Jan. 7, 2010— -- According to the best-selling book, "Fast Food Nation," American children now get about one-quarter of their total vegetable servings in the form of potato chips and French fries.
Yes, potatoes are vegetables. But two Harvard University studies have found that, because potatoes contain lots of starch, eating too many of them increases the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' senior health and medical editor, appeared on "Good Morning America" today. He chatted with a group of children to find out what they think good nutrition is.
Most people will wind up visiting a fast food restaurant with their children from time to time.
There are healthy choices that can be found on menus in almost all of these restaurants.
• Instead of getting a hamburger, choose a salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or vegetables. Go with a low-fat dressing, and avoid the cheese if you can.
• Instead of French fries on the side, you can choose a baked potato, fruit or yogurt. Almost all the fast food restaurants are offering one of these alternatives.
• If you choose to eat at a sandwich shop, remember that many of them offer sandwiches with whole grain breads and lots of vegetables, as well as salads.
Veggies in Disguise
At home, you can get your children to eat their vegetables – even if they don't know it.
• Prepare vegetables in a variety of ways so children have a choice. Veggies and fruit may be served raw or with a low-fat dip. Vegetables may also be steamed or sautéed, and roasting them brings out a sweeter flavor. Carrots, sweet potatoes and cauliflower are particularly tasty when they're roasted.
• If your child really dislikes vegetables, hide them in sauces. Veggies can be pureed into tomato sauce, which can then be placed on pizza or over pasta, and you can make chicken noodle soup with vegetables. You can also sprinkle shredded parmesan or cheddar cheese on top of vegetables.
• Don't give up trying to introduce your children to different vegetables. Just because a child doesn't like a particular taste today, doesn't mean he or she won't like it next week. Like other senses, tastes develop in a child over time.
Experts say children like a sweet taste because it fills a biological need for energy, which is necessary for growing tall. This would explain why so many children love soda. But soft drink consumption rates among children have doubled in the last decade.
Soda is a culprit in the growing childhood obesity epidemic, but there are things that parents can do to prevent their children from drinking too much soda.
• Mix seltzer water or club soda with a little juice. It gives children the fizz that they love without all the sugar and empty calories that they get in soda.
• Remember that a little soda – say, once per week – is okay. Moderation is the key. If you demonize a particular food, your child will only want it more.