Fighting Childhood Obesity
Take a stand against the epidemic that's sweeping the country.
The statistics are staggering. One out of three children in the U.S. is now considered overweight and childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last 30 years. The tradition of sitting down at the dinner table to eat as a family has slowly been replaced by fast food drive-thru visits and take-out pizza. Only four percent of elementary schools, eight percent of middle schools and two percent of high schools offer daily physical education.
Over the past year, the national talk about childhood obesity and nutrition has been elevated by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Campaign” and Jamie Oliver’s television show “Food Revolution.” As a registered dietitian and mom, it is worth noting that these important messages are motivating our children and getting them excited about real, nutritious food. Seeing young kids who were unable to identify a potato, eggplant or even tomato was certainly an eye-opening experience.
One of the first steps we can take to get younger generations interested in good, healthy food is simply to get them involved when we cook—and that means as parents, many of us need to get into the kitchen a little more. I know afterschool activities can make it more difficult, but you don’t have to be a five-star chef to cook simple, delicious and easy meals with your kids. By creating meals together, kids start to understand and enjoy the process of making a hearty and nutritious meal from scratch, lessons they’ll carry throughout their lives and hand down to their children.
Here are ways to help your children eat a more wholesome diet and develop a healthier relationship with food. As a parent, you have a huge influence on this consumption and understanding of food.
It’s critical that everyone works together to raise a healthier generation of children—it impacts our society in so many ways.
1. Teach kids where their food originates. Take them with you to the farmers’ market, on a tour of a local dairy or plant your own vegetable or herb garden. As parents, it’s our responsibility to help kids realize that real food doesn’t typically come from a box or a fast-food restaurant.
2. Take your kids shopping. Allow them to choose at least two favorite fruits or vegetables the next time you’re out shopping for food so they can feel like they are part of the grocery shopping experience.
3. Educate along the way. Sneak in some fun facts about fruits and veggies while you’re cooking or shopping, or tell them stories about your favorite food and mealtime memories from childhood. Enroll them in a cooking class that’s geared for kids.
4. Create traditions. As parents, emphasize the importance of sharing meals together, as a family. It is also fun to start family mealtime traditions. My family says a prayer before dinner to give thanks and pray for others. We all hold hands and it is a simple, yet incredibly powerful way to feel connected as a family. You can also play dinner games such as Table Topics for Family or make plans for a family project in giving back—serving meals to the homeless, working at a food pantry, taking up a neighborhood collection of canned goods for the hungry.
5. Be a role model. You are a crucial example of healthy eating for your children. You can’t expect your kids to try new foods if you don’t expose them to a variety of foods and flavors consistently and from an early age. However, you do need to strike the right balance since obsessing over the nutritional content of foods or always complaining about your own body in front of your kids can lead them to have unhealthy relationships with food and a poor body image. And establish your own regular exercise program, and encourage them to join you on a nightly walk or bike ride.
6. Embrace the mess. It’s inevitable that mixing recipes and creating meals with your child will leave the kitchen a little messier than usual, but allowing the kitchen to become a disaster zone might inspire some creativity from your children if they know it’s all about the food.
7. Always appreciate their efforts. It’s important to recognize your kids’ contributions in the kitchen, and acknowledge their help while enjoying their delicious culinary creations.
8. Make it fun. Assign kitchen duties while cooking a meal: have them snap green beans, stir big bowls of dough, mash sweet potatoes, add in spices or toss salads. Kids can be involved while still being safe. Purchase fun aprons or chef’s hats to get them more excited. Design and create your family’s recipe book.
Fun Recipes To Make With Your Kids
Berry Green Smoothie
• 3/4 cup mixed frozen berries
• 1/5 Hass avocado
• Handful of baby spinach
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 cup of 1 percent organic milk
Put all in blender and blend well; add more or less milk for desired thickness.
Honey-Kiwi Raspberry Fruit Dip
• 1 ripe kiwi, peeled and diced
• 1/2 cup unsweetened frozen raspberries
• 1/2 cup pure honey
• 8 oz. nonfat Greek yogurt
• Fresh fruit for dipping
In a blender, combine kiwi, raspberries and honey; puree. Stir in yogurt. Serve with sliced fresh fruit (strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, bananas, etc.).
• 5 oz. of kale, cut and rinsed
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a 9 x 13 nonstick sheet cake pan, spread the kale evenly in a single layer. Sprinkle the olive oil and sea salt on top. Bake 12 minutes or to your desired crispiness.
Peanut Butter and Honey and Banana Sandwich
• 2 slices whole wheat bread or
whole-wheat sandwich thin
• 2 tablespoons honey
• ½ banana
• 1 tablespoon peanut butter
Spread honey and peanut butter onto bread. Slice ½ banana onto bread.