Parents are riddled with tips on how to feed their kids. At the base of these suggestions is the specter of the obesity epidemic. It can be easy to believe that a diet of anything other than organically grown, trans-fat-free, gluten-extracted vegetables served with lactose-stripped, vitamin-enhanced-soy-whey will lead to 30-year-old offspring that bankrupt the healthcare system, while being too fat to leave our basements. So, when my 2 year-old screamed “McDonalds!” upon spying the golden arches during a recent car trip, I was understandably panicked.
Janet Carter, RD, LD, is a pediatric outpatient dietitian with the Medical University of South Carolina. I shot her several queries on how to keep my child from suffering the fate I so feared.
“Obesity is a multifaceted problem,” she offered. “In simple black and white, it is caused by too many calories being eaten and not enough being burned through activity. Things are not that simple, however, and there are a lot of other factors, such as emotions, abuse, genetic predisposition, and environment, to name a few. This last factor is especially important in the lives of children, since they are so influenced by their environment.”
As parents, it’s up to us to provide an environment that cultivates better eaters. Here are five tips to help foster such homes.
1. Involve Kids in Food Decisions
“Involving children in choosing meals and preparing meals can give them an important appreciation for food and nutrition, especially if those meals are healthy. It is also a good time to discuss with them the importance of having a healthy body.”
Take family trips to grocery store, discuss options. Cook together and eat together. If you have older kids, let them prepare meals, too. You deserve a night off!
2. Plan Ahead
“Many people believe that they save time by getting take-out or going out to eat, but this is not usually the case. With a little planning ahead and some creative thinking, making meals at home does not have to be difficult or time consuming at all.”
Planning meals ahead can also save money. Eat better and save cash, what’s not to love?
Funny Face Omelette For Kids
3. Let Kids Decide
“The best method for feeding children – starting from the beginning – is on command. We are born with the innate ability to regulate what we need for energy intake, but our environment (those telling us to “clean our plate”) causes that ability to be lost.”
The key here is to have healthy choices – not dessert or dinner – but two possible dinner choices. Also, trust your kids, it’s possible they are really full.
4. Moderation: Still the Key
“Fast food in general is very calorie dense and nutrient sparse. Many fast food restaurants are trying to have some healthier choices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are healthy. Of course that doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have fast food. Sometimes, when planning has fallen short and time is very short, it could be the most feasible option.”
Eating out on Hilton Head? Check out this list of where locals like to eat.
Any changes in eating habits need to be reality based. Shoot for fast food once every two weeks and see how it goes. Remember habits can be changed.
5. Be Willing to Ask for Help
“It can be very helpful to consult a Registered Dietician if you or your children have a weight problem, or any other health issue that can be attributed to lifestyle factors. Even if you just need help with meal ideas or meal planning, consulting an RD can be very helpful. And it is often covered by insurance.”
Know your resources. If seeing a RD is covered by your plan, go for it.
Resources to help
- For more information on healthy meal choices, along with some fun nutritious recipes, check out Liz Weiss’ Liz’s Healthy Table website. She co-wrote No Whine With Dinner — a fun recipe book with tasty nutritious meals for youngsters.