Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't Haunt your kids with Veggies

This just in: American kids are getting fat. Alright, that's not going to come as a surprise to most of you.

But a new study gives me another reason to ope
n the discussion, moms and dads, about what your children eat for lunch, dinner and after-school snacks. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reports that among children and adolescents, an average of 40% of their calories comes from eating what we call junk, i.e.- food items which carry little or no nutritional value per calorie.

True story: My great-aunt Estelle, a bohemian from Greenwich Village, was once a clever little child, who's mother boiled spinach until it turned grey and served it to her with no seasoning. Forced to eat everything on her plate before being allowed to leave the table, she sat for hours one day, staring at anything but the soggy grey lump left on her dinner plate. After several hours, Estelle's mother came back to find her child's plate scraped clean, and no spinach in the girl's lap.

End of story? Nope. Two weeks later a wad of old spinach fell from the ceiling! Hooray for Estelle, I wouldn't have touched it either.

Don't make vegetables the villain!

Did your parents say things like "You can't have any cookies until you finish your lima beans"? How did that make you feel about lima beans? Like they were the villain, right? ...obstructing the path to cookie eating. Cookies are sugary, but they are also fun. They have bright colors, hidden surprises like raisins and chocolate chips, and you can line them up, or cut them into shapes before baking.

Why can't vegetables be fun
, too? Have a choice of dips or sauces for the cooked vegetables, let children help make the salad, cut cucumber slices into star shapes. Try a little cheese sauce on the broccoli (made with 1% milk), a little cinnamon in the mashed sweet potatoes... and, gasp, a drop of honey.

By the way, what are YOU eating, Mom?
"When parents eat more fruits and vegetables, so do their children. When parents eat and give their children high fat snacks or soft drinks, children learn these eating patterns instead." says Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., a professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work. The 5-year study she refers to, done in Missouri, advocates reaching for a banana for a snack, instead of potato chips. For yourself, as well.

Sometimes we unwittingly "haunt" our kids by making healthy food out to be a necessary evil, the "bitter pill" before the soda or cookie reward. Making veggies into childhood villains doesn't bode well for vegetable public relations! This time of year, many families make one vegetable... pumpkins, into scary jack-o-lanterns. But that's FUN, and anyway, a month later we make pumpkin pie.

Enjoy the Bountiful BITEs (Bwahahaaa!!) of October! And if you make a great pumpkin soup, please post your recipe in the comments.


One of the first questions parents have about vegetables is how many do their kids actually need to eat each day.

Following the food pyramid, some general recommendations include that:

  • 2- to 3-year-old children eat 1 cup of vegetables each day
  • 4- to 8-year-old children eat 1 1/2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 9- to 13-year-old girls eat 2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 14- to 18-year-old girls eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 9- to 13-year-old boys eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 14- to 18-year-old boys eat 3 cups of vegetables each day

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