"Give children a choice. Suggest a new color vegetable or fruit," says Quattrin, who is leading a major study to test a program for preventing and treating obesity in children aged 2 to 5.
"Fruits and vegetables will help a child feel full. The chips won’t do that," Quattrin says.
Perdomo recommends stocking up on low-fat string cheese, mini bagels, reduced-fat hummus and fat-free yogurt.
A child can also pick ingredients, including low-sugar breakfast cereal, dried fruit and nuts for homemade trail mix, she says.
"The more you give children independence, the better they like it," says Perdomo, affiliate professor of nutrition, Metropolitan State College of Denver.
Parents can help children stick to sensible portions by repacking snacks.
For instance, mix a small amount of cereal, a tablespoon of dried fruit and a tablespoon of nuts into a small container. Thinly spread peanut butter on mini bagels, wrap and freeze. A child can thaw the bagel snack in the microwave oven.
Measure out a new food so a child can see what a healthful amount is. Even though strawberries are nutritious, a serving isn’t the entire pint.
Most importantly, parents need to set a good example.
"Don’t keep a stash of chocolate in the cupboard and think your child won’t know," Quattrin says.
For tips and games to encourage good eating habits, visit MyPyramid at www.mypyramid.gov/kids
Bev Bennett, a veteran food writer and editor, is the author of "Dinner for Two: A Cookbook for Couples" and "30-Minute Meals for Dummies"