Nutrition-wise blog

Talking to kids about healthy food choices

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. October 14, 2010

When my son was 2 years old, he took a large swallow of clear soda thinking it was water. Eyes watering and throat burning, he swore off drinking anything with bubbles.

About a year later, however, he started to realize that his older cousins and their friends drank soda. And he began to brag to his friends that he drank soda too. As his mother I was somewhat amused by his behavior. As a health professional, I thought, "Oh dear." But despite his claims, my son wasn't actually drinking soda. Oh he tried to like it, but to no avail. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Fast forward one year. A neighbor recently offered my son a diet soda, and my son asked my permission to have it. My obvious response was, "Honey, you don't like soda." His equally obvious answer was, "Mom, I like this kind."

Thinking that some lessons have to be learned the hard way, I let him have the diet soda. As he sipped, he started reading the nutrition facts label to me. "Mom, this has 0 grams of fat in it!" Pause. "Mom, this has 0 grams of protein in it!" Pause. "Mom, this has 0 grams of car-bo ...." "Carbohydrates, honey," I filled in.

And so the label reading continued, and I listened and assisted with sounding out the big words. Then I realized my moment had come. I asked my son, "If something has no carbohydrates, no protein, no fat, and x, y, z of everything else, is it good for you? Is it good to put it in your body?" My boy who loves to talk was silent.

What do you think? If a food or beverage has little nutritional value, is it good for you? If your body doesn't recognize anything in it as digestible, absorbable or nutritious, should you eat it? Does it add value to you in another way, for example, as a way to avoid extra calories? How would you explain it if someone asked you?

To your health and your children's health,

Katherine

Oct. 14, 2010