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
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