Madison learned about healthy eating starting at a young age.
How My Daughter Raised a Normal Weight Child
This is part 2 in a multi-part series that explores “Raising a Normal Weight Child in an Overweight Society.”
To recap from part 1 of this series, many mothers feed their children readily-available convenience foods - just as I did when I raised my child - unknowing that these foods are calorie-dense, low-nutrient and contribute to becoming overweight. Too often these foods are consumed while the children are seated in front of the TV, which instills the bad habit of mindless eating and further contributes to overweight. What’s more, research shows that children ages 2-5 are exposed to more than 5000 TV ads per year for cereal and junk food so as to influence their food cravings. A lack of understanding of the poor nutritional and high-caloric value of convenience foods, our time-starved lifestyles, and too much screen time have contributed to -- if not caused -- the steady rise of overweight children.
Currently 1 in 3 children ages 2-19 is overweight. My adult daughter, Crystal, who is a wife and mother, has beaten those odds and raised a normal-weight child. So I asked her to share with readers how exactly she instilled healthy eating and activity habits beginning when her daughter was in the cradle, and raised a 5-year-old child who loves raw veggies and playing outdoors.
Crystal and I aim to breakdown this complicated topic step-by-step in this series, so as to share helpful advice on rearing normal-weight children in an overweight society.
My Bariatric Life: How did you avoid the aforementioned trap?
Crystal Wyatt: Phew, that's a book in itself, but I'll try to summarize it as best I can without leaving out too many things. I think the biggest way to avoid this trap is to be educated. You don't have to be an expert on nutrition, personal training or pediatrics; moms are busy enough without having piles of books and medical journals to peruse.
I trusted and valued the opinions of our pediatrician.
Talk to your pediatrician and listen to him or her. Well-baby check-ups (which last well into the preschool years) give you pretty good hints about what is important in your child's health — and you have your medical expert right in front of you to pick her brain. Why do you think the medical evaluation form specifically asks how much juice your child gets a day and if you dilute it with water? Or how much time your child watches TV or plays on a computer? Or how much sleep they get at night? These things are all important for your child’s physical health and your doctor can tell you what guidelines you should try to follow. These are just as important as seeing if your child is reaching the big milestones on time because they, too, can be red flags that your child is starting down an unhealthy path — one you have the opportunity to change and keep your child from being another statistic in the rising obesity/overweight epidemic.
Now of course you don't see your child’s pediatrician as often as you may have questions. But my guess is that you have regular access to the internet. Have a question about your child's health, diet, exercise, etc? Google it and read the information from reliable sources. This is important: No blogs; go to an authoritative source. Two of my favorite sources are WebMD and the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are guidelines on pretty much anything that you can imagine. It's hard to avoid the aforementioned "trap" if you don't know better and the only way to know better is to be an informed parent. It takes only a few minutes to read a news article on healthy eating habits or physical activities for your child. If you are a book reader, go buy some books on it. Do you prefer magazines? Grab Parent's magazine or another of the child-centered magazines. The information is not hard to find if you look for it. Child obesity is a nationwide epidemic that we are fighting together.
And the biggest thing I think, is to start small. It’s still a start and a step in the right direction. Once you've mastered that and it's second nature, you move on to the next thing. I read information constantly in all different formats because I find it fascinating and I enjoy it. If someone posts something or says something that interests me, I check up on it to either confirm it from a reliable source or learn that it isn't true.
I learned from my mistakes.
Until a few years ago, I was not a fan of vegetables and had a small palette of fruit that I enjoyed. So for one thing, I learned how to cook vegetables. And another thing, I kept trying new fruits and vegetables. At first, sure, I made quick and easy crap. I was new to cooking, working overtime and if you aren't careful, looking for recipes online can give you a lot of unhealthy choices. Plus I had no idea what I was doing! Even so, my cheese-slathered abominations were healthier than my eating out or heating prepared freezer foods for our meals. Instead of ordering pizza, I made my own. Again, quick and easy: take a premade crust, slather it with jarred sauce, cut up some toppings and throw them and some part-skim mozzarella cheese on top.
The best opportunity that I had and that I took full advantage of was my husband's first deployment. I had a recipe book that I absolutely loved and swear by (Cook's Illustrated). At that point, I was no longer working; I was a full-time mom to a baby. Between naps/bedtime and having her high chair in the kitchen or within view of where I was prepping food, I had a lot of time to actually prepare high-quality meals. Turns out you can get some incredible flavor with no calorie spices! You don't have to drown everything in cheese! And if the meal was an inedible abomination, well, only I suffered through the learning experience! Madison was still on baby food — which at the time I also prepared instead of buying pre-made store options, but there are lots of organic options I would jump for these days!
The point is, the more I learned, the less I enjoyed unhealthy foods. So not only was I not eating them, I didn't want them any more. I learned to bake incredible desserts, too, which I enjoy immensely. The thing is, this took the luster out of quick and easy desserts; I simply didn't care for boxed treats any more because they aren't as tasty as homemade. Kids are the same way and the best thing you can do is start them out eating healthy so that this is how they are used to eating. You know why some kids will only eat peanut butter and grape jelly on crustless white bread? Because that is what their parents gave them. You now why my daughter eats whole grain bread with cheese, deli meat, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo or hummus wraps with feta, olives tomatoes and lettuce? Because that is what I gave her.
I avoided the trap by setting precedents and normalizing those.
Madison doesn't think about eating her vegetables first; she loves them. She doesn't think about running around outside or going to gymnastics or swim; she is excited to do them. It is what she does naturally. Eating healthy and being active are just a part of our lives. They aren't "out of the norm" and I wanted it that way, for it to be second nature to her. And we talk. We have an open dialogue about pretty much anything (that's appropriate for the sweet little ears of a now 5 year old). We talked about what keeps people healthy; why some foods are better than others; why it is important to get enough sleep, wash our hands, etc. And when we are out being active, we talk about what we are enjoying and how it is fun. Like when we are on hikes, we point out pretty flowers, the incredible colors we see; how far we hiked; cute animals we see. And of course, the amazing views and what there is to really see. And we tell our daughter how proud we are of her, what a great job she did or is doing, etc. We make it as fun and enjoyable as possible and share the things that we love about those activities. We teach her how to appreciate and enjoy being active and out in the world. Plus it is quality time talking together and sharing the things that we enjoy. If we just took her hiking, she might just focus on the walking or drinking from her camelbak and maybe only notice a few things. But now that she is used to us pointing things out to her, stopping to enjoy this and that, she is engaged in her activities and shows us things that she sees and finds interesting. And we take videos and photos of her (and us). She loves watching herself on video riding her bike or pictures of her in front of a mountainous range. And it gets her that much more confident and excited to do those things.
Continue to part 3, “How to Keep Your Child Physically Active — a Mother’s Advice.”
Published On: December 16, 2014