If you struggle with getting healthy meals on the table for your kids after a long day at work, you’re not alone. Dietitian Jill West talked to 400 nutritionists to ask what they feed their own kids. It turns out that even for nutrition experts, dinner sometimes means choosing the healthiest drive-through option. We’ll talk with West and two pediatricians about how to help kids develop healthy eating habits, what food battles are worth fighting, and how to keep our kids eating well without having to become a full-time organic gardener and chef.

How to Help Kids Become Healthy Eaters 20 March,2014forum

Jill West, registered dietitian and author of "400 Moms Discover What 400 Nutrition Experts Feed Their Kids"
Amy Beck, pediatrician at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital who researches affects of beverages on children's health
June Tester, pediatrician and co-director of the Healthy Hearts Program Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland

  • Guest

    To help kids become healthy eaters, first remove all foods that are packaged in plastic. The chemicals that children ingest by consuming foods that are contained and cooked in plastics disrupt not just kids’ hormones, but their brain development and can cause allergic reactions as well. People just assume that food companies are doing due diligence to protect consumers. They are not. Your typical company that makes bottled soda for instance is prevented from knowing all of the chemicals the plastic bottle manufacturer used to make a bottle, because these are trade secrets. But those chemicals affect people’s health. As is so often the case, business people want profits not ethics.

  • geraldfnord

    The best way to have children eat healthily is to convince them that it will make them (at least in this respect, though I doubt only so) better than other people. This is how kashrus, halal, and the Hindu dietary codes get passed-on, this is how primate bands work (status is important, it means less bullying, more and better food and mating opportunities, better-working immune systems, it really is the summum bonum of band-primate existence…so any claim to higher status is eagerly accepted and pursued)..

    How to do this without turning them into utter jerks on the subject (or more generally) is problematic, given that there are a fair number of _adults_ who can’t notice or avoid that temptation (as in ‘Vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness.’). Perhaps inculcating in them an attitude of pity toward those not so well taught, and an appreciation of their sheer luck and lack of any accomplishment in being so raised could supervene.

  • Guest

    I can vouch for the fact that having protein at breakfast gives you better energy throughout the day. Eggs are fine, but I prefer almond butter or peanut butter. Peanut butter should work great for kids!

  • Laura

    Why lowfat meat or lowfat dairy? What’s wrong with animal fat? Hasn’t the idea that saturated fat is bad for you been totally debunked? Please comment.

    • Jesse Barnes

      Yeah I can’t believe what I’m hearing… cereal for breakfast? Low fat milk? This is pretty dated thinking…

    • Heidi S

      Can you get the guests to speak a little more on the saturated fat debate? Aren’t non-meat saturated fats okay in moderation?

    • Lance

      Agreed, the body wants fats to digest. This discussion reminds me of another NPR guest that went into the chemistry of digestion with fats and sugars.

      Maybe if someone remembers the orange vs orange juice example. Have someone consume 6 oranges worth of squeezed juice, than have another person try and eat 6 oranges. The person consuming the whole oranges will stop well before 6.

      Anyway I’d like to hear more science from these guests.

  • Eric Dekker

    I agree with your guests that organic food does not equate better nutritional content, but there is more to organic than that – better labor practices, farm laborers not exposed to the same level of harmful chemicals, often a different approach to farming in general, the absence of GMOs, and (in my opinion) organic tastes better, which could help in getting kids to eat healthier.

  • Bella

    I get the move away from soda and toward water, but why milk (and dairy)? What if you don’t want to use animal products?

  • Ben Rawner

    Have u ever heard of a Gluten Free diet for children with ADD? I know someone who is trying it and it doesn’t seem right.

  • Christine Czarnecki

    I am glad to hear the speaker discuss the concept of “try, try again.” When my children were young, we had a “no thank you serving.” One bite of anything served was required each time it was presented. but if they did not want it after that, they could say, “No thank you.”

    I also urge parents to cook ahead and make use of the slow cooker and, my hands-down favorite, the electric pressure cooker. For a slow cooker, do the prep (browning the meat then vegetables, adding the liquid) the night before, refrigerate it, then put it on to cook in the morning. Cooking slow food this way is so much healthier and more satisfying. Also, rice, and especially brown rice, can be cooked ahead, plain or as a pilaf, and put into freezer ziploc bags or containers and frozen. It defrosts very quickly in a pan or in the microwave (poured into a glass dish, not microwaved in plastic.

    If you want to do a stir fry dish, do the vegetable prep ahead of time, perhaps the night before. Then it will come together very quickly at dinner time.

  • Adriane Ahnstedt

    What is a good food choice for the required after sport snack?

  • Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Sounds like Mom’s Mantra should be “Know what’s optimal. Do what’s possible.” Brava to Beck, West & Tester!

  • James Ivey

    The last time Michael Pollan was on this show, he said something that I found extremely liberating: that frozen vegetables are nearly as healthy as fresh vegetables. Since then, the amount of vegetables we eat has increased dramatically from near zero to a few servings each day. My daughter actually likes the vegetables and asks for them regularly.

  • Christine Czarnecki

    A last comment on breakfast. Start them young eating some sort of decent breakfast. Old fashioned rolled oats take all of 2 1/2 to 3 minutes of cooking in a microwave-safe glass bowl, and sustain a child – or an adult – in a much more satisfying way than cold cereal. A few raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, some minced dried apricot can be thrown in to the bowl with the oats and water, and are nicely plumped when the bowl comes out of the microwave 3 minutes later. or add a little cut up pear or apple. Also, Costco and Trader Joe’s carry quick steel cut oats which cook on the stovetop in 7 to 9 minutes after you bring the water to a boil. So filling and such good texture. Add any of the above, if desired.

    • L A

      Add nuts or nut butters to the cooked oatmeal. I also defrost frozen berries from Trader Joe’s (very cherry berry my favorite) and add them to the oatmeal.

  • L A

    Other breakfast suggestions instead of cereal:
    hard boiled eggs
    garnet yam (cook in microwave 6-8 minutes) with walnuts or almonds
    almond butter and apple

  • Clara Roa

    I love the practice of the division of responsibility. I am in charge of the what, the when and the how, and my daughter decides what to eat and how
    much. I provide healthy foods and variety. Some days she eats a lot,
    and some days she doesn’t. And more importantly, everybody in the family
    eats the same.

  • Dharcey

    With regards to differences in children’s tastes and preferences: Children have more taste buds, including on the roof of the mouth, so they are more sensitive to tastes and flavors.

    With regards to picky eaters: One approach for introducing more vegetables and fruits can be centered around participation in preparation. For example, snapping green beans and arranging veggies as funny faces on a plate can be a fun way to introduce new foods to children (by sight, sound, and feeling).

  • Amanda Stupi

    Here’s a link to the Environmental Working Group’s info on the “dirty dozen” foods that was mentioned:

  • Selome Yacob

    As a mother of a 4 year old girl and 2 year old boy, I’m super excited to hear your guests making it sound easy. My question is about raw flax meal. My children love to take a spoonful of flax meal occasionally. Is it harmful at all? I’d also like to hear your guests’ opinions on honey.

  • Livegreen

    One of your guests just recommended soy milk As an alternative to regular milk. However most soy soy milks list cane sugar as their second ingredient. This is still a refined sugar like in soft drinks. So you’re recommending replacing cows milk with an equivalent to a soft drink.

    If soft drinks were supplemented with calcium would you recommend them?

    • WhatTheEff

      Get unsweetened soy milk, made with soybeans and water. Not rocket science.

      • Caroline

        I would never feed my child any soy milk, sweetened or unsweetened, gmo or organic. Over 95% of soy is genetically engineered. Google “roundup + GMO + health risk” and “dark the side of soy.”

        Doctors who push soy, especially GMO soy,should do their homework and start challenging the status quo on soy.

        • Laurie

          I would never feed my child milk that came from the mother of another species, a mother kept perpetually pregnant who must repeatedly grieve the loss of the babies taken from her. The calves grieve terribly as well. No mother should support such a tragedy.

  • sally

    I have two sons 3 and 5, they are willing to try new healthy foods when they cook it themselves. We make pizza, salads, eggs, pancakes and more

  • Ron

    I thought the guests were fairly off-base with their approach to nutrition. I have always been leery of fad diets and, frankly, none of them made a whole lot of sense. The guests statements that kids like sweets and it’s OK to eat them sometimes and to eat non-organic fruits and vegetables is just wrong! It may be necessary because of budget or other considerations but it’s never OK! Thats’s just letting folks feel better about their bad decisions.
    On another note…
    I have been over 200 lbs for decades wishing I wasn’t. I am now about two weeks into eating mostly organic and gluten-free and have been under 200lbs for about 4 or 5 days. I feel great, and enjoy what I’m eating. There are great wheat-free and gluten-free choices out there. Give it a try for 30 days, you have nothing to lose!
    And no, I never had celiac disease.

  • MattCA12

    I grew up eating meat and potatoes every night, hot dogs or bologna sandwiches for lunch, and Fruit Loops for breakfast soaked in cow’s milk. We’d never heard the word organic, and they probably still used DDT on the fruits and vegetables we rarely ate anyway. Now I’m a reasonably fit and happy 40-something year old. Maybe we should just relax and let them be kids.

  • Andrea

    Great talk! Guests did a good job.

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