How Some Kids Eat

As you know, Dr. Fuhrman’s book Disease-Proof Your Child is devoted to improving children’s diets and educating parents on the benefits of nutritional excellence. But is a book like this needed? Do kids really have poor eating habits? Granted, childhood obesity is on the rise, but surely parents know how to feed their kids, right? No, that doesn’t appear to be the case at all.

This report by Andrea Pyenson of The Boston Globe provides plenty of evidence that many kids aren’t nutritionally sound—and their parents aren’t exactly helping either:
Courtney, a petite 14-year-old (she’s not quite 5 feet, and 98 pounds) who loves to eat, watch TV cooking shows, and cook, admits, ‘‘I just think about what tastes good. I eat whatever my Mom cooks.’’ She doesn’t like green vegetables, and says fruit ‘‘hurts my mouth.’’ Her favorite foods are pizza, french fries, and chicken…

…Michael, 13 (he’s 5-foot-4 and 120 pounds), the most health-conscious of the three, isn’t crazy about food that grows in the ground, unless it’s starchy, like potatoes or corn. ‘‘I eat any fruit, but I’m not into vegetables,’’ he says. Michael is mostly a pizza, tacos, and steak kind of guy. Every day he spends one to two hours at a computer, the same for TV. His day one dinner menu was steak tips, mashed potatoes, corn, and a glass of water; the following night it was roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and a glass of water.
I’ve got to admit, I don’t understand the “fruit hurts my mouth” comment—maybe she should try peeling the cactus pear before she eats it! But I wasn’t surprised to read that pizza, French fries, and chicken are among kid’s favorite foods. I’m twenty-five and many of peers exist on that stuff.

So, to put it mildly, I do think kids and parents need helping improving their diets. What’s the answer? Check out this section of Disease-Proof Your Child, in it Dr. Fuhrman makes a pretty clear case that healthy eating is a family affair:
Parents are entrusted with the responsibility of securing the selection of healthy foods for the family and preparing the food in a way that makes it desirable. Children are responsible for deciding how much they eat. If they are in an environmental of healthful foods they will have no problem regulating variety and timing. They can choose what they eat, when they eat, and if they will eat. Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Don’t offer a treat because the child was good or ate well. Offer healthy treats as part of the normal well-balanced diet.

No rules only for children. If the parents are not willing to follow the rules set for the house, they should not be imposed on the children. Don’t argue about what your children should and shouldn’t be eating; discuss this in private. As parents, we must be consistent, but not perfect. Likewise, it is okay for the children to be consistent, but not prefer either. For example, if the parents decide that an unhealthy food or a restaurant meal is acceptable for the children once per week, then that goes for the adults, too. Setting an example supported by both parents is the most important and most effective way for your children to develop a healthy attitude toward food.
This makes sense to me, because after all everything is easier when you have good strong team effort. But in case you need a little more advice, check out Dr. Fuhrman’s podcast Getting Children to Eat Well.
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Danielle - December 27, 2006 9:04 PM

The girl who said that fruit hurts her mouth might have a food allergy. Allergies to food can make your mouth scratchy or itchy. It's like a burning sensation. I know because melon does that for me and I've read about it from online.

pworkman - January 21, 2009 11:40 AM

I second Danielle's comments. She's got food allergies or oral allergy syndrome. There are a number of fruits that are more likely to cause this reaction: bananas, stone fruits such as peaches (and almonds), pineapple, kiwi, figs, melons, mango, and citrus. Most of these will give me lesions in my mouth if I eat too much of them. I am okay with a smaller amount, but that would not necessarily be true for Courtney. She needs to find which fruits don't hurt her mouth, and eat more veggies.

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