Lessons I Have Learned as a Mom

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Blog Carnival
This article was written for inclusion in the blog carnival hosted by Littlestomaks to promote awareness of childhood obesity as part of the National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Please read to the end of this article to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

This month marks the first ever Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  With over 23 million kids ages 2 to 19 being obese or overweight, this truly is an epidemic that we all need to be aware of.  As a mom of two small children, my perspective on this issue has shifted as I actively seek to teach my kids about what healthy eating looks like.  Let me share with you a little of what I have learned in the past three years that a classroom could never teach me.

I never realized how hard it would be to resist taking the “easy way out”.  Driving home with the kids at 5:00, passing all of the fast food drive-thrus, I am tempted to stop.  I rack my brain thinking about what could possibly be on the menu that we could eat that would be good for us.  I keep driving when my brain comes up empty.  I know that even by ordering the “healthy” items on the menu, I would still be subjecting us to a ridiculous amount of processed ingredients.  So we head on home and I put together a quick and healthy meal consisting of whole grains, protein, vegetables and fruit.  I guess what I’m saying is that I understand how busy families get sucked into eating fast food on busy nights.  That’s one reason that I try to provide ideas for quick go-to recipes on this blog, so that you too can drive right on by the neon signs.

I underestimated how receptive my son would be to learning about nutrition.  I love taking him to the grocery store with me because when he reaches for the can that has his favorite Disney character on it, I can explain to him why that is not a good food choice.  He understands it best when we talk about how his body feels after eating certain foods.  Because he eats mostly whole foods, he doesn’t always feel well after eating something that is highly processed.  At the grocery store, he puts the Disney can back on the shelf because he understands that it won’t make him feel his best.

I didn’t realize how important it would be to involve my kids in growing and cooking our food.  I am always amazed at how my son will pick a cherry tomato and a basil leaf fresh from the garden and pop them in his mouth.  But when I bring the same kind of tomatoes home from the store, he is not interested in eating them.  He does the same thing with dinner.  If I place his dinner plate in front of him at the table and he has had no part in putting it together, he may pick at his food.  But if he is up at the counter with me helping me cook, he wants to smell and taste every ingredient.  He sits at the dinner table thanking me for helping him cook a great meal (like he is the master chef).

I underestimated the ability of children to have a wide palate.  I almost did it.  I almost gave into the “Mommy and Daddy will eat this adult meal while the kids have their choice of chicken nuggets, pizza or hot dogs” mentality.  That was until my son at two years old asked for a bite of my salmon one night at dinner.  He ended up eating almost the entire filet.  My 17-month-old daughter can’t get enough edamame or any other beans for that matter, the more flavorful the better.  I can’t believe I almost fell into the trap of limiting my kids to such a narrow concept of food.  I’m so glad I didn’t!

Healthy eating starts at home…with you.  Take the reigns, get the family together, decide to live healthy active lives.  You have the power to keep your kids from being a statistic.  Let’s do this.

Please share in the comment section what you are doing to prevent childhood obesity in your home.


Say NO to Childhood Obesity

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

7 Things Parents Say That Cause Eating and Weight Problems in Kids Michelle May, Physician and author of Eat What You Love Love What You Eat, highlights a few things parents say which can have unintended consequences (@EatWhatYouLove)
Childhood Obesity Kia Robertson of Today I Ate a Rainbow suggests that prevention of childhood obesity should start with education and educating parents about basics of healthy eating by breaking it into achievable parts (@eatingarainbow)
Childhood Obesity: A Reality Check Dr Susan Rubin, founder of BSF, suggests we change our approach to looking at childhood obesity (@DrSuRu)
Childhood Obesity: Prevention Starts in Infancy Nutrition expert Sarah Fennel reminds us that prevention is the best cure and offers a few tips to raise healthy eaters (@FoodFunHealth)
Giving Our Children a Chance at Health Registered dietitian Susan Dopart offers tips to parents for taking charge of their child’s health in the world of over-processed “kid foods” (@smnutritionist)
Healthy School Campaigns Works on Creating Healthy Food Environments A report on Chicago’s Healthy School Campaigns (HFC), a non profit dedicated to creating a healthy food environment in schools
How to Prevent and Manage Childhood Obesity Registered dietitian Jessica Levinson offers practical tips to prevent and manage childhood obesity (@JLevinsonRD)
Lessons I have Learned as a Mom Registered dietitian Alysa Bajenaru shares some of the lessons she has learned that have helped her develop a good understanding of what it takes to feed her kids (@InspiredRD)
Looking for a New Trend in Childhood Obesity? Registered dietitian Elizabeth Rahavi of the IFIC brings the focus back on family in the debate about childhood obesity (@FoodInsight)
Losing Weight: It Starts in Your Head Registered dietitian Cindy Williams reminds us of the power of attitude and mindset in losing weight and controlling obesity (@nutritionchic)
Making the Grade Registered dietitian Sally Kuzemchak evaluates her son’s school programs on healthy eating and physical activity (@RMNutrition)
Obesity and GERD: A Family Affair Jan Gambino, author of Reflux 101, writes about the link between overweight and GERD
Parents, Let’s Take a Positive Approach to Childhood Obesity Registered dietitian Ashley Rosales from the Dairy Council of California encourages parents to take a positive approach in helping their kids build healthy habits
Revolutionize the Way Your Kids Eat in Five Easy Steps Sociologist Dr Dina Rose suggests we shift our focus from nutrition to eating habits if we are serious about solving childhood obesity (@DrDrRose)
Surprising Easy Solution for Preventing Childhood Obesity Research shows benefits of extended breastfeeding in reducing risk of childhood obesity (@TwinToddlersDad)
The Problem Behind Childhood Obesity Ken Whitman, Publisher of Organic Connections, points out that our national priorities concerning childhood obesity are misplaced and calls for a renewed focus on the health of our nations kids.
Yoga Gets Kids Moving Registered dietitian Danielle Omar has an interesting suggestion for solving childhood obesity – get your kids into yoga! (@2eatwellRD)

  • nutritioulicious September 14, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Great post! Your kids are adorable! I especially love your anecdote that your son will pop a cherry tomato and basil leaf in his mouth!

  • Tracie and Jessica September 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Awesome post Alysa! We are still working on this but seem to be making great steps in the right direction! Thank you so much for all of your insight. Your an amazing Mom, friend, and nutritionist!

  • megan September 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I agree with everything you said Alysa! While we still give into the fast food occasionally (when we are driving home at 7pm and dont want to be cooking dinner at 8!)..we usually aim for the healthiest we can find…eegees, hot wok etc.
    We try to cook healthy meals at home as often as possible. And the nights when my 4 y/o helps out in the kitchen she definitely is more interested in eating her food!
    As a first time mom, 4 years ago, I thought you had to give your kids the jarred (or homemade) baby food purees for months and months…but learned early on that my baby wanted to have NOTHING to do with these purees (even homemade)…she didnt like the texture. We gave he a California roll piece of sushi at 5 1/2 months old and she devoured everything except the chewy seaweed. From that day on, she has always eaten what the family is eating and I am proud to say, I cannot think of a single time I have made a special meal for the kids!
    My 17 month old is following in big sister's footsteps (though at a little older of an age) and loves just about everything we put in front of her.
    We have learned that if you start feeding your children healthy foods that are naturally sweet (at an early age) they will develop a preference for these foods even over candy/juices and sweets! My girls ask for milk or water to drink over juice (or even soda)…partly because they very rarely were ever given juice as infants/toddlers…and partly because they prefer the taste of milk/water!
    And, if they ever are given the choice, 9 times out of 10 they will choose a piece of fruit over a serving of dessert!
    I believe you REALLY do have to be PROACTIVE in instilling these values and providing these early eating experiences….but as hard as it may be sometimes…it is worth it! These early lessons kids learn will be responsible for their well being for the rest of their lives!

  • Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD September 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Really enjoyed this post and feel like I have learned so many of the same lessons. It is so easy to tell parents the "right" things to do in terms of healthy eating and their kids, but when you become a parent yourself, you find out how challenging that can be. Even dietitians can fall into the trap of giving their kids "kid food"–because as you said, it's so much easier. Thanks for your honest post about those challenges and how you overcame them–and for the great advice to other parents.

  • Alysa September 14, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Thank you for the feedback everyone. I think this issue comes down to daily decisions, and it sounds like you all are making the right ones!

  • Michelle May MD September 14, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    We have loved engaging our kids in the growing, cooking, and eating process. Now as teenagers and in charge of their eating, I am confident that our time and energy was well invested!

  • Maryann @ Raise Healthy Eaters September 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Great post. You are so right that it is hard even for dietitians. I think if you invest in kids early years it gets easier as they get older. Thanks for sharing!

  • TwinToddlersDad September 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    What a wonderful and honest post! You describe so well the challenges and doubts parents of toddlers face every day.

    You are right – healthy eating and healthy habits begin at home. It takes a little bit of planning and commitment just like anything else. I think if parents make it a priority, they can definitely do it. After all, they are able to accomplish so many other things for their children.

    Thank you for being a champion of healthy eating and offering such wonderful tips.

  • Alysa September 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Thank you so much for putting the blog carnival together. I enjoyed reading everyone's posts!

  • Becca @ Our Crazy Boys September 19, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I am SO with you about the child's palate.

    Our kids eat what we eat. Period.

    I understand that we all have foods that we don't care for, and if our kids try something multiple times and still don't care for it, we understand. But that has only happened with one food so far.

    It makes me sad (and a little angry) when I hear about kids who only eat corn dogs, macaroni and cheese, and drink chocolate milk.

    We teach our boys about healthy food, and about eating sugar in moderation. They understand why they can't have soda and why ice cream isn't a nightly thing.

    That's another reason why I love your blog… your recipes are amazing and my kids love them šŸ™‚

  • Alysa September 19, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Sounds like you are doing a great job Becca!

  • Anonymous September 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I wasn't a particularly healthy eater, but that changed when I became a mother… just to give you an idea, my child came home šŸ™ the other day because her friends were trading food from their lunchboxes, and she told them there was A REASON their mothers put that food in there, and they told her: you only say that because you never bring any tradable foods! (meaning pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, etc. Not that we never eat them, but, it's not an everyday thing for us!)