Is telling them to eat more vegetables and exercise enough?

Last week I watched enviously as several many bloggers went to the White House to listen to First Lady Michelle Obama talk about the Let’s Movie! initiative. According to the web site, Let’s Move has accomplished –

  • 1.6 million kids attend healthier daycare centers
  • 2 million kids now have a Let’s Move! Salad Bar in their school
  • Over 10 million kids attend Let’s Move! Active Schools where they strive to get 60 minutes of physical activity each day
  • Over 30 million kids have access to healthier school meals
  • Nearly 80 million people live in a Let’s Move! City, Town, or County
  • 200 corporate partners have made commitments for a healthier America

When you add it all together, it’s working. As the First Lady said, “After so many years, childhood obesity rates have stopped rising, and rates for our youngest kids have actually started to fall.  And I have no doubt that if we keep pushing forward on this issue, one day, we will look back on the food we used to feed our kids and it’ll be like looking back on the days when we didn’t wear seat belts or bike helmets or sunscreen. We’ll be like, ‘Man, can you believe we used to eat that stuff?’”

I didn’t go, so I don’t know the entire crew that went- only the shares I found. And I  only saw what was shared, which included a fabulous hotel room and a kale salad demonstration.

Do you know how many ingredients there were in that?

I’m not knocking a good kale salad, but there were a lot of extra ingredients that, to working parents, are a lot of prep on a day off when they’re already cleaning, doing laundry and trying to rest and hang with the kids.

I leaned a lot while I was working and in school. It was a far different world than when I was at home with one. We relied on fast food sometimes, frozen food and occasionally I made an amazing dinner that I left to go to school and never got to eat.

I live next to Loma Linda, that was designated a ‘blue zone’ due to the amount of centenarians that live there. But it also has an obesity rate of over 40%*. Colton, which is right next door, is at 46%. My local city is at 30%.

Click to see a map of Loma Linda and the surrounding food deserts in California.

But still, that’s around a third of adults are obese.

I’m glad that in my son’s lifetime that a change is starting and the rates for children have stopped.

I’m glad that my son will eat ‘school salad’ romaine and cucumbers and tomatoes.

But the little ones that eat defrosted whole wheat waffles and syrup only for breakfast, washing it down with juice and milk go into class on a sugar high and always, always have a bad day.

And the parents, with all of these long recipes shoved at them to be healthy and whole – are probably feeling discouraged.

And sure, WIC helps – I was on it for a while, and bless Tillamook for being a choice, but I HAD to take home breakfast cereal to make it work most of the time, since the oatmeal options at my store didn’t fit the sizing.

I bought frozen veggies like crazy, gave them cheese and sandwiches and gave away a lot of the fruit juice that was mandatory.

When you’re on assistance, and you don’t own a car and maybe don’t even have a backyard. You can tell them to eat more vegetables. Can they get them? Are they home to prepare them for their kids?

When I explored Expo West last week, I took a good look at what was offered, and what seemed affordable, and what my boys would eat.

Those are my criteria usually when shopping – what is affordable and something I can get them to eat. My toddler is an enigma at the moment – he eats sauerkraut and vegan protein. My other son has his ups and down, but I am still proud of the day he picked the whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese over the chocolate chip cookie breakfast cereal.

But it’s more than just making them eat vegetables. Even as we planted our veggie garden, I asked my son to read the label on the organic yogurt I scored.

Every month my son;s teacher pull out a box full of food from a initiative from the produce supplier from our school .They get a sticker if they taste something new, I think. I don’t know, my son doesn’t tell me.

Just like, in kindergarten, he had no idea who the PE teacher was. She’s only there occasionally, a brightly colored blur as she races from one school to another, and kindergarten doesn’t have PE.

There’s nothing to climb on the kindergarten playground, just a slide and swings and a basketball hoop.

I try to pack his lunch as much as I can. There’s always a Capri Sun or their version of water in there, since my eldest hates to drink plain water unless he’s really thirsty. and a sandwich, almost always whole wheat.And cheese, then a snack or two or a small apple. Some of his friends have a daily Lunchables, but for 3/4 of his school it’s regularly a school -provided lunch.

I am not perfect, they are not perfect, but the small changes are making a difference.

If we can continue not only to support eating more fruits and vegetables and making them readily available, but continue to put pressure on food manufacturers to label and put in whole foods and keep their prices affordable (like Annie’s and Stonyfield!) we can make the next revolution, making prepared whole foods affordable to reverse these obesity rates for everyone.

We can continue to change labels, getting a sugar percentage in, taking the GMO’s and corn and soy products out where they are just fillers, and stop spraying pesticides on fields that don’t even need them, stop feeding antibiotics to animals who aren’t sick yet.

These are the changes my kids can’t wait for.


*according to 2010 research,