At Your Request: Advice for Parents from the Picky Eater Whisperer

When I recently asked readers (of my newsletter) what was on their mind, I got some comments asking:

“How can I get my child to eat his/her veggies!?”

So I’ve got some tips and free resources for you today to help you answer that question in a multi-media format. Text, audio, and video. Here we go!

Resource #1 (Text):  Visit the downloadable resources at our Give It a Go, Eat a Rainbow page. Please also visit the book page for Make Nutrition Fun, which has 30 Days of downloadable resources (recipes and activities for family fun.

Resource #2 (Audio): Listen to an interview I did with Dr. Meaghan Kirschling from the Beyond the Basics Health Academy. This 45-minute interview is an easy listen (while you’re out for a walk and some fresh air!), and it will give you lots and lots of information about how to handle a picky eater that you might have in your life. I’ve also included a bit more information about the interview below if you’d like more information.

Resource #3 (Video):  This is one of my favorite videos to inspire kids to eat their veggies!

 More about the interview with Dr. Meaghan Kirschling

As a society, we see the effects of a poor diet at a younger and younger age.  Let’s look at the stats and information put out by the government, and then let’s talk about how one of our recent podcast guests, Kathryn Kemp Guylay, is changing the way that families and teachers approach childhood nutrition with her new book Give It a Go, Eat a Rainbow that focuses on making healthy dietary choices easy and fun.

Let’s first look at the eating behaviors of most kids

  • Most U.S. youth consumes less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.
  • And according to recent data, 91% of Americans don’t eat the daily recommendation of vegetables.
  • Most US youth eats more than the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium by over 90%
  • Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents aged 2–18 years, affecting the overall quality of their diets. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
  • Adolescents drink more full-calorie soda per day than milk. Males aged 12–19 years drink an average of 22 ounces of full-calorie soda per day, more than twice their intake of fluid milk (10 ounces), and females drink an average of 14 ounces of full-calorie soda and only 6 ounces of fluid milk.

Statistics that help support why kids should eat more fruits and vegetables

(All of these are from the CDC, Center for Disease Prevention or

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • Only one in three children is physically active every day
  • Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen including TV, video games and computers
  • There is a huge difference depending on socioeconomic status. Nearly 45% of children living in poverty are overweight or obese compared to 22% of children living in households with incomes four times the poverty level.
  • Obesity-related illness, including chronic disease, disability, and death, is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion. Projections estimate that by 2018, obesity will cost the U.S. 21 percent of our total healthcare costs – $344 billion annually.
  • Obesity is also a growing threat to national security – a surprising 27% of young Americans are too overweight to serve in our military. Approximately 15,000 potential recruits fail their physicals every year because they are unfit.
  • Overweight and obesity are the results of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for some calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.
  • Kids eat on average more sugar than adults, almost double, even though they weigh, on average, a third of what adults do.

Benefits of Healthy Nutrition for Children

  • Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is essential for proper growth and development and can prevent health problems such as obesity, dental caries, iron deficiency, and osteoporosis along with reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
  • Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with an improved cognitive function (especially memory), reduced absenteeism, and improved mood.

Consequences of a Poor Diet

  • A poor diet can lead to energy imbalance and can increase one’s risk of becoming overweight and obese.
  • A poor diet can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as lung, esophageal, stomach, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
  • Individuals who eat fast food one or more times per week are at increased risk for weight gain and obesity.
  • Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can result in weight gain, overweight, and obesity.
  • Hunger and food insecurity (i.e., reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns because a household lacks money and other resources for food) might increase the risk for lower dietary quality and undernutrition. In turn, malnutrition can negatively affect overall health, cognitive development, and school performance.

These alarming trends have been a catalyst for Kathryn Kemp Guylay to create a fun and engaging book for young children called Give It A Go, Eat a Rainbow.

“Over the last decade, I have been teaching kids and parents how to live more energized lives by eating healthy meals and snacks,” explains the bestselling author and certified nutritional counselor.  “One of the easiest ways to boost the nutritional value of meals and snacks is to incorporate more fruits and veggies,” explains Kemp Guylay.

A “rainbow” of colorful fruits and veggies ensures that all of the health-enhancing micronutrients support the entire body.  “Kids and adults are motivated by the word ‘energy,’ and the messaging in the book is all about energy and how to get more of it.  Kids don’t really care about cardiovascular disease and morbidity factors. But if they can run faster and do well in school? That’s the kind of messaging that will reach kids with the greatest impact,” she says.

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