Childhood obesity is a growing public health crisis among children and adolescents that has continued to rise every year. To address this epidemic, the University of Maryland, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, sponsored The Summit on Childhood Obesity November 15-16, 2011, at the Hilton Baltimore Hotel.
by Shanti Lewis, RD, LDN, CSP, CNSD
Since 1 out of 3 children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, parents play a vital role in teaching children healthy eating habits and helping them maintain a healthy weight. One of the ways that parents can help children learn about nutrition is by getting them involved in preparing meals. Getting kids involved in preparing their school lunch helps them learn about portion control and allows them to select healthy foods that they enjoy.
- Choose the good stuff! Plenty of fruits, veggies, beans, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains.
- Make fun shapes! Use cookie cutters for flower, heart, star, or snowflake sandwich bites. Form a funny face, mermaid body, or spooky spider shape.
- Get your kids involved! Have them pick pasta shapes, their favorite fresh fruits, nuts, seeds and veggies.
- Utilize leftovers from last night’s dinner or today’s breakfast: think pizza bites, egg roll-ups, or mini bagels with low-fat cream cheese.
- Remember food safety: Keep the hot foods HOT and the cold foods COLD. Use insulated lunchboxes with ice packs and a thermos for soup.
- Choose water or low-fat milk in place of juice or sugary drinks.
- Watch the salt! Select lower sodium lunchmeats and cheeses.
- Find the fiber: Choose whole grain crackers, breads, wraps, and muffins. Try popcorn or whole wheat pretzels as a substitute for chips.
- Be creative! Offer a variety of different textures, shapes, and colors from local and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Decorate plastic bags with fun stickers, jot a note on the banana or orange skin, and tuck a handwritten love note inside the lunchbox.
Shanti Lewis is a neonatal nutritionist at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She is an author and frequent contributor to blogs and articles on fitness and nutrition. Lewis received her bachelor’s in nutrition and food science from Drexel University and completed her dietetic internship at the National Institutes of Health.