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Mealtime Problems and Solutions

"My husband and I eat too much takeout!"
Eating pizza while spooning pureed peas to your baby won't go over so well once she's old enough to realize that you have the better deal. You don't have to overhaul your eating habits overnight; just start small, urges Kathleen Kendall-Tuckett, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire who specializes in family stress. "Make it your goal to simply add a vegetable to whatever you're serving that night." Frozen vegetables (with pre-minced bottled garlic or cheese for added flavor) are an easy option.

"My daughter seems to melt down at dinnertime."
At 5 p.m., the day already feels like it's been 27 hours long, yet you have so much to do, and often a fussy baby to boot, says Stacy DeBroff, author of The Mom Book. So how do you cook dinner with a crawling baby at your feet? "Put her in the high chair with toys that come out only at dinnertime," suggests DeBroff. If your child is older, pull out crayons and paper for her to create refrigerator art.

"I need quick meals."
The easiest solution is to make dinner ahead of time: Use Sunday night to prepare a favorite stew, casserole, or pasta dish that's enough to cover two meals during the week. Or try cooking a recipe in bulk and freezing it in family-size portions, suggests Evie Failla, founder of Evie's Organic Edibles, which sells prepared home-cooked child fare to time-crunched moms. Another option, says Failla, is to use a Food Saver (available at Target) to vacuum seal individual toddler-size portions that will keep in the freezer for up to six months. You can also designate one night as healthy takeout night  -- pick up a rotisserie chicken and a green salad on your way home. And keep quick dinner staples like turkey meatballs, ravioli, frozen vegetables, and deli meat on hand so all you have to do is "assemble" dinner.

"My toddler's so picky."
Or maybe he's not. Studies show that it takes children up to 15 exposures to a new food before they begin to like it. So if you've tried carrots only ten times (which we realize may feel like a million already), keep at it. Melt some cheese on those cauliflower florets to entice your daughter. Or give your child his veggies first, when he's hungry and likely to eat anything put in front of him. (Lucy eats peas only if I pop them in her mouth while I'm cooking.)

"After surviving dinner, I'm too spent for bathtime."
So don't do it. If you're at home, try bathing the kids before dinner  -- in the late afternoon, or after breakfast for a squeaky-clean day. I give Lucy a bath every other night predinner, and I love the bath nights off  -- we have extra time to play and relax. Even better, I think we both have more fun with the bubbles and water toys now that baths aren't a daily occurrence.

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