I was a Pediatric Dietitian for 11.4 weeks. It was a part-time gig with full-time gratification. I don't have kids but I do know how to relate to them. But when it comes to nutrition for kids, all Dietitians know that counseling the parents [not the kids] is half the battle.
For just under 3 months [on the weekends] I'd drive 5o minutes to a town on Long Island called Garden City. In Garden City there's a Pediatrician who's working to curb the childhood obesity epidemic, her name is Dr. Joanna Dolgoff. Her program Red Light Green Light Eat right is on its way to changing the world of Kids nutrition counseling and weight loss. She's been in the news and on TV promoting her successful program numerous times and when I had the opportunity to get involved even for a short period, I was more than excited.
There are certain aspects of nutrition for kids that play a crucial role in the way kids think and eat on a daily basis. Working with kids and their parents only reiterated what the nutrition world has been touting for so many decades.
1. Kids nutrition starts with the parents. This one is more important than any parent would ever imagine. If you don't teach your kids healthy eating habits from the start, your child will be more likely to have a host of health problems as an adult including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, the list goes on. Your job as a parent is to lead by example. "Do as I say, not as I do" is not a good tactic - instead serve healthy foods for everyone in the family and place emphasis on how tasty fruits and vegetables really are. Your kids will follow suit.
2. Peer pressure is the biggest saboteur. There are kids out there who have no problem ignoring pressure from their friends to eat pizza or other junk foods. On the other hand, most kids fall victim. One of my biggest challenges as a Pediatric Dietitian was helping kids overcome pressure from their friends to eat junk food instead of their healthy counterparts. As parents it's your job to teach your children how to have confidence in their decisions and choices in all aspects of their lives including what they choose to put in their mouths. As kids get older it becomes easier for kids to practice confidence, but that's only if they have positive support, influence and guidance from their parents.
What do you do with kids who just don't want to try new foods? Get them involved! Make food fun and interesting, show them how delicious healthy foods are and you'd be surprised at how interested they become.
What do you do with kids who don't understand why we should eat healthy foods? Work on teaching them simple concepts - start with 'Healthy foods make us grow strong and smart'. Focus on the positive and take small steps. Kids are surprisingly resilient and their desire to learn and eat healthy is far beyond any adult. Kids are proud to eat healthy and make healthy decisions - you just have to open their minds to it.
Do your kids eat healthy? What have been some of their favorite go-to nutrient packed meals?