How can having a more diverse diet promote a child's brain development?
The mouth is the first place where the world becomes tangible. Everything goes into their mouths in order for infants to understand it -- you name it, it goes in there. This is how they make connections. Providing diversity in a diet means providing the most variety in what your child learns and understands about the world, which will mean stimulation for the body and the brain. If a child is given the same food, of, say, mashed potatoes for every single meal, it would not be surprising that the brain stimulation as the nutritional intake would be quite poor.
Why is it important that parents push new, healthy foods versus masking them, like many
popular kids cookbooks advise?
Masking foods actually enables picky eating by pretending that certain foods should be hidden from view and avoided. If, from the very beginning of being introduced to foods, babies and toddlers are taught that healthy, whole and organic foods are delicious, they won't doubt the deliciousness of those foods later on in life. Every child goes through a picky phase, but I believe kids will go back to accepting what they were initially introduced to.
Speaking of picky phases, do you have any tips for parents of picky eaters?
Just keep trying. If your child has suddenly turned against the broccoli that she loved until yesterday, just keep serving it. And remember: If parents can adopt a healthy approach to eating from the very start, it often curbs the severity of the fussy period.
The main thing is to have patience and not show frustration. You don't want your child to associate eating with something negative. A fussy phase is just that -- a phase.