(A recent study provided worrisome . Here is another in a continuing series of articles on how families, institutions and government can help us eat healthier, exercise more and slim down.)
Guest Blog By Linda Michaelis RD, MS
Summer is here! It can be a time to get your child in shape and achieve an ideal weight or a time to establish bad eating habits that can last. The objective is to provide the right foods that your child will enjoy. Let me tell you about my recent work with one local family.
My initial meeting was at their home where I went through their refrigerator and cupboards to show them the healthy vs. the unhealthy foods. I interviewed all family members to find out what their favorite meal and snack foods were. I instantly saw why all of the family members have weight problems. Most of the foods were highly processed such as frozen Eggo waffles and pancakes, Kraft mac and cheese, lean pockets, frozen pizzas, bagels, french bread, high sugar cereals like Honey Bunches of Oats and tubs of rich ice cream. The only existence of fruit and veggies were a couple bags of frozen broccoli and a bunch of bananas on the counter.
I first taught all of the family members how to read the food label for important facts such as protein, fiber, fat, sugar and calories per serving. I realized that it was my job to teach the family that healthy food can be delicious. I began by suggesting some modifications to their favorites such as Van's whole wheat waffles and Krusteaz Oatbran Pancake Mix. I suggested they serve their macaroni and cheese with equal amounts of broccoli which they loved. I taught the family how to make their own pizzas from whole wheat pizza dough. These are now available along with low fat cheese, lighter pizza sauce and veggies. I introduced the family to many 100% whole wheat items like Orowheat Sandwich Thins, English Muffins, La Tortilla Factory Tortillas, Couscous and Pasta. They now love having one cup cooked pasta, rice, or starch along with two cups tasty sautéed veggies in garlic and olive oil along with a sprinkle of parmesan. We also discussed buying portion sized fudgeicles, creamsicles and fruit juice bars rather than ice cream tubs.
Mom, Dad and I went to Trader's Joes where I was thrilled to show them new items that they can add to the family menu such as healthy potstickers, soups, frozen wild fish, fresh arugula, spinach, and fresh veggies in bags that are cleaned and cut and ready to be cooked. We also discovered brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, along with cottage cheese, Greek yogurts and salads. I made a point to go over all the food labels for all the new items they bought so they could understand how nutritious they are. They were shocked how many great convenient items that are available.
I returned to their home a week later where I reviewed everyone's food diary. We discussed best snacks to keep on hand that the kids would like. Ants on a log were their favorite, made of peanut butter stuffed in celery sprinkled with raisins. The kids were happy to hear that they can have a dessert each day as long as they are having veggies at lunch and at dinner. The parents informed me of what restaurants they frequent, and I helped them learn what the best choices were from the menu. For example, once a week they order Chinese and I helped them tweak their typical choices with the addition of more veggies and less noodley and rice dishes. Last week they enjoyed lettuce wraps, Mongolian chicken and sweet snowpeas for dinner.
Like most kids, Mom explained how difficult it is get the kids to become more active. Goals need to be set. I suggested that a couple of times a week they should have a family bicycle ride, make sure the kids swim a certain amount of laps each day and have mom and dad switch off with taking the kids for a walk. The kids are involved with summer softball, although it is not consistent exercise. Make it fun for them by setting up incentives. If they exercise five days a week, let them go see a movie of their choice! This summer there will be slipups with backyard parties and sleepovers. Talk with your child on how to make the next meal a better choice to balance out the overeating.
I am meeting with this family each week, checking on their progress, continuing to educate and support them in their desire to create a healthy family plan for the summer.
Please feel free and call me about your family concerns.
Linda's office is located in Alamo. She says most health insurance plans now pay for nutritional counseling. Please visit www.LindaRD.com for more information, helpful tips, recipes or call at (925) 855-0150.
(Read more about the obesity epidemic and what you can do to counter it.)