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Nutrition

Talk To Your Kids About Eating Healthy - It Works!


Parents across the U.S. will agree that getting their kids to eat more fruits and vegetables can be a real challenge. So what works? A recent KidsHealth® KidsPoll asked kids, ages 9-13, to share their habits and attitudes about eating healthy. The survey found that kids who talk with their families on a weekly or monthly basis about eating healthy consume more fruits and vegetables, drink more water, and have a greater intention to eat healthy foods.

Talking to your kids about eating healthy does work:

  • 73% of kids who said their family talks to them monthly about eating healthy, and 66% who said their family talks to them about eating healthy weekly, reported that they try to eat healthy "most" or "all the time."

  • 51% of kids who said their family talks to them weekly about eating healthy, and 43% who said their family talks to them about eating healthy monthly, reported that yesterday they ate 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables.

  • Of the kids who spoke with their family weekly about eating healthy, the majority (30%) ranked "water" as their first choice for a beverage over soda, sports drinks, fruit juice, and milk.

    In contrast:

    • 35% of kids who said their family "never" talks to them about eating healthy reported that they try to eat healthy "once in a while," or "never."

    • 62% of kids who said their family "never" talks to them about eating healthy reported that yesterday they ate 0-2 servings of fruits and vegetables.

    • Of the kids who reported that they "never" talk to their parents about eating healthy, the majority (34%) ranked "soda/pop or fruit flavor drink" as their first choice for a beverage.

    "Parents should take advantage of their child's natural curiosity," said Dr. Mary L. Gavin, a pediatrician and medical editor for KidsHealth®. "When your child asks questions such as 'Why do I have to eat that?' this is the perfect time to teach your child about making healthy food choices. Explain why that food is good for him or her and encourage your child to give it a try."

    "Parents should not give up after one or two attempts with a new food," said Dr. Gavin. "Start a 'just try it' rule and stick to it at every meal. Kid's palates, like their personalities, develop over time. It may take 10 or more tries before a child actually learns to like a new fruit or vegetable. Your child doesn't need to finish everything on their plate, but they do need to try it - every time."

    Other findings:

    • Kids are more likely to skip breakfast as they become older: 12% of 9-year olds vs. 31% of 12-year olds "usually do not eat breakfast."

    • When asked, 'Where do you get most of your information about eating healthy?' kids ranked a family member highest (36%), school second (28%), and doctor or nurse third (19%).

    • Last but not least, when asked "Most of the time, who chooses the foods you eat?" 58% reported that they do, with "Mom" close behind (31%).

    The KidsHealth® KidsPoll on Nutrition and Food Choices surveyed 959 children ages 9 to 13 across the U.S., at eight member sites of the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC). The survey was conducted by researchers from the Department of Health Education and Recreation, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

    For more information on KidsHealth, visit www.KidsHealth.org.


© 2005 Health Resources Publishing