Most kids don’t eat enough fruit, veggies and dairy.
With some clever tricks, you can make healthy foods more attractive.
by Althea Zanecosky
After two years of being confined largely to the Internet, the new U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid is headed to supermarkets.
This guide for healthy eating will be promoted in 2,000 stores in 17 states, reaching millions of grocery shoppers. However, and this may come as no surprise to parents, a recent study shows that the older children get, the more likely they are to ignore dietary guidelines like the Food Guide Pyramid.
Research from the American Dietetic Association and USDA shows that children ages 2 to 3 were much more likely to have well-balanced diets reflecting national dietary recommendations than those ages 4 to 8. The problem seemed to be with 3 groups of foods: fruits, vegetables and dairy.
Although older children eat more food than younger ones, the number of fruit servings they eat actually decreases with age. Servings of deep-yellow vegetables and dark-green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli failed to increase with age. The USDA found that milk consumption decreases with age and soft drink intake increases from early childhood into adulthood.
These findings reflect a common tendency among school-age children to abandon healthier eating habits as they become more independent and have more freedom to choose their own snack foods.
The USDA guide below divides foods into several groups and recommends the number of servings from them as children get older and their daily calorie needs increase. Use the table below as a guide for how much of fruits, veggies, and dairy to aim for.
|Small increases in the amount of fruits, vegetables, and dairy that children eat as little as a serving a day could lead to substantial improvements in the quality of children’s diets. Here are ideas for how to get your children to eat more of those foods.
New research has found that cookie lovers seem more likely to eat apples and other fruits than salty snacks. A group at Cornell University looked at the eating habits of thousands of people and concluded the craving for something sweet spans both candy and fruit.
The study, published in the journal Appetite, found people who eat candy, cakes and other sweet snacks eat more fruit than people who prefer salty snacks like nuts and chips. This finding might be useful for parents in encouraging their kids to eat more fruit.
Once upon a time fruit played second fiddle in the meat-centered American diet. These days it’s a nutritional super-star. The vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protective materials called phytochemicals found in fruits help kids grow properly and can help us all live longer and healthier lives. Fruits help keep hunger and calories in check and top the list of foods that reduce cancer and heart disease risk.
The USDA Food Guide Pyramid offers many helpful tips to add fruit to your child’s diet:
Eat Your Veggies
Other calcium-rich, healthy foods include lowfat yogurt, cheese and ice cream, as well as fish and shellfish, broccoli, oranges and almonds.
For more ideas on ways to include fruit, veggies, and dairy in your family’s diet, visit www.mypyramid.gov/ pyramid/index.html
Althea Zanecosky is a Philadelphia registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.