Weighing In on Childhood Obesity, Sept. 21

As a Mom, I work tirelessly to make sure my kids are eating right. They’ve always been good eaters. I breastfed both of my kids, and they seemed to take to the milk immediately and drank until they were full! Sometimes, they would drink the milk too fast, and they would cough a little bit, and then continue on. I miss those special bonding times.

Now that the kids are older, I am being bombarded with warnings about the obesity epidemic in America. Because of the constant warnings in the media, I’ve become increasingly concerned about what my kids are eating. My kids continue to be good eaters, and sometimes Jon and I get into “discussions” about what we should be feeding them.

For example, I always want to get the 100% whole wheat bread, while Jon sometimes says “why can’t we get the whole grain white bread? Isn’t that healthy, too?” Jon often prefers regular pasta, while I would rather serve up whole grain pasta. We do agree on making fruits and vegetables a priority for the kids. Still, it’s often hard to make sure the kids are getting what they need (Jon needs to get with the program!)

It’s even harder when you go to a restaurant. The other night, we were eating out and the kids wanted grilled cheese sandwiches. Since they hadn’t had this in a while, I thought it would be OK for them. However, the dish also came with fries, and I didn’t really want them to have the fries, too. The problem was, the restaurant didn’t really have another healthy option. So the battle for healthy eating is not just on the homefront. It’s difficult to give your kids healthy options when you are eating out.

To provide some healthy ideas, I bought the book "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food" by Jessica Seinfeld. This cookbook helps parents promote healthy eating in children by offering vegetable-enhanced classic recipes. One example is spinach brownies. Sounds interesting, huh? You just have to be proficient with pureeing and hope the kids still like the taste. Jon, of course, says these recipes just don’t compare to my peach crisp.

Let’s just say that the effort to make sure my kids are eating right and growing properly stresses me out. But I’m sure that’s a stress for any mom. The thing is, I don't remember the obesity scare when I grew up. Sure we played outside on the farm, but we had good hearty meals and sweet snacks, too. What's happened?

My guess is that as a society, we have become too sedentary. There’s too much TV and too much computer time. There’s not enough of a chance, for various reasons, for kids to spend time exploring the outdoors.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that while obesity in America is a big concern, I shouldn’t, and won’t, spend every waking moment thinking about it. In fact, I’m implementing the age-old adage of “everything in moderation.”

I believe the key is to make healthy choices on a daily basis. Those choices include lean meats (like chicken), getting some fish in the diet (we liked some salmon on the grill last week), and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Foods like pizza, that wonderfully popular grilled cheese sandwich, and those dreaded processed meats should come once in a great while. Some people might say that kids shouldn’t eat any of this, and shouldn’t ever go to a fast food restaurant. I don’t think we should, as a society, demonize foods. I believe that kids can have a treat once in a while, as long as you are employing healthy habits on a daily basis. And Jon, yes, that includes some whole grain pasta, thank you. lol

I am listening to Michelle Obama's call to keep our children's weight in check, and I do take it very seriously. I’m working at it everyday, and we as a family are working at it to be as healthy as we can be. The kids play outside daily (weather permitting) and participate in activities like flag football, soccer and dance. And by employing the everything in moderation motto, I think we can also arrive at a healthy balance while not having to completely say goodbye to some fun treats.

By the way, I need to take a page from the early years of our children’s lives and my own, and that is, we need to drink more milk. So Jon—along with the whole grains…could you pick up another gallon of milk from the store on your way home?

Happy Parenting!


About the Author...
Taryn Vanderford
Taryn Vanderford is an Emmy-winning journalist who currently works on "First at Four", "Pure Nebraska" and "Moms Everyday" for 10/11 and Gray Television.

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