A Banner Publication
June 4, 2009 – Vol. 3 • No. 10
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Sponsored by:

Vivien Morris, M.S., R.D., M.P.H., L.D.N.
Director of Community Initiatives
Nutrition and Fitness for Life Program
Department of Pediatrics
Boston Medical Center
Raising healthy kids requires that parents and the rest of us work together to provide environments that promote health. Sadly, children often find themselves in unhealthy environments. It is easier to find fried chicken in our community than it is to find an apple. It’s easier to find a soda than it is to find a water cooler. It’s safer to stay at home and play video games than to play in some of our parks.

These conditions make it harder for parents and kids to prevent obesity. Almost 18 percent of all U.S. children are obese; according to a national survey on health and nutrition, the rate jumps to 28 percent among black adolescent girls. A number of these children and youth develop type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, asthma, sleep apnea, hypertension and high cholesterol levels because of obesity. It has been predicted that the current generation of children may be the first generation in two centuries to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

In addition to physical health problems, obese children endure weight-related teasing that sometimes crushes their self-esteem. But overweight and obese children do not have to become obese adolescents and adults. By starting at an early age to make appropriate interventions, children can grow into an appropriate weight for their height. Healthy, tasty diets and fun activities are keys to helping kids reach and maintain healthy weights.

What Parents and Communities Can Do

• Show lots of love. Love your children and show them you think they are beautiful and special. Children are more likely to feel good about themselves when they feel that their parents accept and love them. Listen with support and understanding when your child voices concern over his or her weight.

• Encourage healthy eating habits. A healthy diet includes regular meals (no skipping breakfast); lots of fruits and vegetables; lean meats, fish and poultry; whole grains, like oatmeal or whole wheat bread; fewer soft drinks and high-calorie snacks; water or low-fat milk, with limits on fruit juice; and limits on trans fat and saturated fat — cook with vegetable oils and read labels of processed foods to avoid unhealthy fats.

• Eat family meals together, so that parents can become healthy-eating role models for children. Home-cooked meals are more likely to be healthy than fast food meals. If the family does eat out, select healthier options, like salads with low-fat dressing, cut-up fruit, and small sandwiches without mayonnaise or extra cheese.

• Do not use food to reward or punish children. Enjoyable food at the appropriate time is its own reward. When incentives are needed, try giving praise and encouragement.

• Limit screen time. Turn off the television and video games. Instead, encourage children to enjoy active play. Work with other community members and local organizations to improve the quality and safety of local parks.

• Be active together as a family. Families can have fun while doing household chores, as well as playing games together or exploring the great outdoors.

• Bring healthier food into our communities. Support your local farmers market. Ask restaurants to modify their menus to include more baked and broiled items, and to extend the selection of vegetable items.

• Ask for guidance and support from your health care provider. Your pediatrician can best evaluate your child’s health status and determine whether a referral to a dietitian or other health specialist is needed.

The following recipes reflect traditions of whole-grain cereal for breakfast, fruit as part of lunch, and a child-friendly remake of a family favorite (chicken and potatoes) for dinner. Round out the meals with water and low-fat or skim milk to drink and extra fruit or vegetables for lunch and dinner.

Fruit Maple Porridge

1 cup skim milk
½ cup old fashioned oatmeal (no sugar added)
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
½ cup mixed fresh fruit (sliced bananas, strawberries, mangoes, peaches)

Mix ¾ cup milk and oatmeal together in a small pan and cook over medium heat, stirring for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour into an individual serving bowl. Add additional ¼ cup milk, syrup or honey and stir. Top with fresh fruit. Enjoy.

Serves one.
Per Serving: 308 Calories; 14 g Protein; 0 g Fat;
7 g fiber; 126 mg sodium.
(Recipe adapted from: “Healthy Cooking for Your Kids,” Parragon Publishing, 2006)

Happle Bagel Sandwich

½ whole grain bagel
1 green apple sliced into rounds (seeds removed)
1 slice cheddar cheese (1 ounce)
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cheese slice on top of bagel half. Put the apple slice on top of that. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Place bagel sandwich in oven for 5-10 minutes. Watch to make sure it doesn’t burn. It’s done when the cheese starts to melt.

Serves one.
Per Serving: 224 Calories; 11 g Protein; 10 g Fat;
2g fiber; 126 mg sodium
(Recipe adapted from: “Kids Cooking,” Klutz Press, 1987)

Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

8 chicken thighs, skin removed
1 red onion, minced
8 tablespoons low-sugar and -salt tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 sweet potatoes, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Score each chicken thigh 2-3 times. Mix all remaining ingredients, except the sweet potatoes, together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss well to coat. Cover and let marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes and toss well to coat. Pour the chicken and sweet potatoes into a baking dish and roast in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until well-browned. The chicken should be tender and the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat.

Serves eight (child-size portions)
Per Serving: 234 Calories; 14g Protein; 12 g Fat;
2 g Fiber; 205 mg Sodium
(Recipe adapted from: “Healthy Cooking for Your Kids,” Parragon Publishing, 2006)