Parents Set Examples for how Kids Eat

September 4, 2013

Originally published Sep 26, 2011

We hear and see the messages that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can prevent certain cancers, heart disease and obesity. But how many of us really think of that advice when choosing what we eat? Nutrition and physical activity epidemiologist Chad D. Neilsen advises that we are not meeting those guidelines on most days. He cites roughly 28 percent of adults in Georgia who eat the recommended five or more servings eat day, and only 17 percent of adolescents who meet that goal based on Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BFRSS) and Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS) data.

During this Childhood Obesity Awareness Month we’re all reminded that we set the table as well as the example for children on how to eat and what to eat. Perhaps a deeper commitment and very real examples will help us meet this goal one meal at a time.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released MyPlate, a new generation icon replacing the outdated MyPyramid. And while reaction is mixed, the intent is to encourage us to build a healthy plate at meal times. For more information, visit

As parents or guardians, consideration of MyPlate when planning meals and snacks, especially for children, may avoid an estimated 100 to 500 calories daily according to leading nutritionists. For children, this means substituting calorie-dense snacks like chips and cookies with nutritious fruits and vegetables can help reduce obesity.

Did you know the following healthy snacks contain 100 calories or less according to the CDC?

  • a medium-size apple (72 calories)
  •  a medium-size banana (105 calories)
  • 1 cup steamed green beans (44 calories)
  • 1 cup blueberries (83 calories)
  • 1 cup grapes (100 calories)
  •  1 cup carrots (45 calories), broccoli (30 calories), or bell peppers (30 calories) with 2 tbsp. hummus (46 calories)

There are barriers in the way of healthy eating including cost, availability, schedules, and taste. We in public health can help remove those barriers. The Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative here at DPH makes these recommendations:

  •  Choose colorful and dark green fruits and vegetables for the most antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories unless you add high calorie sauces, turn them into pies, or deep-fry them in oil. Make it easier to add the fruits and vegetables you eat by keeping a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter and serve fresh cut vegetables with dip instead of greasy potato or corn chips.


  •  Support and help make supermarkets, grocery stores and farmers market more accessible and engage in outreach and education to encourage residents of lower-income to use WIC and SNAP benefits to purchase those items.


  •  Buy local, in season fruits and vegetables for better taste and lower cost through supporting community gardening, farm stands and markets where people live, work, and play.

The time for families to be healthy is now, and the place to start is with fruits and veggies.

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