A visit to your local super theatre complex provides a potent reminder of portion distortion at it’s worst. Mammoth medium-sized soft drinks can be super sized for just pennies. If you opt for the biggest popcorn they’ll throw in a free chocolate bar for good measure. All to sit motionless in front of a huge screen and mindlessly chomp and gulp until we hit bottom. Does this say something about the direction of our society or is it simply a harmless occasional indulgence. I’d like to think the latter however easier access to fast food, larger portion sizes and less activity all spell disaster if they become the norm for both kids and adults. The news is full of talk on the rising rate of childhood obesity in North America. We know that in Canada alone childhood obesity rates more than doubled from 1981 to 1996. Currently more than 30% of our children are considered overweight. This increase is undoubtedly caused by a combination of many factors including poor eating habits and lack of physical activity.
The solution must also combine many different strategies. This is the focus of Nutrition Month, the annual campaign run by the Dietitians of Canada. This March they are targeting school aged children with their message “Eat Well, Play Well”. They are taking the positive approach by encouraging families to find the fun in healthy eating. We have a lot to compete with. When you look at the fancy packaging, bright colours and sophisticated marketing pushing the processed foods you almost feel sorry for the boring old veggies that lay hidden in the fridge bottom drawer. It definitely takes some creativity and effort to consistently make healthy choices available and enticing to kids. And who feels creative after a long day of working or caring for your kids at home. That’s why we have to get the kids involved. Harness their boundless energy and get it working in our favour (and theirs).
The first step is getting them interested. If your kids are “hands on” get them involved with cooking, washing, supervised chopping, mixing and tasting while preparing meals. We know that kids find healthy foods more appealing if they have had a hand in the preparation. If your child likes the computer then take a visit together to the Dietitians of Canada award winning website www.dietitians.ca/eatwell. On the left hand side of the screen you will find an array of quizzes, games and tools geared for both kids and adults. Take the “Nutrition Challenge” and see who knows more trivia and facts on nutrition. If you are afraid your 10 year old might leave you in the dust you might want to try the game on your own before entering a competition.
Once you have brushed up on your nutrition knowledge you can click on the nutrition profile and enter in all your foods for a day to see how you measure up. You can print off great lunch ideas and worksheets for your kids to plan their own healthy lunches . One of my personal favourites is the “Lets Make a Meal” game. This interactive game allows you to choose from several meal and snack choices to build an entire day of eating. As you make each choice you see the servings of Canada’s Food Guide increase according to your choices. The number to watch climb is the “Others” food group. Others represent the high sugar, high fat or low nutrient food choices. With choices like pop, candy, chips and donuts the “Others” can easily exceed the totals for the main 4 food groups. It is a great challenge for your kids (and yourself) to try building a day that fits all the recommended servings. To top it all off you can print a meal planner, great recipes and grocery tips from the same game. If you can make healthy eating a fun family affair you have won half the battle. Keep it fresh with new ideas, new recipes and new information. The more healthy choices you make, the more room there is for the occasional movie theatre indulgence. Show your kids both sides of the fun.