Presented by Herbalife - Official Nutrition Advisor to AYSO
Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
Kids' food habits can really drive parents crazy. They don't really mean to do it - they just think differently about foods than adults do. And, I think kids could actually teach adults a thing or two about how to eat.
Many children are naturally curious about where their food comes from and how it's prepared. And, when left to their own devices and presented with an array of healthy foods, kids can actually self-select a reasonably healthy diet.
The food choices kids make are influenced by family, friends and the media, but their natural instincts can help tilt the nutritional balance in their favor.
Think about this:
Kids eat what they like. Eating what you like is not the same as eating whatever you want. But eating is supposed to be pleasurable - no matter what your age. Kids focus on what they like, and adults should too. With the thousands of food items we have available, it's easy to create a diet that is both healthy and delicious.
Kids eat when they are hungry and stop when they're full. Kids respond to biological signals that drive them to eat and unless they're urged to eat more, they can regulate their calorie intake surprisingly well. As adults, we sometimes try to ignore these signals - maybe we're too busy to eat, or we're trying to lose weight - but we often end up overeating later on. As adults, we need to respond when the body says it's low on fuel, and to learn to stop eating when we're comfortable, not stuffed.
Kids like foods that are full of eye-appeal. Children love colorful foods, which is why so many items marketed to kids are full of artificial color. Nature provides a huge array of brightly colored fruits and vegetables that appeal to kids, and they're full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that promote health.
Kids like crunchy vegetables more than soft ones. Crunchy vegetables, like raw carrots and broccoli florets, are more appealing to kids than soft or mushy ones. Kids many not know it, but vegetables that are raw -or lightly steamed until barely tender - retain more vitamins than vegetables that are overcooked.
Kids like to eat foods they've prepared. One tried-and-true method to get fussy eaters to try new foods is to have them help out in the kitchen. For adults, home cooking means you can control not only what goes into your meals, but portion sizes, too.
Kids learn to like new foods. It may take a more than a few tries, but with repeated exposure kids will learn to like new foods. Adults often rely on the same foods over and over. Try a new fruit or vegetable on a regular basis to boost nutrition and put some variety in the diet.
Eating like a child doesn't mean we should play with our food or make funny faces at the dinner table. But there are some great reasons to approach eating the way kids do. If we understand how kids naturally choose what to eat - and how much - we might actually learn how to eat better ourselves.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife