BALANCING ACT: Dr Jenny O?Dea with her daughters, Isabella, 10, and Katherine, 2. The girls? grandparents live at Evans Head.
BALANCING ACT: Dr Jenny O?Dea with her daughters, Isabella, 10, and Katherine, 2. The girls? grandparents live at Evans Head.

Hungry child may be healthier



PARENTS shouldn't be afraid to let their children become hungry, according to nutritionist Dr Jenny O'Dea.

"There is no point trying to feed your kids healthy food if they've been 'grazing' all day," Dr O'Dea, a senior lecturer in nutrition and health education at Sydney University, said.

The author of Positive Food for Kids recently gave parents some tips at a Positive Eating and Body Image workshop in Goonellabah on how to get healthy food into their children.

She said the first step was for parents to take control of their children's dietary habits: deciding what, where and when they eat.

Children should be allowed to decide how much.

"I have interviewed hundreds of parents and there is this great guilt about allowing their kids to get hungry, but it's a natural and healthy thing," she said.

"Kids need to learn to eat when they're hungry and stop when they're not."

Dr O'Dea said many parents let their children snack all day and were surprised when they didn't eat their dinner in the evening.

It was also important parents used positive reinforcement when getting their kids to eat their greens, she said.

"Instead of saying 'oh, you only ate three of your peas' parents should praise them saying 'well done for eating some peas' and perhaps next time they'll eat a few more," she said.

"If they don't finish their dinner, it just means they're not hungry enough."

Dr O'Dea said after completing a study of 600 primary school children and their eating habits, she found some surprising results.

One-in-six children had eaten no fruit or vegetables in the previous three days; one-in-five had had no fruit juice; one-in-four had no cereal, pasta or rice, and onein-10 had no milk.

Dr O'Dea said poor nutrition not only caused poor physical growth, but poor brain growth and reduced intelligence.

She said it was important children had a balanced diet because it affected their eating patterns throughout their lives.



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