Just a few months ago I returned from my son’s two-year-old checkup with a new set of dietary and lifestyle guidelines to share with my family. Many of these were very recently updated, all with the goal to fight childhood obesity. (When I say recently, I mean literally in the past couple of months. Even over the past 2 years, the guidelines have changed quite a bit!) Some of the rules include: No whole milk after age 2 but instead 1or 2%, no juice ever, and no TV before the age of 2. I’m sure some parents may see these as extreme, but I’m on board; anything to help start my child off on the right path. These guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg, though. There are a host of other recommendations, many of which have been highlighted in PSA campaigns and now the issue is finally gaining some serious momentum.
I’m going to start at what I consider the beginning. Soon after Obama took office in 2008, the First Lady created the “Let’s Move” campaign to help fight childhood obesity. The campaign has four main goals:
- Improve information and tools for parents to make healthy decisions for their families.
- Provide healthier food in schools.
- Improve access and affordability to healthy foods across the country.
- Increase physical education and daily activity.
And you can see they’ve accomplished a lot. Highlights include the passing of “The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act”, which authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children. And one of the most visible accomplishments is their partnership with the NFL, MLB and NHL to inspire children to get active through their favorite athletes.
The most recent initiative from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a campaign called “We Can!” or Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition. The campaign goal is to provide parents and caregivers ways to help children maintain a healthy weight. Their site is full of resources, including a handbook for parents that give “Strategies for Real Life” on how to reduce a child’s screen time.
They also have a suite of PSAs. This spot made me laugh. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I feel like this will be me in a couple of years. (Pre-children I always thought I would be the “cool” parent. But what kid really thinks their parents are cool?)
I also like their take on teaching nutrition. (Below is directly taken from their brochure.) I think creating an easy-to-remember nutritional rule of thumb like the one below is key to instilling these ideas in the minds of children for the long run.
One way to control energy IN is to think about food choices in terms of GO, SLOW, and WHOA foods:
are the lowest in fat and added sugar. They are rich in nutrients and relatively low in calories. Enjoy GO foods almost anytime.
are higher in fat, added sugar, and calories than GO foods. Have SLOW foods sometimes, at most several times a week.
are highest in fat and added sugar. They are high in calories, and many are low in nutrients. Have WHOA foods only once in a while or on special occasions. And, when you do have them, have small portions.
Now let me take off my marketing hat for just a moment. I applaud the leaders at the forefront of this initiative for making this a priority and earning pixels and airwaves. But, as a parent, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information and guidelines. There are also a couple more sites that offer additional guidelines and tips.
Fruits and Veggies: More Matters promotes filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables every time you eat.
Then there is Choose My Plate, which after some serious digging on their website for a mission statement, promotes dietary guidelines.
This new graphic replaces what we all remember as “the food pyramid.”
I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of information on their website. From a food tracker called “Super Tracker” to “Tip of the Day” to a video challenge, all of this helpful information needs to be boiled down into something easily digestible and doable.
Bottom line is that I’m a parent very committed to raising healthy and active kids. I will continue to pay attention to all of the above resources and put new tips into practice. You should, too.