Give Your Kids the Gift of Health: A Gift That Will Last a Lifetime
By Marcia L. Schurer, Ed.D., Author FitDelicious™: Lose the Pounds, Not the Taste; Food Intelligence Tools for Healthy and Delicious Eating
Read the newspaper, flip through a magazine, turn on the TV or radio, or surf the internet and you’ll be bombarded with marketing messages, research studies, or statistics about your health and weight.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), two-thirds of the American adult population is now overweight or obese. That’s 127 million overweight adults, 60 million obese and 9 million severely obese. Equally disturbing are the one third or 26 million children who are also overweight or obese. Since 1980, obesity among children ages 6 to 11 more than doubled while the rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled to 17.6 %. In some states, the rate of childhood obesity has exceeded 20%.
Unfortunately just like adult obesity, childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity-related diseases (together now estimated at $147 billion annually) including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and bone and joint problems. Obese children are also more likely to suffer self-esteem issues and become overweight or obese adults. Even more alarming is the prediction that children born in the year 2000 and after will be the first generation in America’s history to die at a younger age than their parents!
WHAT CAN YOU DO? MAKE YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR CHILDREN’S HEALTH YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.
Healthy food habits start at home. Be a role model for more positive eating behaviors. Eat healthier foods. Healthy foods lead to healthy minds and bodies. Better nutrition leads to better academic performance too!
Start Now. Show your kids how eating healthier foods can be fun and delicious. Teach them to be TasteFit – how to master the art of tasting – to develop a discriminating and discerning palate, one that knows how to distinguish quality from mediocrity, authenticity from artificiality, and foods that deserve their calories and foods that don’t. The more you get your children away from processed foods (high in fat, sugar, and salt), the healthier they will be when they’re young and grown.
Teach them how to use and develop their five senses – taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing. Start with their taste buds, the 10,000 their given at birth. Teach them to become a connoisseur of great food instead of a collector of wasted calories. Select and prepare a variety of colorful foods that are sweet, salty, sour, fruity, spicy, and savory naturally, without added sugar, salt, fat or calories. Let your kids touch and feel the foods in their hands and mouths. Grill, roast, steam, stir-fry or sauté them and let the aromas and sizzling sounds fill your kitchen.
Show your kids how to make better food decisions. Take them to the farmers’ market or favorite food store when you go shopping. Let your kids choose a variety of brightly colored and textured fruits and veggies each week, ones that are grown locally, regionally, and from different parts of the country or from around the world. Train your children’s taste buds when they are young to love fruits and vegetables and they will love them for a lifetime. Buy an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables to make sure they get their daily recommended servings — at least 5 servings daily or 1 – 3 cups veggies and 1 – 2 cups fruits daily; check www.mypyramid.gov for recommendations by age and sex — and vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Less than 25% adolescents eat enough fruits and veggies a day. Make sure to buy them when they are ripe and in peak season so they will taste their best.
Make food tasting a fun adventure. Have tasting parties with your kids, their friends and family. Taste testing is a wonderful way for you and your kids to explore and discover new foods to enjoy that can become part of your family’s daily meal plan. Experiment by tasting different fruits and vegetables raw, especially different varieties of the same food, like apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, tomatoes and peppers. Then prepare them using different cooking methods so they can taste the difference between ones that have been steamed, poached, grilled, roasted, baked, pureed or sautéed. Let them taste the food by itself and then in combination with other foods. Try popping their flavor with different herbs, spices, sauces and dressings that will add variety and taste without adding too many more calories. Broaden their horizons and experiment with ethnic and world cuisines. Keep test tasting activities to itty bitty bites and small sips to keep their calories in check.
Give your kids a vocabulary to describe the foods they taste. Or let them come up with their own fun descriptions. Words like crunchy, crispy, creamy, buttery, fiery, spicy, tangy, tart, fruity, smoky, fizzy, silky, smooth, mellow, sharp, lemony, and garlicky are just a few of the words that can make food tasting more fun and interesting.
Stock your home with healthy snacks and tasty, healthier foods. Be prepared and plan ahead. The best offense is a good defense. Keep your kitchen stocked with a supply of delicious, healthy snacks and foods to satisfy their taste. Keep on hand bowls of fresh fruits, peeled and cut veggies with healthy dipping sauces, and mixtures of dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Look for beverages made with low-fat or non-fat milk, soy milk, yogurt or 100% fruit juices. Beware of foods marketed as “healthy” or “better-for-you”. Read the list of ingredients and nutrition label carefully. ALWAYS check the calorie, fat, sugar and salt content and avoid foods with trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, additives, food coloring, pesticides and hormones. Read the FitDelicious LabelFit chapter to learn more. Avoid snacks that will pack on the pounds. Limit junk foods, fried foods, and foods low in nutritional value. Check the FitDelicious Healthy Snack Chart for recommendations or test drive and prepare the hundreds of FitDelicious recipes that are great for snacks, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert too.
Make sure your kids eat breakfast. It’s one of the most important meals of the day. Short on time, try making some of the FitDelicious breakfast recipes the night before, refrigerate and reheat (microwave) in the AM for your kids or take the 5 – 10 minutes to make them fresh in the morning. Smoothies can be put in a cup to go, omelets wrapped in a tortilla or stuffed in a pita to take along.
Increase your Kid’s Activity Quotient. Make a list of fun “motion” activities to get your kids more active and fit. Don’t let them sit in front of a computer or TV when they could be active instead. Let them walk or ride their bike whenever possible. Find physical activities you can share together and ones they’ll enjoy. Get involved. Volunteer for school projects that will get your kids moving. There are plenty of schools and recreation centers that could use the extra help. Show your kids you care.
Remember, obesity prevention and eating healthy starts with you. Give your kids the best start in life you can give them. Feed them foods that will help them be fit, healthy, and smart!