I have sometimes wandered away from my theme of witless dating,
but I stay strong in the area of relationships. With helpful
information on how to make healthy food choices, I hope to
inspire you to make some changes in your lives. This includes
any children that you are in communication with, neighbor’s
kids or your grandchildren. Every time you choose to change
something in your family’s diet, it can impact the guests
and friends of your children, too.
The facts that are here may startle you. I was shocked!
I had known our country, in particular, was having trouble
living longer, healthier lives but I did not know, to the
large extent, the numbers involved. Obesity has doubled in
children, ages 6-11 and tripled in teens, age 12-19.
These numbers, collected by the National Center for Health
Statistics are just unbelievable! The time period is from
1980 until 2010. By 2013, there have been a few reversals
in these numbers but not of significant amounts; yet.
Understanding food labels and the amount of news and media
coverage have helped this trend to start heading in the
right direction. I am pleased that Michelle Obama’s part
is playing a big impact, along with magazines that usually
feature articles with juicy and delicious foods that have
saturated fat and hydrogenated fat have also joined forces,
by including good and tasty alternatives.
Here are five ways to educate children to become more
‘savvy’ in the area of food choices.
1. Help your children (and yourself) visualize serving sizes.
Assemble products that you regularly include in your or their
diet. Examples of applesauce, oatmeal and cereals can be an
easy way to measure what is considered ‘regular’ portions.
When labels with nutrition information are looked at, it
helps to realize these are written for an adult’s size or a
2000 calorie adult diet.
Kids from four to eight, are about 2/3rds the size of an
adult. Teens should consume between 80-90% size of the adult
Measure out single servings. This will take your cell phone’s
calculator and/or paper to figure out! Serving sizes of bars
of candy and little pints of ice cream can sometimes be based
on only a portion of the actual whole content!
2. Help your child to check out the details. These are in the
little fine print on the label. When there is a long list of
names of ingredients that you don’t even recognize, this food
item may not be healthy! Artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners,
high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated anything
should signal this food product is of lower nutritional value.
Making this process a game rather than a ‘lecture’ will help
to interact and make this meaningful. Ingredients which you
cannot pronounce often mean, ‘lab-created, fake, food-like
items.’ This was a suggestion from a registered dietitian,
Of course, going to natural food places, including farmer’s
markets, can be a wonderful fun activity for families. Point
out, there are usually no labels on foods that are actual
fruits, vegetables and homemade products, usually include
more natural ingredients.
Comparisons can be made while watching television, with
advertisements that may mislead people into thinking they
are ‘good for you.’ Any opportunity, including driving
down the road, on billboards, can open up discussions on
food choices. Asking, rather than telling, really helps in
these ‘off the cuff’ situations.
I remember, as a child, my parents really wanting us to stay
away from sugary cereals. We still considered it a ‘treat’ to
get ones like, “Sugar Crisp” or “Frosted Flakes.”
When I went away to college, I gorged on dumb things like,
“Captain Crunch” and “Count Chocula,” which came out in 1971.
Buying things, like Hostess products out of the dorm vending
machines, ostensibly to ‘help me study and stay awake,’ such
as “Twinkies,” “Ho Ho’s,” and those pink-colored, coconut
marshmallow iced chocolate balls, called, “Sno-balls” were
When they talk about “Freshman 5 pound weight gains,” I had
probably ten pounds! I read recently of a famous person,
Maria Menounos, who gained 40 lbs. There is a photo of her,
in April’s “Ladies Home Journal,” that is unrecognizable!
3. Evaluate the numbers and figure out how that computes in your
child’s daily intake. Immediately, I think of salt and sugar
levels in foods, in this message! Discuss the listed numbers
noted for calories, fat, sugar, fiber and cholesterol.
I have been shocked how sugary items, including cereals, have
salt in them. Then, salty items like snacks, have tons of sugar
in them. When evaluating a packaged food for an elementary
school’s lunch box, aim for 175 calories or less per serving,
one gram or less of saturated fat, no trans fats, no more than
13 grams of sugars and no more than 210 milligrams of sodium
content. Try for at least 2 grams of fiber. These were also
suggested by the woman dietitian named, Tara D.-T. I usually
look for 5 grams’ fiber in my whole wheat or whole mixed grains
bread. I have found better cereals these days, particularly, in
the natural foods’ aisles.
4. Compare and contrast whenever you have a chance to do this.
No matter when you see food products, on television, in ads
and even on billboards, you have an opportunity to bring up the
subject of good food choices.
My grandchildren and I play that fun game of, “My father/
grandfather/mother or whomever, owns a grocery store and in it,
he/she sells something that starts with a __ (insert first letter)”
This has often been a way to find out where they find the item,
which is one of the many questions that you ask: “Can you find
it in the Meats’ department?” Once we discover from questions,
the product they were thinking of, I get an idea of their favorite
foods. Also, it gives me a moment to prosthelytize.
Under this category, Tara D-T. suggests looking for a high-percent
daily value of important growth vitamins, such as calcium, iron,
zinc and Vitamin D. These important nutrients, by the way, are
also important for all of us, during our aging process, to keep
our brains and bodies strong and healthy!
5. A plan of action should be to translate this knowledge into
good, healthy choices. Once you, your child and family have
become more adept and practiced in this area, you can be less
worried about the times you do ‘slip up,’ with a fast food meal
or a fun time at the movies, eating the popcorn with partially-
hydrogenated fat poured over it. Our Delaware Strand buys a
better product, made from Promise margarine. It isn’t nearly
as high in fat content.
Sorry, this is one of my big downfalls, along with donuts,
candy and ice cream! I have been unable to give up these and
simply, try to limit them.
The trend for teens to drink those high calorie pops, energy
drinks, with loads of caffeine, and flavored coffees, needs to
be addressed. I hope that if this seems to be common among
your teens’ friends or group, that you may wish to suggest some
limits to this. I would say, after my own experience of being
‘denied’ certain foods, that it is best not to boycott these
altogether. As parents you could instead suggest moderation.
Limiting to an extreme, I will remind all of you who were teen
‘rebels’ out there, causes the reverse action to be produced!
With time and practice, children will begin to include the power
of reading food labels before choosing foods. Teens may think
twice, as they stand in front of the vending machines at their
school, work or play centers. By understanding food labels,
the more kids know about what they are eating, the more often
they will choose healthier food choices.
I hope that this will be another way to start Spring, with a
renewal of your New Year’s resolutions to become healthier and
lead longer lives. This include all members of your family,
beginning with the little ones! They are much more open and
less resistant to changes and as mentioned, this can be an