Healthy Family, Healthy Kids: A Panel Discussion

Healthy Family, Healthy Kids: A Panel Discussion

Last night I was thrilled to be part of a nutrition panel discussion at the JCC of Mid-Westchester. I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful turnout and the interesting questions asked by the audience. It was also brought to my attention the need for such discussions to take place on a regular basis.

The Panel
I was one of three panelists alongside Heather Zeitz, RD CDN and Ilanit Blumenfeld, MPH. The goal of the free workshop was to help answer parent’s questions, specifically focusing on picky eating and overweight kids. The purpose of having a panel discussion was to drive home the message that there’s no one correct approach to “getting it right.” We each opened with our own philosophy about our families. Some approaches included an 80-20 healthy-to-junk food ratio, the importance of family meals, and teaching nutrition by getting the kids involved in the cooking process.

The Discussion
After the introduction, the floor was open to questions and almost every parent in the filled room had a question to ask. One common question was about picky toddlers and how to handle them. Some suggestions from the expert panelists included:

  • Make mealtime a positive experience, so don’t force the child to eat or scream at them.
  • Get the child involved in the cooking processes including picking dishes out from cookbooks (by looking at photos) to helping set the table.
  • Feed your child in a social environment—they are more apt to try foods when they are with their friends or having a play date.
  • If you find the child REALLY dislikes a food (like my daughter really dislikes chicken), then find an alternative source with similar nutrients (she eats eggs instead).

Another hot topic was snacks. Questions revolved around what are good snack choices and the best time to provide snacks. Here are some suggestions provided:

  • Snacks are “mini meals” and should provide a value-added nutrient to their diet. There should be a source of protein, fiber, iron, calcium, or vitamins A and C.
  • Snacks should be given between meals, but be sure they are not given to close to the meal or your kiddo will be too full to eat at the next meal.
  • Keeping a schedule for meals and snacks is a good idea. My kids eat their snacks at 10:30am, 3:00pm and 7:30pm. The 7:30pm is the bedtime snack where I utilize this time to talk to my kids about upcoming events the next day.
  • Snack ideas included whole grain crackers and cheese, a glass of homemade chocolate milk made with skim milk and 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup, strawberries dipped in whipped cream, a bowl of cereal and milk.

 The Importance
After the discussion, many of the participants expressed the need for such a workshop. They had many questions and were unsure where to turn for answers. They’re not alone. Many parents are worried about their kids- and rightfully so! With so much focus on the obesity epidemic and healthy eating, it’s tough to wade through all the information (and misinformation) out there.

Suggest to your school principal, community centers, university, church, or other locations to find a registered dietitian to lead such a discussion. Our community center approached me since I’ve been a member for over 8 years. Social media chats (like twitter and Facebook) are other inexpensive forums to have such discussions. 

TELL ME: What are your thoughts on having such a discussion in your area? Would you like personalized tips for your family?


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