One of the biggest challenges of raising children is getting them to eat right.
But it's also one of the most important roles we play as parents, because the foods we give them now will establish dietary habits that they'll follow the rest of their lives.
Think about that next time you consider skipping a real meal for a quick stop at the Golden Arches.
I know it's easier said than done. Many parents say their kids simply won't touch healthy foods even when they're right in front of them. I've had a few of those moments myself.
But a new study shows that children are more open to healthy foods than we think. And some parents, it seems, make too many assumptions about what their kids will and won't eat.
The study, sponsored by the American Society for Nutrition, followed children ages 5-12 at an Arkansas summer camp. These kids, and their parents, all said beforehand that they weren't very likely to eat healthy foods.
But then, more than half of them tried nearly all of the 16 different fruits and vegetables given to them at camp in place of their normal junk-food snacks. Many of the kids had never even seen some of these vegetables before, but let's give them some credit – they tried them just the same.
Now, I'm sure the environment played a role in these kids' choices, and the study didn't really touch on that. Children might be more inclined to try something new when they see other kids doing it. They might also be more willing to eat these fruits and veggies because, at camp, they know they can't just raid the fridge after the meal.
But I'm still encouraged by the results. The bottom line is kids can and will eat healthy food if we give it to them.
In some cases, youngsters just don't have access to good food. One study found that families in impoverished areas tend to shop in convenience stores, which have no produce sections, rather than supermarkets.
But there's a lot more at stake than shopping habits. Establish good eating now, and kids can avoid what I call the high-carb Torture Chamber Diet so many of us fall victim to here in the United States.
I can think of one other reason to give your children more fruit and veggies. We tend to eat whatever we make for the kids.
So if they're eating better, you will too.