Teaching about nutrition to children

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
March 14, 2008 3:21:29 PM PDT
Parents know how difficult it can be to get kids to eat well. The trick is to start them young. If they do -- a new program proves -- eating well can ward off obesity later in life.

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Childhood obesity is now a huge problem in this country. But will teaching children good nutrition help? And how early can you start teaching good ways to eat? Early results of an intervention program are answering both questions.

These preschoolers are having fun. What they may not realize is that they're really learning healthy eating habits they can use for a lifetime - habits that will reward them with better health.

"Obese children are much more likely to be obese as adults," said Sarah Messiah, Ph.D. at Children's Trust. "And obese adults have much higher chance of becoming diabetic or developing cardiovascular disease."

The program is being tried in a half dozen childcare centers in Miami.

The children received the obesity prevention program at school and so did their parents with monthly dinners, newsletters and at home activities.

At the end of the six months, the children were compared with other preschoolers, control groups who received no nutrition instruction.

Some findings:

After six months, the children in the prevention program ate 50% fewer cookies, fresh fruit and vegetable consumption went up by 25% and drinking of 1% milk went up by 20 percent. Also, they drank 50% less juice and more water that was up by 20%.

There were even some positive results at home.

"Sometimes children don't gravitate toward fruits and vegetables," said parent, Regine Beauboeuf. "So this program reinforces what I'm trying to do at home."

As the program continues the researchers will be measuring to see if the kids have sustained their healthy eating habits.

"What's exciting about this program is that we can have some impact on them for rest of their lives," said Sarah Messiah at Univ. of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Keeping kids at a healthy weight when they're young can influence adult behavior.

For more information on children's health, go to American Heart Association