Amber Graham Fitzgerald commentary



As someone who fails miserably at eating a balanced diet, it's ironic I now find myself responsible for feeding three others. Fortunately, my husband, a certified health and physical education instructor, knows his way around the kitchen, which seems to balance the difference.

We're like 90 percent of today's families. After gymnastics class or running errands, we walk in the door just in time for dinner. Hungry and unwilling to wait another hour, we concede it would be easier and faster just to head to the local drive-thru.

Preparing healthy, quality meals takes time and effort; there's no denying it. However, when I've planned accordingly -- from the grocery store to the table -- it is very fulfilling. I enjoy sitting down together as family, especially when I know I've prepared something that is good for us.

My husband says that high-caloric foods are like just about everything else in life -- OK in moderation. So on the most hectic days of the week, I won't let myself feel guilty about grabbing our daughter her beloved chicken strips and french fries.

We just try not to make it a habit.

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Research shows children achieve more when they eat healthy and stay fit. Even in today's go-go world with busy schedules, parents can help their children meet the challenges with a few phased-in changes at home.

The National School Public Relations Association and Prevention magazine offer these easy-to-follow strategies to help parents get started:

? Make one (discreet) change a week. Don't announce at dinner one night, "We're all going on a diet and exercising every day!" That's the recipe for failure. Quietly begin phasing in changes: Get rid of the soda one week, make the after-dinner walk a family tradition the next.

? Everyone should skip the sundae, or at least order the smallest size. If you want your kids to eat less high-calorie, low-nutrient junk and exercise more, then you need to do the same.

? Encourage a one-bite trial. Try, "A lot of people think broccoli is delicious. I do. And I think you will too. Can you try one bite?" If he or she won't, try again another time. (And don't forget to finish your broccoli.) Keep offering -- it may take 15 tries -- but with each opportunity the odds creep up your child will.

? Find a substitute for foods kids won't touch with a 10-foot fork. If you've offered broccoli 15 times in 15 different ways, and your son still gags, ask him what other vegetable he'd like to have as a substitute when the rest of the clan eats broccoli. Everyone has some food they can't tolerate, and it is important to respect that.

? Don't declare zero tolerance for desserts or potato chips. If you've forbidden your kids to eat sweets, for instance, they're more likely to sneak them from vending machines or to trade their sandwich for them at the school lunch table. So let your kids have less-nutritious favorites now and then.

? Improve the quality of snack attacks. Kids can't go six hours without eating. So offer 100 percent juice (no more than one serving a day, because juice is loaded with calories), a cup of strawberries, carrot sticks with ranch dressing, half a tuna sandwich on whole wheat, or whole- grain crackers with a slice of low-fat cheese.

? Make sure little Jackie Sprat eats some fat. Kids need about one to two tablespoons daily of canola, walnut, soy or other oils containing essential fatty acids, which are, as the name suggests, vital. This could be in the form of salad dressing, veggie dips, peanut butter or a handful of walnuts.



Graham Fitzgerald is the school/community relations director for Enid Public Schools. She can be reached at 234-5270 or arfitzgerald@enidk12.org. Visit the EPS Web site at www.enidpublicschools.org.



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