- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Simple child-friendly training in good nutrition got 8- to 10-year-olds to eat healthful foods for three years, although snacks, desserts and pizza still make up an astonishing third of the youngsters’ diets, researchers report today.

It’s the biggest study to track the impact of childhood nutrition education, and it backs a major new government campaign to keep preteens from getting fat by using some of the same tactics — through training programs and real-world tips directed at their parents.

“It suggests that kids who learn to eat healthy during their adolescence will continue to eat healthy,” said Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, chief of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which sponsored the research and today begins the “We Can!” program to spread the results.

One key: Don’t forbid the foods that children find yummy, but teach balance — that there are “go foods” for every day, “slow foods” for a few times a week, and “whoa foods” to eat only once in a while.

For example, eating a healthy breakfast is important for staying fit. Unsweetened whole-grain cereal, like oatmeal, is a “go-foods” choice. Prefer waffles or pancakes” Those are “slow foods,” perhaps for the weekend. Croissants, doughnuts or sweetened breakfast cereals are “whoa foods,” maybe for a holiday or vacation treat.

Getting grade-school children in the habit of drinking low-fat milk instead of whole milk, eating an apple a day, or choosing carrot sticks or raisins as an after-school snack makes them more likely to continue those habits when they are old enough to choose foods on their own, said Northwestern University dietitian Linda Van Horn, who led the new study.

But children must have access to tasty, healthy choices, said Miss Van Horn: If only hot dogs are served at the baseball game, that’s what they will eat. Noses turn up when the only choice at the school lunch program is mushy beans.

Already, the nation has 9 million children ages 6 to 16 who are overweight, according to federal health officials.

The new study tracked 595 children, half of whom had received, with their parents, special education on how to make healthier food choices. Three years later, the children who had attended the nutrition classes were eating more “go foods” than their peers in every food group except fruit, Miss Van Horn reports in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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