The Kid’s Doctor: Healthy eating habits start in the home


Many children love cereal, but seldom to hear that their favorite is oatmeal. 
By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
I try to incorporate questions about eating habits into my well child visits. Even though most pediatricians are busy, a few minutes spent discussing healthy eating can go a long way. I’ve started asking some new questions which I think are helpful to assess a family’s eating habits.
  It’s impressive how much information you can glean based on a few key questions, even when posed to children as young as 4 or 5 years old. 
  If I simply ask, “Do you think your family eats healthy meals?” the answer is usually, “Yes.” But that doesn’t really tell me much about what the child (or their parents) deem “healthy.” Instead, I start off asking, “Who fixes breakfast?” This not only lets me know if a child is eating breakfast, but also if a parent is involved in preparing the meal.
  Not every child is fortunate enough to have a parent around in the morning to fix breakfast, and some children’s food choices are related to that issue. When I ask a child about their favorite cereal, rarely do I hear, “steel cut oats.”
  Next, I ask if the child takes his or her lunch to school or buys lunch in the cafeteria. If a child buys lunch, I ask what they prefer, and often it’s pizza, chicken, hamburgers or tacos. I also ask each child their favorite fruit or vegetable. Sometimes the child cannot name a single one, which makes me think they’re not eating these healthy foods.
  Most kids have a snack when they come home from school, so I also ask what they usually choose. Some kids attend after school programs and seem to have healthier snack options, while others tell me they stop at “fast food” restaurants almost every day. Some come home and eat cereal for the second time that day.
  Lastly, I ask, “Who fixes dinner?” and “Do you set the table?” These questions offer a way to see if family members eat together. As you know, I’m a big believer in family meals for all sorts of reasons.
  I hope your pediatrician is also asking you and your children about mealtimes. When and what and how we dine is important in promoting healthy eating habits.
 Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of “The Kid’s Doctor” radio show. Submit questions at
This column was printed in the January 26, 2014 – February 8, 2014 edition.