What You Should Be Eating -- Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD

By Elizabeth Ward
WebMD Live Events Transcript

We talked with nutrition expert Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, about what makes up food -- proteins, carbohydrates, fats, water, fiber -- and how these components affect your body, your health, and your appetite. What does sugar really do to your kids? And what should your child be eating?

The opinions expressed in this transcript are those of the health professional and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to The WebMD University Student Lounge, and to our "Let's Eat!" course, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Today's lounge guest is our course instructor, nutrition expert Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of Healthy Food, Healthy Kids.

Member: My son, who is almost 10, has been heavy for the past several years. He definitely does not eat well -- pizza and Chinese food are a good portion of the week's food intake. Are there any good suggestions you have to help him become a healthier eater?

Ward: I have a lot of suggestions. And the first is to take a look at how the entire family eats, and to evaluate what food is in the house, and what this child has access to outside of the house. Mom tends to be the gatekeeper in the home, and if she is in charge of purchasing the food and planning the meals then there is a lot that she can do. So the first trick would be to plan to go shopping. I know this sounds very simple but many people don't do it on a regular basis. When you do not have healthy foods in the house then take-out foods such as Chinese food and pizza, which tend to be high in fat, become the norm for dinner. When fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole-grain cereals and breads, and lean meat and chicken are in the cupboards and refrigerator, then kids will reach for those foods first. It's very important for children to get a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity a day. That often means cutting back on TV and computer time.

Member: Is there a good way to get my son involved in the planning of meals? Make it more of a game?

Ward: Oh, yes. I'm all for getting kids involved in planning. You know it gives them a sense of empowerment to be able to be part of the process. And if you're offering healthy choices then you can't go wrong. I think the first thing you need to do is find recipes that you can agree upon with your son, and these can be very simple. Then take your child shopping. Taking kids to the supermarket is often the first way to get them interested in different foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Then have kids help you make the meal. When children are involved they are more interested in what they are eating.

Moderator: Our questioner mentioned the son liking Chinese food and pizza. I'm sure there are good ways to make those foods at home to be healthier than the takeout versions. Any suggestions for us?

Ward: Yes. Pizza is a great kid-friendly food and it's easy to make at home. Purchase prepared dough at the supermarket or bread dough from the freezer, tomato sauce, and reduced-fat cheese. Add vegetables or fruit. Kids might think that pineapple chunks are fun on pizza, for example. And stay away from the high-fat meats, such as pepperoni and sausage. Your pizza will be much lower in fat and calories than the take-out variety. Stir-fry dishes made at home can be much healthier than restaurant Chinese food. Use chopped chicken or tofu, beef, or pork and add a mixture of vegetables like broccoli, carrots, celery, and water chestnuts. And you will have an interesting dish that's much better for you. And of course, serve it with rice.

Member: How bad are kids' cereals, and how can I get my children to want to eat something other than Froot Loops?

Ward: Don't buy it. It's easier to keep kids away from sugary cereals when you don't buy them. Kids don't know the difference, many times. So if you want to "wean" your child off of the sugary cereals my advice is to mix them 50-50 with a very low-sugar cereal such as Cheerios or generic store-brand Cheerios. Don't buy the sugary cereals anymore, and gradually switch your child over. In the meantime, you can take heart in knowing that most cereals are fortified with many of the vitamins and minerals that kids need, including the sugary cereals. If your child is not a big milk drinker, cereal is an excellent vehicle for milk. So it's not as bad as it seems.

Member: They really do know the difference once they are over 2, and they are slammed by commercials every day.

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