Experts discuss healthy eating for kids



ATLANTA - Experts say with just a little bit of planning and creativity, parents can get their children to eat healthy foods, and children who have changed to healthy eating habits agree.

A trip to the grocery store with 15-year-old Zarea Adams is an education on healthy eating.  She learned her healthy ways at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta's Camp Strong 4 Life.  She first attended the camp as an overweight 12-year-old.

"By going to camp, they teach you new habits and show you how much sugar, or how much fat is in something.  It changes the way you think," Adams said.

Change isn't always easy.  For parents struggling with their children's eating habits, behavior psychologist Josh Spitalnik said don't be afraid to fail.

"The most sustaining way to make changes is to make small steps in which you learn lessons and make mistakes, and make more small steps in which you learn lessons," Spitalnik said.

One of those lessons could be patience.  Children's Healthcare dietitian Trisha Hardy stressed, keep trying.

"It takes 10 to 20 times for kids to adapt to a new flavor profile," Hardy said. "So one of the things is, don't give up.  Keep offering the fruits and vegetables you want them to have."

Experts said a healthy plate is one that is half fruits and vegetables, and if parents have to, they can be sneaky about it.

"Macaroni and cheese for instance is one of my favorites, but I always add broccoli or spinach to it," Hardy said.

Hardy said the same is true for pizza.  Go lighter on the cheese and add more vegetable toppings.

Parents should also watch what their children drink.  Most parents know soda is full of sugar, but don't realize sports drinks and fruit juices are as well.  It's best to drink water.

"At camp, they teach you how to make flavored water.  And that's by taking fresh cut fruit and adding it to your water.  I like strawberries, watermelon and pineapple," Adams said.

In shopping carts in grocery stores all over metro Atlanta, shoppers now will find a Strong 4 Life sign.  It's a reminder to parents that what they buy is what their children eat.   It's a message important for children's physical and mental health.

"There are notable effects of weight gain and not getting exercise that are specifically on the brain, but also on one's sense of self, one's sense of pride," Spitalnik said.  

Adams is proof that exercise and healthy eating lead to a strong future for Georgia, one child at a time.

"I actually feel more healthy and more confident about myself," she said.