We design and deliver solutions for parents, schools, and organizations to improve the health of America's children. Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. is a non-profit organization working to improve health literacy and halt, reverse, and prevent childhood obesity...because failure to protect America's children from obesity-related diseases is not an option. Enjoy WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS!
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
--Charles M. Schultz
What is your
“go to” ingredient in your kitchen?What
are the foods that you want your children to enjoy and love?
A couple of
weeks ago, I did a healthy chocolate tasting class at the local Boys and Girls Club in
Sebastian, Florida. This was part
of Growing Healthy Kids’ program called The Art of Healthy Eating. The 2nd and 3rd graders
were excited because over the past several months they have been learning about
– and tasting - foods that make you healthy and smart. The lessons in The Art of Healthy
Eating have centered around teaching the kids how to recognize hidden sugars in
foods and drinks and reading food labels to look for sugar ingredients that end in “ose”.
One of the
essential ingredients you will always find in The Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen is dark chocolate. Nothing better than a
small piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon for a good mood pick-me-up! Health benefits
of dark chocolate include better moods, prevention of memory decline, decreased
risk of cardiovascular disease, and improved (lower) LDL cholesterol.
Most kids have only eaten milk chocolate, which is mainly sugar. Eating too much of this unhealthy, sweet chocolate contributes to dental caries, or cavities.
Here are 2
clues to help you and your kids select healthy, dark chocolate:
Is the first
ingredient cocoa (NOT sugar)?
Does it say
70% (or higher) cocoa?
Eat good food every day. Make healthy chocolate one of YOUR essential ingredients for good moods and great health!
"Eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man, the other two sustain the doctor."
--ancient Japanese proverb
For children aged 2-19, the prevalence of obesity has remained fairly stable at around 17%, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years. Some complications of childhood obesity can last a lifetime and may shorten a child's lifespan significantly. If a youth develops type 2 diabetes as a result of obesity, they will have about 17 years less of a lifespan than a youth who does not develop diabetes.
Have you heard of “hara hachi bun me” (also referred to as
hara hachi bu)? In The Blue Zones
Solution, Dan Buettner writes about communities around the world where
residents routinely live to be older than 100.
In Okinawa, Japan, Buettner learned about hara hachi bu, a Confucian teaching
that instructs people to eat until they are about 80% full.
I have always instructed adults and children in Growing Healthy Kids’
workshops about the importance of eating slowly and mindfully, taking at least 20 minutes to
eat. This is because it takes that much
time for the stomach to send a message to the brain that one is full and no
longer needs to eat. Americans eat too
fast, which causes us to overeat. There is no mindfulness in the drive-through window at McDonald's.
In a 1965 book called
Three Pillars of Zen the author shares a message written around 1300 by teacher
Hakuun Yasutani who advises practitioners to “eat about two-thirds of their
capacity.” Yasutani “advises his
students to eat only eighty percent of their capacity, and he repeats a Japanese
proverb: “eight parts of a full stomach
sustain the man, the other two sustain the doctor.”
This proverb is what conscious, or mindful, eating is about. Before a meal, take a moment to reflect and
decide to practice hara hachi bu. Eat good
food. Eat slowly. Enjoy your meal. Make a conscious choice to stop eating before filling up all the way.
You may not only add years to your life, but
life to your years! A simple solution,
that of conscious eating or hara hachi bu, could well be a principle for our
childhood obesity solution toolbox.
“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” --Albert Einstein
When was the last time you took your child to their
pediatrician for a checkup and the doctor gave you a prescription to feed your
child vegetables every day?
There are easy, creative ways to include vegetables into daily meals. In the healthy cooking
workshops we offer for children, we give kids opportunities to learn about food
preparation firsthand. Most kids embrace
the chance to try a new food when they learn how to grow it, harvest it, chop
it up into little itty, bitty pieces and then taste it. My favorite response to parents who tell me,
“My child will never eat that!” is to invite them to go away for an hour. When they come back to pick up their kids, our favorite thing to hear is, “What did
you do with my child? That can’t possibly
be my child eating those vegetables!” All
I can say is that magic happens in the kitchen when you let kids be kids and
you let them learn.
With obesity affecting one in six children in the United
States, we need solutions that work. Here
are a couple of ideas:
Families need to be able to earn a living wage so that
children do not suffer in poverty. There
is a direct correlation between poverty and childhood obesity. What is the poverty level in your community
and is it trending down or up?
Women who are pregnant need to be supported to breastfeed
because breastfeeding lowers the risk of a child becoming overweight or
obese. Does your workplace have a
wellness policy that supports employees who are breastfeeding?
Communities need to be encouraged to increase access to
fresh vegetables and fruits, especially in areas considered to be “food deserts”. How many of the local convenience stores in
the food deserts where you live feature fresh “healthy in a hurry” sections
with the support of your local health department?
Children need access to safe outdoor play areas and
communities, together with the local police departments, needs to ensure kids
can get outdoors. They need sidewalks so
it is safe to walk. Does your
neighborhood have sidewalks and outdoor play spaces?
School guidance counselors, psychologists, and cafeteria managers need training on recognizing and protecting children who are being
bullied or ostracized because they are at unhealthy weights. When was the last time your child’s school staff
received training in how to reverse, prevent and halt childhood obesity?
The minimum wage needs to be raised to $15.00/hour by 2020 so that
families living in poverty do not have to work 2 and 3 jobs to pay the bills
and then have no time left for a family dinner.
Does your county have an economic council and how do you become a member
to advocate for livable wages for your neighbors?
Eating dinner together is one of the strategies which can
prevent childhood obesity. Families benefit
from sharing a meal with real food instead of burgers from the dollar menu at
McDonald’s while having conversations that are not rushed. When you take at least 20 minutes to eat a
meal, you don’t overeat (because it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to
send the brain the message that you have eaten enough and are full). How often do you make eating dinner together
a family priority?
Throughout the year, I will share more strategies that are
effective in halting, reversing, and preventing childhood obesity. Stay tuned and be the change you want to see in the world.
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.
*To learn more about childhood obesity, go to www.cdc.gov or