by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Kids’ diets

Jan 25 2009

Oops: San Francisco Chronicle columns

I seem to have missed posting a couple of columns from the San Francisco Chronicle:

January 6, 2009:  This one, “ Fussy eaters–they learn by example,” was in response to a question about getting kids to eat real food.

December 17, 2008:  I had so many responses to the November 17 column on salt intake I answered a bunch of follow-up questions in the next one, “The nitty-gritty on sodium intake.”

Jan 7 2009

School interventions work! (Sometimes)

It’s always nice to have some evidence for what you think makes sense.  David Katz and his Yale colleagues analyzed a bunch of studies attempting to improve both school nutrition and physical fitness.  Taken one by one, these studies generally showed negligible improvements in body weight, if any.  But these investigators analyzed a selected group of 19 (of 64) studies that met their inclusion criteria.  Taken collectively, these studies showed that the interventions improved body weight.  The overall effects on weight were small, but in the hoped-for direction.  Katz et al’s conclusion: combined nutrition and physical activity interventions are worth doing, especially when they include parental involvement along with cutting down on TV.

If the link to the paper doesn’t work for you, try the abstract on PubMed.

Jan 6 2009

Did Dickens exaggerate?

Last week’s New York Times science section reported a study from the British Medical Journal arguing that Oliver Twist had plenty to eat and Dickens greatly exaggerated the poverty and inadequacy of poorhouse diets. The BMJ article said poorhouse diets gave kids a few ounces of oatmeal a day along with “modest servings of bread, potatoes, meat and cheese.”  This diet, the authors said, provided 1,600 to 1,700 calories a day, “dull and monotonous, to be sure, but adequate…in a real Victorian workhouse, Oliver would probably not have had to ask for more. He would have had just about enough.”

Here’s my response, published in today’s Science Times  letters.  Enough?  Hardly. The whole point of welfare institutions is to give recipients just enough to stave off starvation, but not so much that they become complacent and dependent on state largesse.  But children are dependent, and British poorhouses were for-profit institutions.  Far too much factual evidence demonstrates that poorhouse diets were barely adequate and strongly associated with childhood malnutrition and death.  What were these authors thinking?

January 7 update: Eating Liberally points out that the basic elements of poorhouse diets have much in common with today’s fast food.  How, kat asks, did fast food get to be so respresentative of America?  Here are my additional thoughts on this matter.

Dec 22 2008

Restaurants are adding healthier kids’ meals

Several years ago, I gave a talk to executives of restaurants like Applebee’s and Darden’s about what they could do to make it easier for people to control their weight and eat more healthfully.  I allsuggested that they make healthy kids’ meals the default.  Let parents order junk food for their kids if they want to, but set up the situation so they have to ask for it specially.  The executives went ballistic and gave all kinds of reasons why this was impossible (parental responsibility! cost! trouble!).  Lo and behold: somebody must have listened and changes are coming, or so it seems.  Let’s hope they really do this!

Nov 9 2008

Surprise: kids eat like their parents do!

I don’t really know why this would surprise anyone but a new study demonstrates that when presented with supermarket choices, even preschool kids choose the same foods their parents usually buy.  The moral: if you don’t want your kids eating junk food, don’t have it in the house!

Feb 19 2008

Teaching kids to eat real food?

I have just received this lovely invitation from Eileen Dolbeare to track a 30-day experiment (she calls it Fresh Mouth) that she is running for her three junk-food loving boys, ages 4 to 6. She says: “We’re an average American family trying to eat better and enjoy it more. We’ll convince our three little kids that fresh food is about pleasure, rituals and family – and not about red dye #40, high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.” You can track her blog, watch the progress of the experiment, and cheer her on.

Dec 21 2007

Eating Liberally again

Here’s the latest posting, this one on what it will take to get kids to eat better.

Nov 10 2007

New research on childhood obesity, and lots of it

If you want to see the latest research on environmental influences on childhood obesity, take a look at the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It has a bunch of articles from top investigators about social factors that promote overeating and sedentary behavior in kids, along with some fascinating information about the role of advertising and foods in schools in promoting junk food. Beginners: start here.