kits and other food delivery services should include a focus on food safety

I’m using a meal kit delivery service for the first time. What do I need to be aware of when ordering, and when the food arrives?

Photo: Getty Images.

Meal kit delivery and food preparation services have grown in popularity in recent years, with revenue in that sector expected to grow to over $10 billion in 2020, up from $1 billion in 2015, according to Statista, Inc., a New York-based market and consumer data firm.

Ease and convenience are some of the factors for that increase, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But, it’s important that safe food handling methods are used when receiving food through a mail delivery service, especially when receiving perishable foods, food safety experts say.

Whether it be a subscription meal kit, mail-ordered food, or groceries delivered to your home from a local grocery store, home-delivered food must be handled properly to ensure food safety, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a posting this week.

Consumers are advised to research a company and its practices regarding food safety before placing an order. One thing to consider is whether the company offers instructions for safe handling and preparation of the food, including cooking temperature, with each shipment, the CDC said.

It’s also important to research, if possible, how the company deals with food that is delivered at an unsafe temperature. For example, perishable foods—especially meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs—should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. When this happens, the food can enter the “danger zone,” a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit at which bacteria grows most rapidly.

“It can be difficult for consumers to gather information on the practices and policies of meal delivery services in order to make an informed decision regarding food safety,” said Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

“However, checking the temperature of perishable foods when they are received, cooking raw meat products to the appropriate USDA-recommended internal temperature, and checking the delivery for damage or leaks that can lead to cross-contamination are practices consumers can implement themselves,” she said.

Additionally, the CDC recommends that you:

  • arrange for the food to be delivered when someone is at home so that it can be refrigerated quickly instead of being left outside for extended periods of time.
  • find a safe space for delivery if no one will be at home when the food arrives.Food should be delivered to a cool, shaded, and secure location where pests and rodents can’t access it. Let the company know where you would like them to leave your box.
  • examine both the box and the packaging in which the food was delivered. If you ordered perishable food such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or dairy, look for stickers on the box that say “Keep Refrigerated” or “Keep Frozen.”
  • make sure that the company used insulated packaging and materials such as dry ice or frozen gel packs to keep all of the perishable food cold in transit.
  • refrigerate or freeze your delivery as soon as possible until you are ready to prepare it. Remember, bacteria can multiply rapidly if food is kept in the danger zone between 40 and 140 degreesFahrenheit for more than two hours.

Lastly, use a food thermometer to accurately measure the delivered food’s temperature. If the food is warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t eat it. Instead, contact the company to find out whether they will offer you a replacement since you will not know how long the food has been in the danger zone.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

 Editor: This column was reviewed by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Some food allergies really aren’t food allergies

My husband has always assumed he is allergic to strawberries, but it turns out that he’s not allergic at all. He just has an intolerance to them. How common is that?

Milk and eggs are among the most common food allergies. Photo: Getty Images.

Very, it seems.

According to a new study published this week in the journal JAMA Network Open, nearly half of the people who think they have food allergies, really don’t. Instead, many people may suffer from food intolerance or celiac disease, which they may believe to be an allergic reaction to certain foods.

The study, which was done at Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University, was based on a nationally representative survey of over 40,443 adults. According to the study results, 19 percent of adults think they are currently food allergic, although their reported symptoms are inconsistent with a true food allergy—a situation that can trigger a life-threatening reaction.

The study found that only half of adults with a food allergy had a physician-confirmed diagnosis, with fewer than 25 percent having a current epinephrine prescription. Instead, the study authors said that while one in 10 adults have a food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods. But their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food-related conditions instead.

According to the study authors, in order to have a true food allergy, respondents had to cite at least one of the following symptoms: hives, swelling of the lip or tongue, difficulty swallowing, chest tightness, trouble breathing, vomiting, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or low blood pressure. Those who reported having only an itchy mouth or gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and cramps, were not considered to have a food allergy, because symptoms such as those don’t indicate the body’s immune system reacting to an allergen, the researchers said.

“It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet,” the researchers said in a written statement. “If a food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine.”

The study authors also found that nearly half of those with a food allergy developed it while an adult. Common foods identified as allergens among U.S. adults are:

  • shellfish, affecting 7.2 million adults
  • milk, affecting 4.7 million adults
  • peanut, affecting 4.5 million adults
  • tree nut, affecting 3 million adults
  • fin fish, affecting 2.2 million adults
  • egg, affecting 2 million adults
  • wheat, affecting 2 million adults
  • soy, affecting 1.5 million adults
  • sesame, affecting .5 million adults

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for OSU Extension.

Nontoxic Food Decorations Aren’t Always Edible

I’m making a batch of holiday goodies, and I’m using several kinds of festive decor on the cakes, cookies, and pies. Some of this glitter and sparkly stuff is very pretty, but I’m wondering if it’s really safe to eat.

Photo: Getty Images.

That depends on what the label on its packaging says.

When baking fancy cookies, cakes, cupcakes, or other foods for the holidays—or for any occasion—it’s important that you are aware of which decorations are edible and which ones aren’t.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer alert this week that some glitters and dusts promoted for use in foods might, in fact, contain materials that should not be eaten.

In fact, the FDA says consumers might want to avoid using glitter and dust to decorate cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, and other food items unless the products are specifically manufactured to be edible.

While some glitters and dusts are sold online and in craft and bakery supply stores under names such as luster dust, disco dust, twinkle dust, sparkle dust, highlighter, shimmer powder, pearl dust, and petal dust, not all are safe to eat, the FDA says.

Some of the decorations might be labeled nontoxic, but that doesn’t mean they are meant to be eaten.

“Some decorative glitters and dusts promoted for use on foods may, in fact, contain materials that should not be eaten,” the FDA said in a written statement.

So how can you distinguish between glitters and dusts that are safe to eat from those that are unsafe to eat?

Food decorations that are edible must be clearly labeled as such. Companies that make edible glitters and dusts are required by law to include a list of ingredients on the label, per the FDA. If the label simply says “nontoxic” or “for decorative purposes only” and does not include an ingredients list, you should not use the product directly on foods.

Nontoxic glitters and dust, which are typically used to make crafts sparkle, are made out of plastic.

In contrast, some of the most common ingredients used to make edible glitter or edible dust include sugar, acacia (gum arabic), maltodextrin, cornstarch, and color additives specifically approved for food use, including mica-based pearlescent pigments and FD&C colors such as FD&C Blue No. 1.

If you are purchasing a professionally decorated cake or other food item, specifically ask the baker or cook if all ingredients are edible. To ensure that the decorative products are edible, you can also ask to see their labels.

If you do decide to purchase or decorate a food item with decorations that are not edible, you should be sure that you remove the decorations before serving or eating the food. You don’t want anyone who eats your treats to have any adverse reactions to your creations.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Jenny Lobb, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Special Note: Chow Line is taking a two-week holiday hiatus. Look for fresh perspectives in the New Year on Jan. 11, 2019.

With Holiday Baking Season in Full Swing, a Reminder from CDC to Just Say No to Eating Raw Dough

My grandkids and I have a tradition of spending a Saturday afternoon this time of year baking pies, cakes, and cookies for the holidays. I’ve always let my grandkids lick the spoon from the raw cake batter and raw cookie dough, but now my son is telling me it’s not safe to do so. Why is that?

A little girl licks a spoon while baking cookies. Photo: Getty Images.

While many people (including me!) might love the taste of raw cookie dough or raw cake or brownie batter, eating it can make you sick. That’s because the raw eggs and uncooked flour that go into many recipes can contain bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella, which can result in a bad case of foodborne illness.

Most people know that raw or undercooked eggs can cause salmonella poisoning, which can result in fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, but fewer people are aware that raw flour can also harbor dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli, which can also cause significant illness.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection can include severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Most people typically recover from illness associated with salmonella and E. coli within a week.

In a new warning issued recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consumers are reminded that flour is derived from untreated grain and might be contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli.

“Harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or at other steps as flour is produced,” the CDC said.

For example, if an animal defecates or urinates in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In fact, between December 2015 and September 2016, some 63 people across the United States developed an E. coli infection after eating raw flour. And in Canada, 30 people became sick between November 2016 and April 2017 after eating raw or uncooked flour contaminated with E. coli, according to the CDC.

To avoid any potential bouts of foodborne illness, it is recommended that you avoid tasting or eating raw dough or batter, regardless of whether it is for cookies, tortillas, biscuits, pancakes, or crafts such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments.

Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli that may be present in raw dough are killed in the cooking process, the FDA says.

Additionally, the CDC recommends that you:

  • do not allow children to play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.
  • ensure that you bake or cook raw dough and batter, such as cookie dough and cake mix, before eating.
  • follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking at the proper temperature and for the specified time.
  • do not make milkshakes with products that contain raw flour, such as cake mix.
  • do not use raw, homemade cookie dough in ice cream.
  • keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods. This is because flour is a powder and can spread easily.
  • follow label directions to refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are cooked.
  • clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw dough by washing your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces that they have touched. Also remember to wash bowls, utensils, countertops, and other surfaces with warm, soapy water.

For those of you (like me!) who want the taste of raw cookie dough without the worry of foodborne illness, you do have the option of indulging in cookie dough candies and cookie dough ice cream sold in stores. These items contain dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for Ohio State University Extension.

Picky Eating a Normal Part of Early Childhood

My 4-year-old REFUSES to eat anything that is the color red — no red apples, tomatoes, red peppers or even pepperoni on his pizza. He didn’t used to care what color his food was, but within the past couple weeks, he’s taken a distain for red foods. Is this normal?

Little Girl refusing to eat healthy lunch/snack of fruit and drink her milk. Photo: Getty Images.

As frustrating as that may be for you when planning family meals and deciding what to feed your little one, picky eating habits are considered a normal part of a child’s development, according to health professionals.

In fact, up to half of preschoolers have exhibited picky eating habits, from wanting their foods prepared only a certain way, to not wanting to try new foods, and to, yes, refusing to eat foods based on color, research has found.

This could be in part because as a child’s growth slows between the ages of 2 and 5, most children experience a decrease in appetite, says Carol Smathers, a field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Picky eating may also be part of establishing independence during the preschool years,” she said. “The good news is that as long as a child is growing normally and has plenty of energy, chances are that his or her diet is providing the necessary nutrients.

“And fortunately, most children will become willing to eat a much greater range of foods over time.”

There are ways to encourage your little ones to expand their palates and savor a wider range of foods. For example, Smathers says, you can:

  • Take your children grocery shopping and let them choose fruits and vegetables.
  • Offer taste-testing opportunities as a way to introduce your child to new foods before they are served in meals. For produce, you can show your child how the food is grown and let your child compare how it tastes both cooked and raw.
  • Include your children in meal preparation, giving them as much responsibility as appropriate for their age and ability. Let them wash fruits and vegetables, measure and add ingredients, or help stir.
  • Offer realistic options, such as, “Would you like carrots or peas tonight?” instead of asking something like, “Do you want peas?”
  • Talk about how much you enjoy the different foods that are being served and what you like about them.

It may also help if you can focus on making mealtime fun and meaningful for your children and family. Ask your kids how their day has gone, or if they did anything fun that day. If your focus is on the foods they won’t eat and how their picky tastes negatively impact the meal, it could lead to unhealthy attitudes toward food and eating habits.

However, if you have a lingering concern about your child’s picky eating habits, it’s best not to scold your child or argue with them to eat. You could instead have a conversation with your pediatrician, nutritionist or other healthcare provider about your concerns. 

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension.