Heart Health Program: Encouraging Kids to eat Healthy

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Guest: Janet Carter - Registered Dietician

Host: Dr. Linda Austin - Psychiatrist.

Announcer: Welcome to an MUSC Health Podcast.

Dr. Linda Austin: I am Dr. Linda Austin. I am talking today with Janet Carter, who is the Program coordinator for the Heart Program for the Children’s Hospital here at MUSC. Janet, we have been talking generally about children’s eating behavior, so can we get some of the specifics, what do you say to the parents who say, I cannot get my kid to eat anything green?

Janet Carter: We have a lot of families that their kid say they don’t care for vegetables at all and the lot of times what I would tell the families is try to hide them the things. You know, make a soup, make a stew, and make a casserole. You are still giving the child the nutrition that is coming from the vegetables without having them just to be plain. They don’t have to just be plain, and even if you put a little bit of butter on them, not a lot, even if you put a little bit of cheese on them, not a lot; at least the kids are getting nutrition from the vegetables. It is very important for them to get that nutrition. There are on this earth for a reason and they definitely are important to our bodies. So, I will help them with recipes, you know, give them different things that they can do to hide the vegetables and the things so that the kids will eat them.

Dr. Linda Austin: I am reminded of my cousin who inherited from her parents, their antique dinning room table that they had used when she was a child and when she opened the drawer, she found some petrified green beans and that they definitely have been there for 40 year or so. I guess, there was certain timelessness to all of this. What about the issue of getting into control struggles? You know, you have to clean plate and then the kid starts crying and whining, what suggestions you have for poor parent about those issues?

Janet Carter: There is definitely a division of responsibility with the parents and the kids and that needs to start at the beginning. Basically, the parent’s job is to provide healthy options for the children and it’s the child’s job to determine what they are going to eat and if they are going to eat at all, and how much they are going to eat. A lot of people struggle with that, but if that starts from the beginning, it can really work very well, but the parent again has to be a good role model. They need to be eating their foods, their vegetables, you know, and not make a big deal always like ohm! This is great, I love my broccoli. They just need to eat it like it’s a normal everyday thing and the kids will not make a big deal out of it. A lot times with little children, even if you make a big deal about something in a positive way, it will have the opposite affect that you looking for. Anytime you make a big deal out of something a lot of times, it will, kind of, turn the kids off to it. The parents just really need to be eating their vegetables and their healthy foods just as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to do.

Dr. Linda Austin: So, in other words, that amounts to the fact that we human beings are creatures of culture and eventually children will develop their food habits of their culture, and if there is a healthy habit, great, and if there are not, they will adapt those as well.

Janet Carter: Basically, and I just really think it’s hard for parents to get their minds around the fact that a child should be left to their own devices in order to be able to choose how much they are eating and what they have. Basically, their bodies will tell them what they should be eating, and a lot of the aversions to foods are taught or learnt along the way. They are not necessarily something that ?kids are not born hating vegetables. It just happens along the way because there is either big deal made out of it or some parent or somewhere along line, someone says oh! I can’t believe you are eating broccoli, most children hate broccoli. Well, then the kids will be like ohm! Why am I eating broccoli if I am not suppose to like it. So, it’s just a matter of letting the children just be children and be little people that will use their instincts to eat what their body requires.

Dr. Linda Austin: Do you advocate not allowing a child dessert if they have any in their dinner?

Janet Carter: I don’t believe that children should have to clear their plate. I definitely think again that they should be to allowed to eat what their body thinks that they should eat. Now, dessert being use as a reward for cleaning their plate or eating all of their dinner is a huge no, no. People should never be rewarded with food in any ways, shape, or form. Children should never be rewarded with food, and so I don’t believe that should be either a punishment by taking away dessert if you don’t finish your meal or reward for finishing your meal; okay, now you get dessert. I think, dessert should be something that’s decided on, something that is planned, can also be something that is healthy too, it could be some fruit. Dessert doesn’t have to be something that is terribly unhealthy for the child.

Dr. Linda Austin: I guess, a way of thinking about that is again your comments, lets back to your comments about the parent’s habits. In most healthy families, you are not having big rich desserts every night anyway. The parent shouldn’t be eating those and can’t eat those without becoming overweight themselves. So, if the parent’s are eating in a healthy way, it would send a reason that, that’s what the food choices will be available for the children as well.

Janet Carter: Right and I think that people can definitely get into a habit of constantly wanting something sweet after dinner or after a meal and you definitely can break that habit if it’s something that have gotten into, but I don’t think that people can get themselves into that pattern and then it ends up being more mental than anything else. You know, they have their meal and need dessert. It’s almost like smoking probably will be a similar comparison where someone may has a cigarette with their coffee all the time, and so every time they have coffee they have to have a cigarette. You can break that association.

Dr. Linda Austin: So, it is a conditioned response and conditioned learning.Janet Carter:Yeah.

Dr. Linda Austin: Janet Carter thanks so much for talking with us.

Janet Carter: Thank you.

Announcer: If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at (843) 792-1414.


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