Best foods for families to add to diets

Forget the old image of dietitians as the “nutrition nannies” wagging their fingers and listing all of the foods you’re not supposed to eat.

Research presented at the American Dietetic Association’s 2010 Food and Nutrition Conference held in Boston this week focused on the foods American families should be adding to their diets for good health.

“The conversation about childhood obesity today should include advice for parents and kids about the quality of the diet, not just quantity,” said dietitian Liz Weiss, co-author of a new cookbook on family nutrition, “No Whine with Dinner.”

Weiss and thousands of other dietitians nationwide are joining a grassroots campaign launched by the ADA this week to promote healthy eating and prevent childhood obesity called Kids Eat Right (

Dr. Katie Brown, national education director for the ADA Foundation, explains, “Under the umbrella of Kids Eat Right, new resources and tools such as recipes, nutrition tips from grocery shopping to dining out are designed to empower families to transform daily eating behaviors.”

A nationwide survey by the ADA Foundation on family nutrition released at the conference reveals disturbing new information on children skipping meals and eating more snacks. ADA President, Judith Rodriguez said, “Consequently, our children are simultaneously over-fed with empty calorie food and drinks and undernourished.”

Weiss was surprised. “I knew that a lot of kids were skipping breakfast, but I had no idea so many were skipping other meals including dinner and that’s what’s leading to more snacking. So we need to give parents tools to help them offer healthy snacks instead of junk foods and help them get meals on the table,” she said.

In preparation for writing “No Whine with Dinner,” Weiss and co-author dietitian Janice Bissex, conducted a survey of moms who follow their website, www.meal, and found that the biggest barrier to getting kids to eat healthy meals at home or in restaurants was the challenge of the picky eater. “The biggest obstacle wasn’t lack of time or even budget concerns; it was dealing with kids’ complaints about eating healthier foods,” she said. “So our book shares secrets from parents and dietitians on how to turn the whines into wows at family mealtime.”

Getting kids to eat right when eating out

● Try to plan ahead by looking at restaurant menus online. You could even print it out to share with kids in the car on the way there to discuss meal choices.

● Choose eateries that cater to children. Chances are, if a lot of families are dining there, the menu and staff will be kid-friendly and happy to split entrees to create smaller portions and offer healthy sides such as fresh fruit or carrot sticks.

● For kids’ meals, opt for nonfat or low-fat milk as a beverage.

● Choose two or three suitable menu items, then let your child pick one.

● For new foods, offer a bite or two from your order. Weiss adds “Moms in our survey said they like to use eating out occasions as an opportunity to get kids to try something new such as bean burritos or sweet potato fries.”