Changing the Way Kids Eat: A Dietitian’s Guide

 
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Why should kids eat less healthfully than adults?

Now that we know that the food on kid's menus is there as a result of social expectations and norms, we can take steps to change those expectations.

Nutrition educators can help change consumer demand and social norms around food choices by creating family and community resilience and healthy changes to the ultra-processed food environment. Promoting the fact that children over the age of 2 can consume the same healthy diet as adults, while keeping servings and nutritional needs in mind, may move the needle on children’s food options. 

Working with the media, food, and restaurant industries on health promotion messaging, advertising, menu labeling, and healthy menu options can also help in improving the unhealthy kids’ food environment. Reach out to policy makers with your views!

By changing the beliefs about healthful foods for both kids and adults to enjoy, nutrition educators can encourage positive social and behavior changes for individuals, families, and communities at large. 

Here are tips for nutrition educators to help change the food environment:

  1. Teach parents appropriate serving sizes for kids from all food groups.
  2. Reach out to restaurants and offer help in modifying kids’ menus.
  3. Offer nutrition and cooking classes for families at school, camps, or recreation centers.
  4. Provide practical tips to families about healthy choices for kids.
  5. Discourage using processed food as a reward. 

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Journal Reference:

  1. Pamela Rothpletz-Puglia, Lynn Fredericks, Margaret Rush Dreker, Rachael Patusco, Jane Ziegler. Position of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior: Healthful Food for Children is the Same as AdultsJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2022; 54 (1): 4 DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2021.09.007
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