Adjust Your Family's Food Attitude

Parents may hold the key to turning the nation's obesity problem around, suggest the findings of a new study conducted by GfK MRI, a leading media and consumer market research company. Five thousand children aged 6-11 were surveyed as part of the 2010 American Kids Study and found that parental impact and behavior greatly influences their kids' attitudes toward food and nutrition.

In fact, the children of parents who make healthier choices are 88 percent more likely than the average child to read nutrition labels; 47 percent more likely to avoid fattening foods; 37 percent more likely to stay away from sugary foods; and 31 percent more likely to play sports to stay in shape.

Conversely, in households where little thought is given to nutrition or healthy eating, the children living in them are 68 percent more likely to eat whatever they want.

A Healthy Dozen

Here are our best tips and ideas to help you adjust your family's food attitude.

1. If you don't read food labels, start doing it now. As you shop, be sure to notice the serving size and servings per container. Compare the total calories in similar products and choose the lowest calorie version. Remember sugars contribute calories with few nutrients. If added sugars such as sucrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose are near the top of the ingredient list, find a healthier choice. Fats, too should be avoided. Look for foods low in saturated fats which include polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats. The FDA offers more information about decoding labels.

2. Shop the perimeter of the store. That's where the healthiest whole food choices are found (produce, lowfat dairy, and lean meats).

3. Judge a book by its cover. If it comes in heavy packaging--or lasts a millennium on your shelf--it's probably not a healthy choice.

4. Make time to cook. Your health depends on it. Think you're too busy? Perhaps it's time to rethink what's keeping you out of the kitchen. The best way to control the amount of good stuff that goes in (vegetables, whole grains) and limit the bad (oils, salt, butter) is by cooking food yourself. Make it a family affair. Kids love to help cooking and are more likely to try something they helped make.

5. Serve two vegetables at dinner and eliminate carbohydrate-laden side dishes such as potatoes and rice. If you must have potatoes, serve them baked and with lowfat plain yogurt instead of sour cream.

6. Eat less meat. Serve fish for dinner twice a week as well as a vegetarian meal on another evening.

7. Get more fruit and veggies into everyone's diet. Keep washed fruit readily available and a hearty supply of cut up celery, carrots, or cucumbers handy in the fridge for snacks, too.

8. Make your own snack mix from nuts, dried fruits, and whole grain cereal.

9. Serve a salad and a veggie at dinner.

10. Toss the sugary cereals and replace them with high-fiber, low sugar brands.

11. Switch from white bread to whole wheat bread but remember, label reading is key. Wheat flour is not whole wheat. Look for the words, whole grain wheat at the top of the ingredient list.

12. Drink water with meals instead of juice or soda.

First Lady Michelle Obama recently launched a nationwide initiative to focus attention on living healthier lives. The Let's Move website provides healthy and kid-approved recipes and lots of other nutrition information. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute is also a good source of health information and the website has healthy shopping lists as well.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Instutite

The United States Department of Agriculture

American Academy of Pediatrics

Michelle Obama's Healthy Kids Initiative