A proper balance is the key

Wednesday, October 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Leslie Garcia / The Dallas Morning News

Good nutrition begins at home, experts say. So if parents eat healthfully, chances are their children will, too. Here are some other tips to make sure kids get the vitamins and minerals they need:

Eat together: "Studies have shown that kids who eat at home with their parents have a better nutrition intake," says Joyce Barnett, a registered dietician in the department of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Lighten up: "As long as we know they're eating basic, healthy parts of a diet, the other things don't worry me as much ... typically people target cereal, fruit and milk in the morning. If kids have a doughnut after that, I could care less." – Dr. Patrick Stern, developmental behavioral pediatrician and member of the faculty at East Tennessee State University's medical college.

Encourage tastes: "If you have the philosophy that children should try everything, even just a little bit, it will help develop their taste buds and get them used to trying new foods." – Mrs. Barnett.

Balance types of foods: "There's no good or bad foods. Just choose a proper balance. Certainly, it's all right to have desserts." – Dr. Carolyn Bednar, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas Woman's University.

Don't talk about food choices constantly: "Children don't need to become neurotic." – Dr. Gail Frank, professor of nutrition, California State University at Long Beach.

Bend a little: "When my sons would want a Lunchable, I'd let them have it. Then I'd say, 'Let's save the [container] and build your own, but now we're going to choose from foods that are healthy.' We'd have a veggie day, or a low-fat day." – Dr. Frank

A suggested menu

Dr. Frank offers this suggested menu for kids:

Breakfast: Let them mix cereals. Special K (or another healthy choice) with Frosted Flakes or granola, for instance. Low-fat or skim milk. A glass of juice or a sliced banana. Still hungry? Add a slice of toast or half a bagel with jam.

Snack: Half a bagel with peanut butter

Lunch: Burger and fries or pizza is fine. Salad's OK, too, but add lean turkey or ham. Don't drown the lettuce in dressing.

Dinner: Spaghetti with meat or marinara sauce. Salad. A green vegetable. A piece of toast or cheese toast. Milk. Ice cream or cake topped with fruit.

Questions to ask

Question: How many calories does my child need?

Answer: From ages 4 to 6, about 45 calories per pound of body weight. From 7 to 10, 35 per pound.

For boys 11 to 14, 28 per pound; for girls, 24

For boys 15 to 18, 23 per pound; for girls, 20.

Question: How do I keep my son, who's eating in the school cafeteria for the first time, from choosing every food available? I want him to eat healthfully, but don't want him to become neurotic.

Answer: Set a good example at home. At a buffet, do you eat everything in sight or are you selective? A school lunch is a small portion of overall intake. Plant the idea that he doesn't have to have everything there. That can help him think through his choices. He may also be able to ask for a smaller portion.

Most kids have inner control of their appetite and will eat what they need. Also make sure your child is getting plenty of exercise.

Question: Do kids need vitamins?

Answer: Probably not if they're eating a good variety of foods. If you're concerned, multivitamins are fine and aren't harmful.

SOURCE: Joyce Barnett, R.D., L.D., department of clinical nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas