So Long, Soda...Hello, Fruit
By Walecia Konrad
Are your kids addicted to chips, soda, and sweets?
Advice from Dr. William Sears on getting your kids to eat right
Even if you prepare healthy meals at home for your family, your teen or tween still makes a lot of her own food decisions-in the school cafeteria, at friends' houses, at the food court in the mall. How can you help your child make the right choices without you?
William Sears, M.D.-a pediatrician, father of eight children (ages 14 to 39), and author of more than 30 popular parenting books-offers some answers in a new book, The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood. Cowritten with his wife (a nurse) and two of his sons (who are both pediatricians), it provides a detailed nutritional guide as well as plenty of down-to-earth advice. Below, Dr. Sears talks about keeping kids on the right nutritional track.
Q: Tell a kid that a food is good for him, and odds are that he'll immediately hate it. How can parents convince kids to eat well?
Even older kids equate healthy with gross when it comes to food. So stay away from off-putting labels and focus instead on the tangible benefits of eating well. Here's an example: I tell my 14-year-old and 17-year-old sons that certain foods will make their muscles and brains work better, helping them get higher test scores, run faster, and hit more home runs. For my baseball-crazy 17-year-old, especially, this was a real winner.
Appearance is another good enticement. I have one patient, a 15-year-old girl, who recently came in for a checkup. Her mom was worried about her daughter's new craving for sugary coffee drinks and the girl's pronounced aversion to fresh fruits and vegetables. When I told the girl that eating well would make her hair shinier and her skin clearer, it really got her attention.
Q: As kids get older, they eat more meals away from home. How can parents influence kids' food choices?
There's simply no substitute for setting a great example. Now is the time to be even more careful about what you serve at home. When kids grow accustomed to eating nutritious, healthy foods-and feeling good afterward-they tend to do just fine when they're on their own. Serve a delicious dinner of grilled skinless chicken breasts and two or three vegetables, or a snack of yogurt, fruit, and almonds, and kids will immediately respond to the satisfied-but not too full-feeling they get when they're finished. Sure, they'll eat an order of fries after the soccer match or some pizza and soda at a party. But they will be more aware of the sluggish way they feel afterward and eat less of the bad stuff.