Nutrition: What You Should Be Eating (cont.)

Ward: Satisfying everyone at all times is next to impossible. I go through it every night at dinner. Kids will eat when they are hungry. If you think about this, it's really a matter of physiological need vs. appetite. For example, if you are very, very hungry and you have not eaten for days, you will eat what's put in front of you. I'm not suggesting this extreme approach, of course, to getting your child to eat. However, I think we worry too much, and when a child is hungry, she will eat. Kids have a lot of choices these days. And I think they know it. And sometimes part of the issue is manipulation on the child's part.

All I can say is, continue to offer the same foods you are eating, maybe adding butter or dressing to make them more appealing to your child, and I think that eventually your child will come around and realize "this is what's for dinner." That does not mean that you have to avoid making her favorite foods, which may be higher in fat than you like. In fact I suggest doing that. Because it shows her that all foods fit into a healthy diet.

Member: Is there a downside to my 4-year-old daughter "grazing?" She eats a healthy diet, but definitely seems to prefer eating small portions throughout the day rather than three larger meals.

Ward: There is nothing wrong with grazing as long as you or your child fits in all the foods that are required to stay healthy. My problem with a 4-year-old grazing is that she doesn't get the sense that there are three meals (basically) in a day, and sometimes the eating is done in combination with other activities such as watching TV. And I do not think this is a good habit to get into. Kids need to separate food from other activities, so if she continues to graze, she needs to come to the table. Or stop wherever she is, and just sit and eat.

Moderator: Elizabeth, you mentioned "all the foods that are required to stay healthy." Easier said than done sometimes! This questions addresses that:

Member: I want to eat well, but when I get to the market, I get overwhelmed. What is a good rule of thumb when shopping for food?

Ward: Make a list. Don't go to the store hungry. Those are the two cardinal rules I live by. If you have a list and a sense of the ingredients you need for a few meals, it will give you a framework for purchasing. I have a list in my book, Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids, to help parents shop at the supermarket. It's a list you can copy or refer to from week to week. You can pick and choose what you need from the list. It gets you started. In order to get into the habit of shopping from week to week or every two weeks, you need to get into the habit of going after certain cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Then branch out after this.

Member: How much water do I really need daily? And can I include other drinks in that total or not?

Ward: There's the idea out there that an adult needs eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (64 ounces), which is not exactly right. And it can keep you in the bathroom all day long. You can count the fluid in milk and juice and soda toward your fluid needs. You don't need to drink 64 ounces of water in addition to those other beverages unless you are very active. A diet that's high in fruits and vegetables is also high in fluid. So fruits and vegetables are another source of fluid for your body. So probably six to eight 8-ounce servings of fluid a day, total, would be fine for most people in addition to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Member: I am about to start taking more iron and I hear that can cause constipation problems. What are some natural ways to add fiber in my diet to counteract this?

Ward: Fiber is found in whole grains (cereal such as raisin bran or whole-wheat Chex and fruit at breakfast), whole grains at lunch like bread, rice, or pasta with vegetables and fruit. Then snack on popcorn or veggies and a dip. At dinner, add more whole grains like quinoa, barley, or brown rice. Getting at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is a good idea. Also make sure you get six to eight glasses of fluid a day. Fluid plus fiber helps prevent constipation. At lunch, a good idea is also black bean soup or chickpeas in your salad.

Member: White rice is not whole-grain, correct?

Ward: Right.

Member: Why do I get such bad gas when I try to increase fiber in my diet?

Ward: Could be for a couple of reasons. One is you are packing in too much fiber too quickly. You have to "ramp up" from a low-fiber diet to a high-fiber diet. The second may be the types of fiber you are adding. Broccoli and legumes [beans and peas] can be particularly gassy. It may be a matter of trial and error with you. Whatever food you add, add it in small amounts. If it makes you gassy, go to another high-fiber food. Also make sure you are taking in adequate fluid. Basically your body gets used to a high-fiber diet in two to four weeks. Don't give up trying.

Member: Is NutraSweet better for my kids than sugar when it comes to soft drinks?

Ward: Here is my feeling about artificial sweeteners: If your child is having an occasional soda or sweetened food, then there is no need for an artificial sweetener. If your child is consuming so much soda that you need to cut calories or cut sugar by giving them an artificially sweetened version, then your child is consuming too much soda. I do not believe in giving kids artificial sweeteners. I think it sends the wrong message.

Member: My kids won't eat brown rice. I thought white rice (like Basmati) that was not enriched was still pretty healthy. Is this correct?

Ward: Yes, white rice is very healthy. It's just not as high in fiber as brown rice. It's fine for children. But if interested in increasing fiber intake, then brown rice would be the choice. If it's fortified, which grains tend to be, then they are great choices, whether brown, Basmati, or white.

Moderator: We are out of time. Thanks for joining us, members, and thanks to Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, for being our guest.

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