Kids Eating Right? Survey Says Families are Ready for Healthy Changes

Posted by Jean Ragalie-Carr, RDN, LDN, FAND @ 1:57 AM


The American Dietetic Association Foundation (ADAF) released a study last month, “The State of Family and Nutrition and Physical Activity: Are We Making Progress?”, that examines survey data on how children’s eating habits have changed since 2003 when ADAF originally ran the study.  The results back up what many health and nutrition professionals have been saying for a while: children and their parents are ready to make healthier decisions, but they have a long way to go in order to create healthier lifestyles for themselves. The good news is health and nutrition professionals are poised to help families understand what steps they need to take to improve their health.

National Dairy Council is a proud, longtime American Dietetic Association (ADA) supporter and founding partner of the ADA Foundation’s Kids Eat Right (KER) program, from which this report originates. KER is a member-driven campaign dedicated to supporting the efforts of the White House to end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.  This KER report looks at survey data from 754 pairs of U.S. children and parents from 2010 and compares data to when the survey was previously fielded in 2003 with 615 pairs of children and parents.

Some of the survey results are fascinating.  For example, it’s startling to see that many children are watching TV or playing video games with their parents three or more times a week. However, the good news is that we’re also seeing an increase in healthy behavior changes, including a higher percentage of children eating meals at home with parents three or more times a week and seeing both parents and children expressing interest in improving their health and fitness. These changes are extremely promising and provide a real opportunity for us all to help our children, outlining further steps we can take to improve health and behaviors. Across the board, children said they would eat healthier if the foods tasted better, with 89 percent of white, 90 percent of Hispanic and 94 percent of African-American children voicing this opinion. The survey also showed that the majority of kids are purchasing food at restaurants, vending machines and other commercial locations.  Surveyed children also said they would be more active if there were fun activities before and after school, if there were activity breaks during class and if their friends wanted to do something physically active.

This survey data reinforces the importance of programs like KER and Fuel Up to Play 60. Both programs share similar goals to improve nutrition and physical activity in schools and communities throughout the country. Now, the KER report shows that parents and children respond positively to these types of programs that help registered dietitians position themselves as key resources to families and help them meet Dietary Guidelines recommendations.

So what next? Find out how you can be involved in KER and Fuel Up to Play 60 in your community.  This could mean looking into your local ADA chapter for volunteer opportunities or checking with your child’s school administrators to see if they have heard about Fuel Up to Play 60 or have already started the program. Also, the survey data show that starting good habits at home could have a tremendous affect on eating and physical activity patterns, so be sure to choose nutrient-rich foods—such as low-fat and fat-free milk products—first as a way to build a healthy diet.  These initial steps are a great start in fighting the childhood obesity epidemic one community at a time.

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