Kids know what foods to eat, but . . .

EATING WELL

August 11, 1992|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

Little kids know a lot about good nutrition.

"Kids Make the Nutritional Grade," a survey of 6- to 9-year-olds released today by the International Food Information Council, shows that young children have a good grasp of the ideas of balance, variety and moderation.

They know they should eat carrots more often than candy, and bananas more often than ice cream.

That's what they know.

But what do they do?

They rag on ther parents to buy the food they see advertised on TV, either all the time (27 percent) or sometimes (67 percent).

Parents still have the upper hand, according to the youngsters. Only 4 percent report that parents always give in. Eighty-two percent say parents sometimes give in.

I wonder what this means.

One of the first patients I ever counseled had diabetes. She reported that she "sometimes" ate candy, even though she knew she shouldn't. I asked if sometimes meant several times a year (which could have been manageable). She said, "No, several times a day" (which clearly was not).

The kids in the survey knew fruits and vegetables should be eaten at least every day, however, and goodies should be eaten less often.

But do they really do that? National food consumption surveys show that only 10 percent of Americans eat two fruits and three vegetables daily.

Most encouraging is their awareness that seeing a product on TV doesn't make it OK in endless quantities.

Which brings us to last week's press conference held by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which pointed out that most foods processed for and promoted to children through TV advertising are undermining our kids' health.

CSPI's release carries this comment from Marion Neslte, chairman of the department of nutrition, food and hotel management at New York University, who served as chairman for the Committee on Children's Processed Foods:

"The committee strongly urges that children's diets consist primarily of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other unprocessed foods. But since so many families rely upon processed foods, it is essential that those foods be as healthful as possible. All too many kids' foods are loaded with fat, salt and sugar, which set the stage for heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure later in life."

CSPI plans to keep pressure on manufacturers to produce healthier products for your kids. There's a good chance it will work, too. But only if you keep the heat on.

Manufacturers will make anything you will buy. If making junk is profitable for them, they'll keep doing it. If they make good stuff and you don't buy, they'll stop.

You have a lot of power here.

For a copy of CSPI's report, "Toward More Healthful Children's Processed Food," send check or money order for $5 to CSPI-Children's Report, 1875 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20009.

For a free copy of "10 Tips to Healthy Eating for Kids," send a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to: Kids Tips, P.O. Box 1144, Rockville 20850.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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