As parents, one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to raise them to be healthy in all elements of their life. We have the power to teach them about healthy eating, inspire them to be active and encourage them to live well.
First Lady Michelle Obama recently unveiled an official campaign to combat childhood obesity and although she met with criticism for sharing her family’s pediatrician’s words about her daughters’ body mass indexes, the message should be heard loud and clear. Parents need to take responsibility for their children’s behaviors and make small changes to ensure their kids grow up healthy.
Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk to Jacque Miller, a behavior nutritionist in Arizona who works with a childhood obesity program, about raising healthy families.
“I think the biggest things for the parents to know is that they are in charge of their kids’ health. The kids are not the ones starting the car and driving through (fast food joints) … Parents are the ones in charge of their family’s health,” says Miller.
So, what can you do? Here are some tips from Miller:
- Practice portion control. Without a doubt, portion sizes are out of control in the U.S. As parents, we need to stop the madness and eat smaller amounts. “Portion control is the big issue when it comes to obesity,” says Miller.
- Learn to cook and read labels. If you rely on premade, prepackaged foods, you aren’t setting your family up for success. Miller says that cooking, and also understanding nutrition labels is really important for parents. Did you know that there are 14 different ways that sugar can be listed on a label?
- Shop right. If you shop the right areas of the store, then your meals will naturally be healthier. “If it comes in a box, don’t eat it. … You shop the perimeter of the grocery store, that’s where the fresh food is,” says Miller. Farmers’ markets are another great resource.
- Choose the best you can afford. Farmers markets aren’t open year-round all over, so you need to choose the best source available to you. Miller says that if local, fresh veggies and fruits aren’t available, go for certified organics from the grocery store (the ones with the green and white label that indicates they are certified organic by the FDA). If that’s not available or it’s too expensive, choose frozen veggies. “Frozen is always better than canned. The canned foods have a lot of preservatives in them and they have a lot of sodium,” says Miller.
“It’s all about choices and making healthier choices,” says Miller. “It’s a matter of taking charge.”
Are you ready to take charge of your family’s health?
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.