Helping parents become better feeders,
so they raise great eaters!

by Your Child Nutrition Expert Jill Castle

What Will it Take to Get America’s Kids to Eat Right?

March 9, 2011 | In: Child Nutrition, Feeding Kids, Parenting

Happy Registered Dietitian Day (today, March 9th) and Happy National Nutrition Month! March is a special time of the year to bring increased attention to food and nutrition, and Janet Helm from Nutrition Unplugged has put on her party shoes and is hosting a blog carnival. The price of admittance is a blog post…so, Janet, here’s my ticket.

What will it take to get America’s kids to eat right?

As a parent-focused family blog, you can see that ‘what parents can do’ is on the top of my list.  But, it doesn’t end there. Parents don’t operate in a vacuum–they have many partners when it comes to raising kids who are healthy, and these partnerships are highlighted here as well. It will take a ground-swell of effort from all partners to make a lasting impact on getting kids to eat right.

What Parents Can Do:

Get Educated: Parents get a lot of information about feeding their babies in the first year, but after that, nutrition information becomes a hodge-podge of confusing contradictions and changes, leading to fear and confusion.  There is a lot to know. Registered dietitians who are trained in the science of food and nutrition are your trusted resource– find one near you to answer your questions.

Be Committed to Feeding your Kids Well: Plan, procure, and prepare good meals–this is your #1 job as a parent.  Yes, feeding is a commitment, a job, and can lack reward sometimes, but I am here to tell you, getting this part right is so worth it. Healthy kids, who enjoy food and who learn how to feed themselves well for life come with lasting rewards.

Enjoy Food: Food is not ‘good’ nor ‘bad’–it just is. We all need to eat, and admittedly most of us need to pay attention to eating better–but we don’t have to be perfect, nor do our kids.  Enjoy! Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Set the Example: Behave the way you want your kids to–eat well and move. Parenthood is full of opportunities to show your kids a positive attitude about food, how to eat well and take care of your body through exercise. Your little monkeys will “ape” you all day long–make sure they see the good stuff.

FEED RIGHT!: We are bombarded with messages that focus on eating right–I’m unsure if this is an effective message for kids.  My advice to parents is this: Shift your efforts to “feeding right” and the “eating right” will follow.

What Pediatricians Can Do:

Educate Early: Anticipatory guidance is the buzz word for prevention. As pediatricians are the first filter for families, it’s critical that they lead the conversation about nutrition, and provide referrals and resources promptly.

Intervene Early: Give parents the resources they need the first time they ask. Screen for variations in growth and refer to other health care professionals (like a registered dietitian) who can address problematic behaviors quickly, before they get out of control. Give parents the tools (and confidence) to overcome nutrition challenges.

Focus More on the Health Benefits of Good Nutrition: Traditional medicine is reactive; build more health and nutrition education into your practice and it will help parents prioritize nutrition appropriately.

What Educators/Schools Can Do:

Integrate Nutrition in the Curriculum: It’s true: nutrition can be incorporated into everyday school subjects. Really. And frankly, nutrition is more interesting to children when it is presented in this manner, rather than as a core subject.  Think about cups and teaspoons in math class, reviewing the latest nutrition research in writing class and nutrition ethics in speech and debate courses. And what about bringing back Home Economics? While perhaps boring for the teen, school-age children are at a perfect developmental age for this!

Serve wholesome food: Get the cafeteria food right. ‘Nuf said.

Elevate Physical Activity to a Required Part of the Day: If you have read Spark by John Ratey, you understand the powerful impact exercise has on the brain, among other benefits. Our country focuses on activity as a means to correct our obesity problem, but the reality is, there are many other compelling reasons to bring exercise back into the school curriculum. For one, regular exercise may foster improved academic performance.

What Food Manufacturers & the Media Can D0:

Stop Selling Empty Health: Is it me, or is the word “healthy” becoming an empty promise? Many people are lured to the cash register by the promise of this word on food packages. Over-used and under-performing, “healthy” is a term to ingest with a grain of salt.

Shift the Target Market: Leave the little ones alone. Parents have a hard enough time getting nutrition right, and enticing kids at every media interaction with food ads isn’t helping.

Change the Conversation: The ‘all or nothing’ approach to nutrition and “good/bad” food confuses parents and loads them with guilt for not getting it right. Guilt = failure = giving up. Parents who throw in the towel aren’t helping their kids eat right. Cultivate messages that couple healthy behaviors with eating well, and we may get more kids eating right and moving more.

What do you think it will take to get America’s kids to eat right?

Share |

18 Responses to What Will it Take to Get America’s Kids to Eat Right?



March 9th, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Wow do I love this post!



March 9th, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Thank you!! Me too. ;)


Happy National RD Day! « A Sprinkle of Sage

March 9th, 2011 at 8:56 pm

[...] Jill Castle, Just the Right Byte: What Will It Take to Get America’s Kids to Eat Right?  [...]


Helping America Eat Right | Nutrition Unplugged

March 10th, 2011 at 7:38 am

[...] IFIC’s Food Insight:  Eat Right With a Colorful Plate Jill Castle, Just the Right Byte: What Will It Take to Get America’s Kids to Eat Right? Sheila Viswanathan, The Lazy Dietitian: Happy Registered Dietitian Day Brittany Glasset, Nutrition [...]


Ashley Rosales, RD

March 10th, 2011 at 10:33 am

Wow…so many good ideas shared in this post I don’t know where to begin! You are so right that getting our children to eat right takes a multi-faceted approach. I love that you point out the responsibility we have as parents, health professionals, educators and media. Let’s take a positive and proactive approach! As always, you hit the mark spot on :-)



March 10th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Hi I stumbled upon your webpage by mistake when i searched AOL for this topic, I have to point out your webpage is really valuable I also really like the style, its amazing!



March 10th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Thanks–it is a confluence of influence which will require an army of effort-makers! Always starting with the home-front first…



March 10th, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Glad you like it!



March 10th, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Thanks! Welcome and hope you return–:)



March 11th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Great post Jill. Very well said!!


Julie Dillon

March 14th, 2011 at 11:52 am

I was nodding my head in agreement while reading this post. I especially appreciate that you included pediatricians and schools instead of just parents. Thanks for putting it together and it will be passed onto many.



March 14th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Thank you! I am glad you agree~:)


March 14th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Great post. I’m glad I found your blog.



March 14th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I am glad you found me too!


corporations offshore

March 20th, 2011 at 11:13 am

..Whatever claims a foods manufacturer writes on the front of the package you can judge whether a food is healthy for you by reading the ingredients and the nutrition information on the food label.



March 21st, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Saved as a favorite, I love your blog! :)


My Top Ten: Why Pediatricians Need to Step Up for Nutrition « Just The Right Byte

June 15th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

[...] You know how I feel about kids and nutrition and the present state of health concerns for our nation’s children. If not, read What Will it Take to Get America’s Kids to Eat Right? [...]



November 9th, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Thanks for posting this.. It’s been a pleasure to read :)

Comment Form

Get the Book!

Fearless Feeding - How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School

Jill Castle’s Networks

I'm Blogging About Healthy Habits

Join Our Network

Include this badge on your website or blog!

Find out how...


Bad Behavior has blocked 1216 access attempts in the last 7 days.