Hi! My name is Joanna Dolgoff and I am a pediatrician who specializes in child and adolescent weight management. The child obesity epidemic is getting worse every day and many parents feel powerless to stop it. Children are eating more and getting heavier. What can a parent do when their child is constantly exposed to unhealthy foods?
In this blog, I will continually give tips on how you can prevent your child from becoming overweight and how you can deal with your overweight child. I know how difficult this problem is; I have two children (ages 5 and 2) and I also struggle with their nutrition. I will have plenty of examples from my own life to choose from!
From an early age, I have taught my children that some foods are healthy and help us grow big and strong, and some foods are not healthy. When they were very little, we discussed that most healthy foods “grow”. We tried to name as many foods that grow as we could think of: carrots, apples, oranges, lettuce, etc. We even included animals in the group- chickens grow, cows grow. When we would sit down to eat, I would ask them which foods on our plate were healthy- it became a game. We also discussed that cookies and cake don’t grow- and aren’t healthy. What they learned was that if it wasn’t somewhat “natural”, it wasn’t the best food to eat.
I also used a similar technique at snack times. My children like to go to the cafe that is in the same building as their nursery school. Unfortunately, this cafe has every candy bar you can imagine on display, and has very few healthy options. Every once in a while, I allow my children to eat a candy bar for snack. But they may not eat a candy bar as an everyday snack. Many of their friends, however, are allowed these caloric candies. I have explained why they may not eat chocolate so often. They know that chocolate is not good for our bodies. Every day after school, my son, Zachary, asks, “Mommy, are we having chocolate today or a healthy snack?” I usually reply, “A healthy snack.” And my kids go straight to the wall with all the snacks and wade through the chocolate bars and potato chips until they find a (lowfat) granola bar or a bag of pretzels. On the occasions that they are allowed to have cookies, they split a six pack. They know that nobody should sit down and eat SIX cookies. Believe it or not- my children do not protest. They have grown up thinking about what they eat; it is second nature to them.
It is not always easy and I am not always successful. There are plenty of times when, despite my best efforts, they will sit down and eat junk. Just yesterday, I found my Danielle, my two year old sitting in the den with a bag of Hershey Kisses that she had “found”. But, when I looked closely, I saw that she had eaten two kisses and then turned her attention elsewhere. At least that is a start!
I think the message is that children are never too young to learn about nutrition. We need to start teaching them the basics as soon as possible. They will carry this foundation of knowledge with them throughout their lives.