July 6, 2011

Summer Treats: A Look at Nutrition

By Abby Boardman
Olivet Nazarene University Student Intern
Child Abuse Council

Warm weather equals ice cream and picnics furnished with grilled hot dogs, chips and any other junk food you have been waiting all winter long to enjoy in the sun. But with the rise in our nation’s obesity awareness and prevention campaigns, where does nutrition play a part in our summer fun? How do we encourage our children to pick healthy snacks over the tasty junk food available to them?

Many of us will agree that nutrition is important and that a healthy balanced diet is essential. Yet we continue to teach our children and later generations to not have an open mind to new foods or foods that are healthier for us. When I was younger, I was told by my mother one night that we were having spinach with our dinner. I firmly told her that I despised spinach and did not want to eat it. She rebutted that I had never even had spinach so how did I know I did not like it. Little did she know, the neighbor boy informed me that if I ate spinach I would have arms like Popeye the Sailor, but that was only if you could stomach the horrible taste. Thus, making spinach not sound like very appealing food (Popeye arms would not be a good look for me). Unconvinced, my mother put spinach on my plate, and although I would not admit it to her, it wasn’t half bad. My mother’s stubbornness in getting me to eat my vegetables has aided me today in making my own healthy choices.

It’s time to educate children and find ways to get them excited to try new and healthy alternatives. A great example of this is the Pick a Better Snack Program. Touring 24 Iowa schools, Pick a Better Snack is a nine-week program that brings nutrition educators into kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms to share a nutrition and health lesson by introducing one new fruit or vegetable each week, and allowing the students to try it. This program informs young children about the difference between acceptable “all the time” foods and “sometimes” foods, and what these foods do to our bodies and the way they affect how we feel.

Since it is summer, take the initiative to be a leader and example for your children or grandchildren. Essentially, help yourself by helping them. Use a food pyramid (or plate), pick a vegetable or fruit each week and research together new recipes and fun facts about each food. Did you know medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint?

If you have a garden, use it as a tool to teach your children or grandchildren not only facts about the plant, but how you nurture and care for the plant as well. Make yogurt parfaits instead of ice cream sundaes or make your own tasty creations. Together you can feel healthier and happy about what you are eating.

For more information about the Child Abuse Council’s prevention and education programs, you can visit us at www.chilabuseqc.org.