By Connie Evers MS, RD, LD – Nutrition for Kids
Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog – Healthy Habits for All Kids! – Part I
In my work as a child nutrition educator, my goal is to inspire kids and families to adopt healthy habits. My approach is to educate kids to be smart consumers, develop a positive body image and learn to love a variety of healthy foods. Instead of lecturing kids, I try to make it fun and challenging. I want kids to become involved and experience and discover nutrition.
I call these “aha” moments.
What I don’t like to see are programs that focus only on scare tactics (e.g. lecturing on the danger of obesity) or that even go so far as to ostracize kids who are overweight. One example is the misguided Georgia billboard campaign that features photos of obese children with shameful captions (e.g.”Warning: Big bones didn’t make me this way. Big meals did.”).
Another example is the Disney “Habit Heroes” exhibit aimed at children that portrays fat characters (Lead bottom, Snacker, The Glutton) who are lazy, inactive and eat junk food. Disney has since tabled the exhibit because of criticism for reinforcing negative stereotypes.
Yes, we all know that there is an obesity epidemic and it is affecting children. But putting the focus solely on weight as the only measure of health does a disservice to all kids.
I’m reminded of the Dad who invited me to speak to his son’s fifth grade class about nutrition. He was almost apologetic when he mentioned that there were no “overweight” kids in the class. He wanted to know if I would still be willing to discuss nutrition with the class. My answer was “Of course I will!”
Here’s the deal – ALL kids of all shapes and sizes will benefit from thoughtful, meaningful nutrition and health education! It is the rare child who is eating according to the MyPlate food guide.
Children are not getting enough whole fruits or vegetables (particularly the dark green and deep orange varieties), taking in enough calcium for maximum bone development, or even coming close to eating three servings of whole grains each day.
American kids are at risk for many different nutrition-related problems. Almost 15% of girls and 4% of boys scored at or above the threshold of 20 on the EAT-26, an instrument which screens for possible eating disorders. Iron deficiency is common in teenage girls, affecting 9% of girls ages 12-15 and 11% of 16-19 year-olds. Far too many kids and teens continue to skip breakfast on school mornings. I have already blogged about the problems of sugary beverages and fast food.
When kids are poorly nourished, regardless of how much they weigh, they cannot live up to their physical or mental potential.
It is the responsibility of many to create an environment where healthy eating habits and fun, physical activity are the norm, not the exception. Families, educators, health professionals, food industry, government, nonprofits and media all have a part to play in creating a healthy culture for all kids. But shaming or blaming overweight kids has no place in creating this environment.
In Part 2 of “Healthy Habits for All Kids,” I will share some specific examples of how to Inspire those “Aha” moments in children.
To learn more about Connie, check out the links below: