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Children should eat the same healthy foods as adults

In the United States, some people have the idea that children need different foods than adults in their diet. But many of the products that are considered to be “children’s” foods are highly processed and sugary and often lead to picky food preferences.

The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior just released a position paper stating that there is no difference between what foods are healthy for children and those that are healthy for adults.

“If you think about kids’ food, the archetype or terminology that we widely use to describe the food that we feed our children, it’s really a social norm or societal construct that we’ve perpetuated,” said Pamela Rothpletz-Puglia of Rutgers University.

The paper traces the idea of different diets for children back to the Prohibition era. During this time, restaurants created children’s menus to make up for a loss of income from alcohol. 

Even though it’s a known fact that children over the age of two can benefit from the same food as adults, children’s menus still persist today. 

The menus created for kids are often populated with very processed foods such as chicken tenders, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs and deep fried oreos. Unfortunately, children tend to love these options.

The paper calls upon food educators to change this misunderstanding and shift demand and norms in children’s diets. Experts at the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior believe that together they can build resilience in communities as well as foster healthy adaptation to the “ultra-processed food environment.” This can be accomplished by working with media, restaurants and policy makers.

“Ultraprocessed food is readily available, further reinforcing unhealthy food preferences, which can persist into later childhood and even adulthood, ultimately increasing lifetime risks of obesity, chronic disease, and other adverse health outcomes,” wrote the researchers.

“However, nutrition educators can encourage more healthful dietary choices by shifting core beliefs about children’s food and educating about how children can eat the same foods as adults.”

The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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