Picky eaters

It’s no secret that young pre-schoolers can be picky eaters. But a new study by a San Antonio researcher shed a light on what those picky eaters are picking.

The study looked at the eating habits of 135 children 3 and 4 years of age, from low-income families, attending a San Antonio preschool program. Using photographs to determine what exactly the kids actually ate, and software that estimates the nutrients in what they were served, the researchers were able to get a pretty good idea of their eating habits.

And in a study published in the journal Health Education & Behavior, they found that while the kids ate only about half the 800 calories on their plates for breakfast and lunch, the calories they picked weren’t the ones Mom and Dad might prefer.

“They ate the bread and fried foods, and threw away the fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Roberto Treviño, executive director of the Social & Health Research Center, at a news conference Tuesday at University Health System’s Robert B. Green Campus.

That’s important, Dr. Treviño said, because about 25 percent of these children are considered obese, compared to 8 percent of children the same age across the country. It also suggests how families considered “food insecure” because of poverty might also suffer from obesity.

Dr. Treviño, who developed the Bienestar school health program used in several South Texas schools, said it’s important to start these very young children on a path to better eating habits. Future research will look at what strategies work best in instilling healthy habits at this age.

Dr. Treviño is also working with University Health System on a larger project to improve the health of those living in East Side Promise Zone neighborhoods. The effort is one of several health improvement projects funded through the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payments program under the Texas 1115 Medicaid waiver.

Photo courtesy CDC