Monday, March 21, 2011

What I Learned on the Way to the Health Fair

Last week, I talked to parents at the first of a series of spring health workshops that eatdinner.org is involved in. Parents were eager to learn more about healthy choices for their kids, despite where they fell along the spectrum of healthy eating behavior. One mom talked to me about her fight to get her child to even try a whole grain bagel, with a tone that suggested she was losing the battle. Another said she offered healthy foods every day and her kids happily ate everything, but she was always in need of fresh ideas. One grandma said that her grandkids wouldn't touch anything but mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, and that she was going to pick up all my handouts to give to her daughter anyway. All typical challenges that parents face.

Every single person I talked to was relieved to just chat about ideas and solutions, rather than having me lecture them about strict "right" and "wrongs." I began many sentences with "I'm a parent, I know how hard it can be...." or "My youngest is the pickiest, but here is what worked for us..." Happily other parents also joined in the discussion, sharing tricks and tips, including some ideas that were new to me.

Understanding the real challenges of parents and meeting them where they cannot be underrated.  If we are going to engage parents to improve their children's eating habits, it boils down to this:

What parents need to be empowered:
  • Validation of their efforts. 
  • Support, not guilt (Believe me, moms have enough guilt already!)
  • Positive activities, like family dinner, to encourage healthy eating with their kids
  • Good, unbiased information on health choices
  • New ideas for snacks and family-friendly dinner recipes

One of the messages of this blog is that parents are powerful. True, parents are harried, busy and sometimes confused over the various health choices they face for their kids. Nonetheless, parents have more influence than they think in setting good examples and making the right choices for their kids. Let's work with parents as allies, giving them what they need to make the best choices for their kids. That's one way to make in-roads in the huge problem of childhood obesity and poor nutrition among kids.


Resources and Handouts:
In addition to promoting the benefits of family dinner, I talked about healthy snacks for kids and healthy portion sizes. Here are links to some of the material I used.

25 Healthy Snacks for Kids  From eatright.org, American Dietetic Association

Help Your Child Stay at a Healthy Weight From healthfinder.gov

Family Friendly Blogs with Recipes From eatdinner.org

Rainbow Stew from Aviva Goldfarb, PBS Kitchen Explorers

Today I Ate a Rainbow Kit (15% off with discount code: eatdinner until April 15, 2011)

Fruits and Veggies More Matters website

12 Smart Ways to Right-Size Your Portions From EatSmartMoveMoreNC.org, found on www.wellnessproposals.com

2 comments:

  1. Grace, This is precisely how I approach the subject in my parent presentations. I like to present myself as a parent who just happens to have little more knowledge on the subject because of what I do. It's especially important when talking with folks from different backgrounds. We work mainly in underserved communities and they can smell condescension and once they do, the opportunity is lost.

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  2. This is great info. I'm getting ready to do a nutrition presentation at my children's school next month for the parents. I agree-parents don't want to be lectured too, but want to be listened too and find some useful, "real" suggestions for getting their kids to eat better.

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