Childhood obesity affects 1/3 of our children in the United States. It puts them at risk for a variety of health complications and chronic diseases. But, there is a solution! Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Amy Moyer, the director of field operations for Action for Healthy Kids, about childhood obesity and things we can do to eliminate this national epidemic. Read on for Part 1 of the interview and make sure you check out Part 2!
Action for Healthy Kids is a non-profit organization that helps our children’s schools become healthier places. They recently released a new report, The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids Are Healthy and Ready to Learn to help us understand the childhood obesity epidemic and what we can do about it. Amy Moyer, the director of field operations for Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) and a mother of two, took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for my readers!
As a mom, what kinds of things can I do at home to ensure my children get enough physical activity and proper nutrition?
Plan ahead. It sounds cliché, but those are words to live by. In the few hours you have with your kids in the evening, in between soccer, dance, homework, baseball, football, piano lessons, and bath time, it is hard to stay sane, let alone plan a decent meal. Sit down on Sunday evenings with the kids and plan your meals for the week. Even plan for snacks if you know practice is going to mean a late dinner. This plan will help you remember to thaw foods, add to your grocery list, stay clear of fast food or quick processed meals, and otherwise, help avoid that all-too-annoying question of “what’s for dinner, mom!?”
As for physical activity, turn off the TV and push the family outside. Yes, you’ll get dirty looks and snide comments (mostly from your significant other), but do it anyway. Go for family walks, head to the local park, or make it a family chore to pull weeds. During inclement weather, have a dance contest, or look for active board games that keep the family up and moving.
Most importantly, stay disciplined and be a good role model. It’s hard to do and we all struggle with it. However, as mothers, it is our responsibility to show our kids how it should be done. It’s a tough job. We all get off track and succumb to the chaos, so don’t feel guilty when that happens. But when it does, take a step back to get refocused and regain control of your time. It can be done!
There is a wealth of information – good and not so good – out there about childhood obesity and nutrition. As a parent, where can I get reliable information that can be applied to my children’s specific needs?
I recently heard someone say “Nutrition is a science, not an opinion stew…seek out the experts with credentials.” So true! Without better understanding your children’s specific needs, I can only provide general guidance here. Generally, I like to encourage parents to check out ChooseMyPlate.gov. This is a great visual tool to help kids and parents understand what foods should make their plate and how much to eat. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat/fat-free dairy, whole grains, and protein.
For more specific needs, I do encourage you to seek credentialed experts in your area. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics helps you find a Registered Dietitian in your area, or work with your family physician for referrals to experts in your community.
Another good source could exist, again, depending on specific needs. If your child has food allergies, check out Food Allergy Research & Education. They can help connect you to great resources that target your child’s specific allergies, including local support groups.
What can parents do to facilitate and encourage schools to provide adequate physical activity and proper nutrition in the school day?
Parents can –and are! – playing a very big role in creating healthier schools!! First thing’s first: Know it isn’t acceptable that our children aren’t able to participate in daily recess and physical activity. Nor is it good for our children’s health and academic success to be provided with not-so-healthy foods in all parts of the school day. Your gut feeling on this has been right!
Talk to other parents and gauge their perspective. If other parents see similar issues, go together to talk to the principal. Understand what the school may already be doing to promote a healthy culture, and with the principal and other school staff, figure out how you can help. The important thing to remember is that you want to partner with the school to make changes. In other words, don’t storm Capital Hill! Take a collaborative approach and gain understanding on some of the constraints your school may be experiencing. Be the helping hands schools need to make these changes.
We work closely with parents across the country that are helping schools create active recess, healthy classroom parties, school gardens, and much more. Check out our Parents for Healthy Kids resources. You can be the change you want to see!
Interview with Amy Moyer, M.P.H., R.D., Director of Field Operations, Action for Healthy Kids, mother of two and PTO Financial Secretary