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 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, American Dietetic Association

Help Your Child Stay at a Healthy Weight From

Family Friendly Blogs with Recipes From

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, found on

Monday, March 7, 2011

Family Dinner as One Solution to Childhood Obesity: Vote for us on The Hive

Eat Dinner As a Family! My proposal (naturally) on Slate's The Hive: Time to Trim.

Slate is highlighting the issue of childhood obesity and is currently soliciting "brilliant ideas" to combat the problem on The Hive. The data are real and frightening, and this epidemic is not going to be solved by silly disputes over bake sales. Real change in how people eat, exercise and live their lives is needed and, no doubt, many solutions should come into play to address this complex problem.

Change can begin almost immediately, though, at the dinner table. It can change how we teach children about food and the importance we put on the communal meal. Frequent family dinners have been associated with better nutrition (more consumption of fruits and vegetables), better body weight management for kids and adults, and less "disordered" eating. By finding effective ways to promote and support family dinner, we can help parents create healthy life-long eating habits for themselves and their kids. Engaging and empowering parents will go a long way in this fight against childhood obesity.

I believe in the power of family dinner and in the power of parents to make the right choices given adequate information and support. That's what is all about.

Please read my proposal and VOTE! Spread the word about family dinner!