Good nutrition is the foundation for lifelong health and it really begins in infancy. Studies have shown that eating a healthy and balanced diet enhances children’s energy, sharpens their minds, and promotes overall defense from sickness.
But if we know this, why is mealtime often such a battlefield for families and why are an increasing number of our kids both obese and malnourished?
The most common causes of obesity in children are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or some combination of those factors. Only in very rare cases is being overweight caused by a medical condition such as a hormonal problem.
The national average says 1 out of every 5 children is above their weight range. This triggers the question “Why are there so many overweight children? The easy answer is kids are not as active as they were in the past. Previously children used to spend their time playing outside in games such as football, baseball, tag, war, hide and seek and just plain running around. Although some may have drunk soda and ate unhealthy foods such as ice cream and potato chips, these children didn’t get fat.
With the vast amount of electronics, today’s cyber kids spend hours on the computer, playing some sort of video game or watching the countless channels on the television, consuming high calorie snack foods and sugary drinks. The average child spends approximately four hours each day watching television — and that doesn’t take into account the time they spend online or gaming. And we live in a different and more dangerous world where parents are not comfortable letting their kids roam the streets and run around without supervision or organized activities.
When the quest of changing Joe’s eating habits started, it became clear to me that the entire family had to go through an overhaul of their food choices. We are somewhat a different family model because we cook dinner at home 360 out of 365 days a year. The issues of my family’s bad eating habits started in our own home, but regardless of where these habits begin, changing children’s mind about choice is a difficult task.
There is so much confusing media about what to feed your family. One expert after another promoting, preaching, dictating kid-friendly lunches, kid-friendly dinner, snacks breakfast… Most parents don’t know how to incorporate this into their daily lives. The families that don’t have time, the parents that never learned to cook, those brought up on bad eating habits themselves, really don’t know where to start to instruct, teach or recommend this way of life for their own kids.
So what did we do?
Demanding that your children to eat healthy just isn’t enough. It’s a family commitment that encompasses a circle of life, Balanced diet, physical activities and self-respect. Joe and I took baby steps, to transform our own lives, before we could change our children’s. As Joe began to eat differently, cook differently and buy differently, our children took notice. We changed as a family and as the weeks unfolded the results were amazingly rewarding. Here’s how we got started.
1. No sugar drinks The one exception was orange juice and that was watered down by ˝. Make pitchers of crystal light lemonade or ice tea or other liquid water enhancers that adds flavor with out sugar or calories. Have filtered or bottle water around at all times. Fluids are essential.
2. Fruit, Fruit, Fruit What are the fruits your kids like? Bananas, apples, blueberries, strawberries, grapefruits, oranges. Have these treasures available at all times in a bowl on the counter. They will automatically reach for it as a snack.
3. Snack food Candy, chips, salted sugared nut mixes or sugary cereals. “Get rid of them” Yes, just do it, cold turkey. Fill the cabinets with better choices, Pretzel sticks, microwave popcorn, unsalted or non-sugared nuts —almonds, cashews, pecans. Dried fruits, raisins, apricots, mangos. Applesauce cups, plain Greek yogurt without sugar. Cut up celery and carrot sticks with hummus or real peanut or other nut butters. Kids do have to snack, so have good choices.
4. Whole Wheat Whole grains anything will be your biggest challenge. One day I just stopped buying white bread. At first they wouldn’t eat whole grain bread, but I didn’t give up. One day I made a favorite for lunch —Grilled Cheese sandwiches. They gobbled them down and didn’t even realize it was whole wheat bread — a little butter goes a long way. Next was brown rice, stir fried from our local Chinese restaurant, then we started making it ourselves, Now we are up to wheat pasta, quinoa, lentils, rice and beans and wheat berries.
5. Breakfast This is when you as parents have the most control. Eggs for kids are a good source of protein and fat which they need more of than adults. Our favorites are 1 egg, 2 whites, with low fat cheese and turkey on toasted whole wheat bread or bagel. WW French toasted with eggbeater batter and fruit puree, Breakfast tacos or burritos with WW tortillas or a combination of egg whites and whole eggs, low fat cheese, salsa on the side. Colder weather is a good time for oatmeal and farina with fresh fruits. One thing that is always a hit with my kids is fried egg in a hole.
6. Lunch Younger kids, like fun, creative and colorful choices. Bento box style introduces an entertaining and interactive style of serving. Kids are more likely to eat the food you pack — and finish it — when they feel like they have some control over building it with all the different compartment choices. One part, egg, tuna or chicken salad or slices of turkey and cheese rollup, fruit and yogurt salad, salt-free nuts, pretzels and a few chocolate chips, slices of whole wheat cocktail bread make for an interesting lunch choice. Wraps, pita sandwiches even spaghetti and meatballs in a hot thermos help you control your kids nutrition during the times of day when your children are away from home.
7. Dinner In today’s world, this is where it all falls apart. Getting your family around the dinner table for a nutritious meal can sometimes feel like another full-time job among the many other full-time jobs we all have, but the rewards from this effort will continue for the rest of their lives. Mealtime should be a time to reconnect, catch up, communicate and bond. The central hub of their lives that’s safe and predictable. So much easier said then done, I know. Here are some tips to accomplish this last and most important piece of the kids nutrition puzzle.
Consistency is the key to success. Consistent meal times. Consistent good food choices.
Advance Planning: Being prepared. Thinking ahead. The stress of cooking a family dinner when that's not what your profession is can be overwhelming when you are arriving home after a long day at work. Start by making a weekly menu on Friday or Saturday night. Involving your children in the process will foster healthy habits and kids are more likely to eat new foods if they are involved in the process of choosing and buying. Let them come up with their favorite choices, using the same favorite items with different methods of preparations. Broccoli boiled and coated with cheese sauce is kid-approved yes, but try it roasted, sautéed in a little bit of olive oil, or baked with parmesan and breadcrumbs. If butternut squash is a hit, try it roasted or pureed with honey and cinnamon. Roast some carrots with thyme and olive oil or sauté them with shallots, butter and chicken stock.
Go Whole. Buying whole foods reduces your exposure to the many synthetic additives found in processed foods. If you are a novice cook, the idea of preparing your own foods from scratch can seem daunting and too time consuming. However once you are committed and dedicated, you will see how easy (and cheaper) cooking at home really can be.
Good nutrition starts at home. There’s a world of temptation out there, so a solid foundation of better habits and natural good choices will help direct your children for years to come. Now go get started!
Joe's Progress, Week 7:
STARTING WEIGHT: 276.4 LBS
WEEK 6 WEIGHT: 254 LBS
WEIGHT LOST WEEK 7: 2LBS
TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS: 22.4