By Jill Simonian
Eating healthy is often a challenge that busy working parents can’t afford to spend extra time or money on. First lady Michelle Obama hosted 150 digital influencers and parenting bloggers Tuesday for a conversation on the health of our nation’s children at the White House. Recent accomplishments and fresh endeavors for the nationwide Let’s Move! initiative were presented and discussed. Citing that one-third of the nation’s children are overweight and/or obese, the first lady encouraged bloggers in attendance to continue her personal mission to keep families’ minds on healthy eating via their respective digital voices, stating that establishing good food habits at home is a parent’s job.
Obama offered her most effective, personal tips for implementing and improving healthy habits:
1) Start introducing healthy food to children as early as possible. Reversing junk food habits becomes increasingly difficult as kids grow. Parents should opt to stock the home with healthy food so fruits and vegetables become the go-to snacks from the beginning. She recalled stories about her daughters’ initial complaints (and how it wasn’t easy to change their eating habits at first) but that, eventually, everyone caught on. Sharing how having dessert was once a “basic human right” in the Obama household, she continued that dessert is now a “sometimes food” and only available for weekends and special occasions.
2) Parents should opt to control the food marketplace with our wallets. By resisting to purchase junk food habitually, the Obama identified how an increase of applesauce and yogurt offerings at fast-food restaurants rose to popularity because parents continued to demand it with their purchasing power.
3) Stay consistent as a parent, even though it’s tough. Research shows it can take 15 times for a kid to like something (like broccoli, for example). Stick to what you know is healthy, even if children challenge your new household rules. “When they don’t want to go to the dentist, we don’t say ‘OK, no more checkups, no more cleanings, I’m not going to make you do it,’ so why would we treat nutrition any differently?” the first lady posed.
Bonus tips to make the health transitions easier for kids?
1) Market your meals. Make a healthy smoothie and call it “Ice Cream Breakfast” or stack sauce and tasty toppings on a whole-wheat tortilla and call it “Weekday Pizza.”
2) Associate healthy foods with making your kids stronger, smarter or faster, traits that are important to them at the appropriate stage in their life.
3) Get kids involved in shopping for ingredients, cooking and choosing options for dinner. Present three healthy options and ask them to vote for what they prefer to try first.
Newly introduced initiatives to encourage families to eat healthier and exercise more, as related to Let’s Move!, include the USDA’s My Plate, My Wins Challenge for the month of March and offering every fourth-grader in the country and their families free access to the nation’s parks. Successes of Let’s Move! include 4,000 new salad bars installed into schools serving 2 million children and securing an agreement to use Sesame Street characters to promote produce in 30,000 grocery stores without charge to fruit and vegetable companies that opt to use them. Obama additionally identified that 97 percent of schools nationwide have improved meals in accordance with Let’s Move! guidelines since the launch of the initiative in February 2010.
Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor and appears every Wednesday on CBS Los Angeles’ 5pm News. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.