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Health Talk

Kandace Power Graves discusses children and food with registered dietician Gail C. Rampersaud, a nutrition research and education specialist at the University Florida

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Q: You're taking part in an exhibit that is traveling nationwide extolling the virtues of good nutrition, breakfast and orange juice. Why?

A: The exhibit was created to help moms and kids understand how to incorporate breakfast and/or juice into a busy morning routine. I think having breakfast at home is important. It allows parents to sit down with their kids in the morning. Parents don't realize what role models they are, and it's good to be a role model eating breakfast. Breakfast doesn't have to be a big production. Keep it simple. For kids, a whole-grain cereal with milk and a glass of orange juice is good.

Q: You have tips for making breakfast happen?

A: There are tricks. A lot of it you can do the night before. Get the kids involved: set up the breakfast table, make lunches and lay out clothes. It all gives you more time to eat breakfast. If nothing else, send them out the door with a glass of orange juice or a whole-grain bagel. At least you're sending them out with something and it has folate, thiamin and other essential nutrients.

Q: If you could give parents one message about their child's nutrition, what would it be?

A: I would say "Try to eat breakfast." It's very important. We've got three-quarters of children between two and 12 who have poor nutrition. You need to give them something that provides essential nutrients. Studies are showing that kids who eat breakfast do better in school.

Q: Why do parents seem to have a hard time feeding their children right?

You have more families where both parents are working. I know how difficult it is just to get two parents ready and out the door in the morning. But it's a matter of time, and some organization. Just knowing what foods to buy, having them organized in the refrigerator, little things that can give parents a little more time.

Q: Your program focuses on having healthful food in your kitchen. Are people really that confused about what to buy?

A: Based on 10 years ago, so many more children now are overweight or obese. I think what is often overlooked ... is consumption of beverages. As kids get older, they're consuming more carbonated drinks. They're drinking less of 100 percent juices and more juice drinks. Some juice drinks only have about 10 percent juice and a lot of water and sugar. Parents need to look on the label.

Q: What health problems are you trying to overcome?

A: There are a lot of issues surrounding overweight children. Inactivity and other things go into that. We need to make sure -- and parents are the ones who can do this -- that the kids are getting the nutrients they need. There's a big public concern that kids aren't getting enough calcium, so they may have bone health problems in the future. Generally, kids tend not to get enough nutrients like Vitamin C, folate, thiamin and potassium. When we talk about orange juice, you get all of that.

Q: Can't they just take a Flintstones vitamin or a supplement to get what they're missing?

A: That's not a bad idea, but when you look at a lot of the studies that look at things that tend to reduce heart disease ... lots relate to the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. It goes back to eating a lot of the right kinds of foods, using the food pyramid ... and eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Q: What are some quick, nutritional options for breakfast that kids will eat?

A: Something like a whole-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter. Top that with some raisins and dried fruit to add nutrients. Whole-grain toast is good and, obviously, milk. You can even give them a whole gain cereal dry that they can munch on.

Q: What's the single most important thing our kids don't get enough of in their diets?

A: It's only about one-in-five kids that eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, based on USDA figures.

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