Q: Our 11-year-old is still a picky eater. Will he ever grow out of it? We try to insist he try new things, but he eats exactly as many bites as we say he has to and then snacks later. I'm tired of cooking a separate meal for him, but I want to be certain he eats a healthy diet. What can I do?
A: We know of no way to force or trick an 11-year-old into eating what he doesn't want to eat. We suggest two straightforward actions on your part -- the rest is up to him.
First, be certain the food available for snacks is nutritious. Here are some suggestions: fresh fruits and vegetables, vitamin-supplemented cereals without sugar, low-fat cheese, low-salt crackers, microwave popcorn without butter, whole-grain breads, peanut butter.
Don't stock foods high in fat or sugar. When your son looks for a snack, it will be the kind of food from which you'd make a healthy meal.
Second, don't cook a separate meal for him. If he chooses to cook himself, help him schedule food preparation so he eats with the family.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.