Disease-Proof Your Child – Feeding Kids Right

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I was so intrigued by Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s comment on how “the amount of fruit you eat during the first ten years of your life has a dramatic effect on all adult cancers” that I decided to put aside, Take the Fight Out of Food, which left me hungry for more, and check out Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Your Kids Right. These two books are from completely opposite ends of the spectrum, with Donna Fish arguing “all food is good” and Dr. Joel Fuhrman essentially arguing for a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Fuhrman starts off by explaining “superior nutrition” and then devotes a chapter on treating childhood illnesses, such as asthma and ADHD nutritionally. However, I found the section on feeding your family for superior health most helpful for “reforming” my picky eater. Dr. Fuhrman writes, “It is not uncommon or abnormal for a child to prefer a narrow range of foods at this age (2 to 7). It is also not unusual for parents to be in an ongoing battle to coax their child to eat in a manner they feel is appropriate.”

Of course, I was relieved to have my struggle validated, but my anxiety returned once I read who the author felt was to blame. “Children are not responsible for their poor food choices – their parents are.” The most important rule when it comes to solving the problem of how to get your child to eat a healthful diet, as far as Dr. Fuhrman is concerned, is “only permit healthy food in your home.” He claims “Children will eat whatever is available. They will not starve themselves to death; they adapt easily and learn relatively quickly to like the food that is offered.” Makes perfect sense, but how realistic is this?

Disease-Proof Your Child also reiterates something that is really quite obvious, “What has been shown not to work is for parents to eat one way and force their children to eat a different way.” The old do as I say not as I do we’ve all been guilty of from time to time. Dr. Fuhrman writes under no circumstances should there be “rules only for children. If the parents are not willing to follow the rules set for the house, they should not be imposed on the children.” And I know he’s got a point. While I eat my veggies at dinner every night, if I kept a food journal on me, I have no doubt it’d reveal a lack of any substantial nutrients throughout the remainder of the day, as I’m always skipping meals because I’m too busy or I’m eating a quick bowl of cereal for “brunch.”

The last important point I took away from Disease-Proof Your Child is that “hunger is a cue to eat, but in our society, the clock has become our cue. We expect our children to be hungry at the exact moment we have the meal ready and not before or later. ‘Don’t eat before dinner; it will spoil your appetite,’ is a common admonition…A snack an hour before dinner does not have to be forbidden as long as they are making healthy choices.” So I’ve started offering my daughters fruit or raw veggies, like red pepper slices, and then, I’ve simply adjusted their portion sizes for the family meal accordingly. It has helped.

I also bought myself a carton of soy milk, which I must admit I drank only one cup of this week and I suspect it’ll spoil in the frig before I ever get around to finishing it. Still I believe in the goal that Dr. Fuhrman is promoting – “for children to eat healthfully because they want to, and do so whether their parents are around or not.” Therefore, I’m willing to give his tips for a “kitchen makeover” a try.

Dr. Fuhrman’s Tips for a Kitchen Makeover:

  1. Remove temptation.
  2. Make a sign for the refrigerator listing what foods are inside so it’s easy for family members to find healthy foods.
  3. Keep a bowl of ready-to-eat raw fruits and vegetables on your kitchen counter.
  4. Stock your cupboard with dried fruits and nuts.
  5. Keep plenty of frozen vegetables and fruits in your freezer.
  6. Make trail mix packets for when you’re on the go.
  7. Buy healthy breads – whole grain, low in salt.

But with a basket full of Easter candy right only a week away, I’m not sure how long it’ll last. I would love to hear about healthy treats the Easter Bunny leaves in your kids’ baskets so we can welcome spring with good eating habits.