From my experience in the Junior League of Long Beach’s Kids in the Kitchen initiative, I have become very aware of the prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S. The Junior league of Long Beach has taken part in this initiative for three years and I think we do a good job of educating parents and children to make healthy choices. Simple stuff like no sodas, less fruit juice, no regular trips through the drive-thru can curb this immensely.

Much of the problem is just ignorance. In some households there is little regard to nutrition as long as the family is fed and in many cases, the less healthy and most satisfying meals are cheaper. This carries through with the conversations I have with other mothers about their nutritional habits. Often what they say and what they do are contradictory or incongruent and they just don’t know it.

I admit that my kids get some good and some bad stuff as part of life and I try not to make any grand statements about nutrition as a feather in my cap. I know I am not overly concerned with them eating candy, chips, cookies, etc. My recommendation is not to beat yourself up, but to be aware.

Here are some of the interesting statements versus reality that I have witnessed:

CHIPPY MOM: “I don’t buy potato chips!”

REALITY: BUT she buys the Costco trail mix of nuts, raisins and M&Ms that her kids eat by the handfuls. “It’s good for you,” she explains.

Nuts are a source of protein, but they are a fat. They are less bad for you then say a pat of butter, but they are still a fat and not a better snack than potato chips when eaten in quantities far greater than a serving size—combined with raisins which are concentrated sugar and chocolate candies with sugar, fat and caffeine.

HOP ON POP: “We don’t have sodas at home!”

REALITY: BUT for a snack they get a Krispy Kreme doughnut followed by an ice cream sandwich.

Milk and water are better choices, but one of the culprits of sodas is the sugar. So snacks like these are no trade-off.

WHOLLY MOLY: “We only have whole wheat bread!”

REALITY: BUT artichoke dip appetizers are ordered as a main meal.

Dips are basically flavored fat—that’s why they taste so good! A slice of whole wheat bread is not enough to counteract the calorie content or the effects of the fat.

DROWNING VEGGIES: “My kids love vegetables!”

REALITY: BUT she prepares them by sautéing them with “tons of butter” as she puts it.

It’s great that they eat them at all, but a slightly better alternative to get kids to eat veggies is to serve them raw so the nutrients are not cooked out, with a low-fat ranch dressing. A few other good tips to hiding veggies are to throw in a bag of spinach leaves into a pasta dish like lasagna or a baked ziti, or preparing baked goods like zucchini bread and carrot cake full of grated veggies, using apple sauce instead of oil in the recipe.

Pay attention to your trade-offs and your kids will be well-fed and happy. Take my word or it!

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