12 Months of Change: February is About Family Nutrition

Just like cars and machines need proper oils to for the parts to move correctly and the right gasoline to run efficiently, and run at all, so, too, do our bodies need the equivalent of those things in liquids and foods. Over the course of a day, we need just the right amount of liquids to stay hydrated and foods to stay nourished to

  • Keep our body’s many functions working properly
  • To help our body with the many things we do each day
  • To maximize brain power

The problem most people, adults and kids alike, are not really sure what they should be eating and drinking and are actually bored with the foods they are eating. So, this month we’re going to focus on how to jazz up our eating in some simple and fun ways and to bust a couple myths that have a way of derailling our best of intentions at staying healthy.

February: Family Nutrition

Week 1: Dr. Gwenn’s Golden Rule of food: food should always be fun

Do you remember as a kid being told to “eat everything on your plate” and being served things that you really hated? Those are definintely pitfalls we may be inadvertenly doing to our kids. Eating should be enjoyable and social. Food should be something everyone gets a say in and looks forward to, including kids. We have to remember that although we are guiding our kids to experience different foods, they are not clones of us and we may not like the foods we like. While kids are growing up, I don’t believe it is fair to force a food upon a child. I do think it is fair to expect them to try it but have a back up plan so they don’t go hungry if that trial flops.

To spice up your food life, try making a game out of creating the meals. Make a few food wheels out of paper plates. On the outside write down different foods and make a simple arrow out of cardboard you can pin on. You can have a different spin wheel for the different food groups (main dish, veggies, starch, dessert). Each person in the family spins one wheel and what they land on they pick for that meal. You can even make a spin wheel with new foods you’ve all wanted to try. By the end of the week, you’ll not only have new combinations of foods but everyone will now be involved. Kids who are invovled in the kitchen tend to want to eat what they create!

Week 2: Dr. Gwenn’s Golden Rule of Liquids: Drink, Drink, Drink!

While there is no science behind the 8 glasses of water a day, there is common sense. That amount of water keeps us drinking all day long so we are never thirsty and always well hydrated. All too often, all of us, and our kids, go far too long between drinks. Did you know that hunger is often a sign of thirst? Next time your kids ask for a snack, offer a big, cold glass of water and see if the feeling goes way.

Three pitfalls you need to watch with liquids. First, juices are fine in moderation but are really empty calories.

Second, sports drinks are for sports and not daily hydration or a casual drink. Sports drinks are also wonderful for times of illness.

Third, there really is no reason growing kids “need” soda. As a treat, you can consider a small glass of a sugar-free soda or a 100-calorie soda but watch the daily drinking of soda due to the sugar and caffeine.

Week 3: Milk isn’t just for babies

Many kids don’t like milk but they do like chocolate or strawberries. If your kids are among the many who can’t stand milk, flavor it with whatever you want. Studies show, as I explained in this month’s column, that the extra calories are a myth.

But, milk isn’t the only way to build strong bones. You can get calcium other ways, too. The key is to pay attention to it and get your kids involved so they know this is important.

Week 4: Are any foods “bad”?

I don’t view foods as “good” or “bad. I don’t even view them as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. I try to get kids to see that all foods have a role in a healthy, balanced diet if eaten in moderation and if they take into account their over all eating and exercise plan.

Kids who learn to incorporate the more sugary foods into their overall diet tend to not crave those foods when available to them where as kids who are limited to those same foods tend to binge when they have access to them.

There are many ways to handle this. Some families plan a small treat every day – such as dessert with dinner. Other families try to be very health during the school and work week then splurge a bit on the weekend. The key is to loosen the reins at some point during the week because that is the natural way to eat.

What about special events and parties? Teach your kids to plan for those by eating extra healthy leading up to the party or event and right after and to exercise more that week.

Your goal this week is to look at your philosophy about treats and find a way to introduce something you have been fearful of introducing. You can do it – the key is talking with your family and coming up with a plan! If we do this right, our kids will start to think about what they are eating and avoid mindless eating, which is how weight problems begin.


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