Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Childhood Obesity

Michelle Obama has got me thinking about childhood obesity. Michelle Obama's campaign, "Let's Move" is her action plan for reducing childhood obesity. As a former health care worker, I saw daily the first-hand effects of the growing obesity problem. Diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are all side effects of this preventable condition.

Members of my own family, as is true with SO many American families, have struggled with obesity. I often wonder if it contributed to the sudden early death of my own father. As a mother I want my children to be healthy, both mentally and physically.

Being raised in the south, the very fibers of my being cry out against bringing up such a taboo subject. After all, it's not exactly good manners. I'll also be the first to admit that I'm not very knowledgeable on the subject. But I am a mom, and a daughter who lost her father much too early in life. This is what compels me to breech the subject. Each day I see signs of the childhood obesity epidemic when I drop off and pick up my son from school. I think Michelle Obama's most important contribution is to get all of us talking about obesity, and bringing the subject out in the open.

I don't want to even speculate what has led up to this. There is so much good information on the "Let's Move" website. Basically it comes down to eating better and moving more. I thought I'd share a few things that have helped our family eat better over the years.

First, we've (almost) always had a garden. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that there's now a garden at the White House. I can't think of any better way to get kids to eat their vegetables. When they actively help plant and nurture their food, you can guarantee they're going to eat it!
Another thing I've always done is to freeze fruit for their snacks. I know we really shouldn't be giving our kids so many snacks. But I do know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables. By buying fruit at our farmer's market in bulk, then cutting and freezing it up, I not only have fruit to make into breakfast smoothies, or to use as snacks, but I also help the environment (less food miles, and using what's in season) and our local farmers. It's easy, saves money, and when the kids do get hungry for a snack, they can reach into the freezer for a frozen healthy treat. I find that spreading the bite-sized fruit onto a single layer then freezing it before packaging it makes it easier to use. If you don't have time to do it yourself, the grocery store has lots of frozen fruit to buy and eat at home.
The last thing I'll mention is Penzeys Spice Company. They make cooking at home a pleasure! Home-cooked meals are not only healthier, but cheaper. Cooking at home also allows you to get your kids involved and teaches them this very important life skill (one that schools rarely teach). What Penzeys delivers is an incredible assortment of spice blends that makes it so easy and delicious to make almost anything at home.... pizza, Cajun food, Indian food, curries, salad dressings, soup, baked goods, barbecue, the list goes on. They have excellent customer service, and if you're lucky, you may live close to one of their retail stores. They have made my job as home cook so much easier!!! (Special thanks to my friend Jen for introducing us many years ago).

Finally I'd like to encourage anyone who reads this blog to open a dialog as well about childhood obesity. Let's move!

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