Reading List: Better School Lunches, "Normal" Food Allergies & Overcoming Picky Palates

by in Back to School, Food News, August 21, 2009

From this week’s nutrition headlines: it’s all about the kids — more info on how parents are contributing to the obesity epidemic, raising children with more eclectic tastes and a disturbing new video game that stars “Fat Princess.”

Parent’s Role in the Obesity Epidemic
If you’re a parent, it’s important that you buy nutritious foods, cook wisely and offer up healthy choices, but what you say to your kids also matters. Telling them “you can’t drink soda or eat cookies” seems to have the exact opposite effect. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, girls whose parents restricted their food gained more weight than those who did not — especially those who already struggled with self control. Remember: restricting food in any manner (either by severely limiting portions or not allowing it altogether) will just make the food more attractive. Try to find a middle ground and have open communication.

School Lunches Are Scoring Higher
Does your child eat lunch at the school cafeteria? Then you’d be happy to know the recently released State of the School Nutrition report showed that school lunches are getting better grades. More than one-third of the school districts surveyed offer locally grown produce, and 91% of the districts serve salads or have salad bars. Meatless options have increased by 12% over the past two years, and about one in 10 districts don’t allow peanuts at school to help reduce allergy risks. Curious about more healthy lunch initiatives? The New York Times also had a great piece reviewing some of the government programs and other initiatives that are gaining steam.

Some Food “Allergies” Are Normal
Speaking of allergies, according to a Denmark study, it’s normal for young kids to be more sensitive to foods like milk, eggs and peanuts. They may show some physical reactions when eating them, but they may not actually be allergic to them. If you have suspicions, proper testing is essential. You don’t want to eliminate foods or entire food groups from your kid’s diet on just some anecdotal evidence — the sensitivity could pass with time.

Saving the “Fat Princess”
This “Let Them Eat Cake” Playstation game has players trying to save their princess — a.k.a. the “fat princess” — who’s been captured and, as punishment, forced to eat tons of cake. You have to call upon your entire army to carry her out since she’s so heavy. I’ve read some reviews of the game, and some folks find the premise funny. I just don’t see any humor in it. What sort of message is this sending? That it’s a punishment to be obese? That it’s funny to need an army to carry you? This is definitely a game I won’t be adding to my son’s collection.

Kids with Big Palates
Ever think your kid would chow down on a roasted broccoli with garlic pizza? What about steamed clams? This Miami Herald article examines how some parents get their kids to eat more “grown up” dishes. Did you know that studies show that one predictor of your future diet is what you ate at age 2? If you don’t continue to offer up a new food even after one or two rejections, you’re giving up too soon. Studies show that you need to expose a child to something new eight to 12 times before they accept it.

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Comments (3)

  1. Ashlie says:

    I am not yet a parent, but when I was a kid I was given a plate of food, and I ate it. I wasn't asked if I wanted some of this or some of that, and never would've thought to say I don't like this or that. While I'm all for democracy, sometimes children don't need to put in a position to choose or not choose – as a parent one should make healthy choices for them. By the way I can't think of any food (except for organ meat), especially fruits and vegetables that I don't like… I developed a taste for them because I was given them as kid. I know it can be difficult and time consuming to always cook meals; this site has a lot of good advise for buying the best prepackaged healthy foods when your low on time.

  2. As a dietitian, I agree that parents should make healthy choices for their kids, however often the parents aren't there to choose for kids, like at school, and these days kids are given choices in the lunchroom, not just served a plate of food. That's why it's important for parents and teachers to teach kids basic nutrition principles and how to make the healthiest choices. Check out my recent blog post, What's For Lunch?, to see some of my tips

  3. Kathy says:

    I guess I'm fortunate, I like to eat a lot of green things, & thus serve a lot of green things. I also made most of my daughter's baby food (not all, life catches up with you). As a result, freshly sauteed baby spinach is something she fights for. Fresh steamed asparagus, broccooli & cauliflower are favorites. I admit, getting her to take that first bite of spinach took some finagling (@2 yrs old), but she loved it. Today, 2 of her favorite meals are: Pepperoni & spinach pizza; and Scrambled eggs w/ sauteed baby spinach topped with smoked gouda cheese. The bonus: these are fast meals to make! But honestly, I think that the only reason she eats them is because I eat them. My neighbors kids gobble up the vegetables at my house, but not at their own.

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