Mom, I can’t wait to be 17!

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 07:09 AM

My son, age 8

“Mom, I can’t wait to be 17 – so I can buy the food that I want, instead of all this healthy stuff all the time.  All the other kids at school have ‘good’ food.  You never let us get what we want!”  This was my son’s rant in the grocery store (after Church School, no less) this past Sunday.  Loudly.  I did not back down.  The choco-puffy-sugary cereal did not go into the cart.  Nor did the pastry-frosty-toasty thingies.  I held my NuVal Mom ground.  Then, my son asked for money to buy a journal so that he can write his life story.  Which I am not allowed to read.  I gave him the money for the journal.  Better than candy.

I don’t want my son to turn 17 (really this age of being able to make food decisions on his own will come sooner, not that I’m telling) and dive head-first into a sugar and fat-filled frenzy.  Both my kids do indulge in treats on an occasional basis.  Last week, during a short vacation on Cape Cod, we ate meals in restaurants.  I compromised.  My kids had skim milk with lunch, but a soft drink with dinner.  But, when it comes to the every day routine, it’s lots of fruits and veggies, as many high-scoring foods as I can get my kids to eat, and as many home-cooked meals as I can find the time to make.  This past Sunday, with travel booked into my schedule for the week, I was in the kitchen all afternoon making sure that a nutritious crock pot dinner was prepped for Tuesday and a Cooking Light pasta casserole was made for Wednesday.  Lunches are made, not bought (except for once a week).  Phew!  Yes, it’s a ton of work.  And what thanks do I get?  “Mom, I can’t wait to be 17, so I can eat junk food!”  Fantastic.

And even with all that work, who knows if my kids will continue to have their lean frames as they grow.  My own experience tells me that things can change.  There are photos of me at age 8 with my ribs sticking out.  And then suddenly, in 5th grade, when they weighed us for wrestling, I was in the “heaviest” category.  (Whose idea was that anyway?)

I recently had a unique invitation to join the pediatricians and nurse practitioners at my children’s practice (Westwood-Mansfield Pediatrics) for a lecture on the issue of childhood obesity.  The guest speaker was Michael Leidig, RD, LDN Clinical Director of the Center for Youth Wellness at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston.  It was an eye-opening experience for me.  While I’m well-aware of the glum childhood obesity statistics (more than 1/3 of children are overweight or obese), I hadn’t really thought about it from a pediatrician’s perspective.  I didn’t know how hard it is sometimes to convince parents or kids that treatment is necessary.  They told me that parents will sometimes say, “Please don’t bring up the weight issue again this year.  It will only make my son/daughter cry.”  And until that morning, I hadn’t thought about how isolated overweight and obese children can become.  I was in awe of Michael Leidig and the work that he is doing at Floating Hospital and of the work that the pediatricians and nurse practitioners are doing on the front lines as well.

Interestingly, most of pediatricians and nurse practitioners are parents too.  And we all commiserated over how hard it is to help our kids make the most nutritious decisions at those seemingly weekly birthday parties and other events.  They were all happy to hear about NuVal scores right in the Walpole Big Y down the street and they are now guiding their patients to use this tool.

Yvonne’s Abraham’s Boston Globe column this past Sunday, entitled Reducing Weighty Obstacles, is what reminded me of the morning that I recently spent with the pediatricians.  Here’s a little glimpse:

If a mother like Teneka Williams struggles to keep her daughter from sliding into obesity, America is in big trouble. Williams is the kind of mother doctors at an obesity clinic dream of. Usually, parents need some convincing that their overweight kids have a problem, and they aren’t always ready to make changes. “Teneka has been incredible,’’ says Dr Elsie Taveras. And yet she has trouble keeping her daughter healthy.

You have to pay for Boston Globe content now, but I assure you that this one is worth the small fee.  Abraham goes on to say, “It seems like the whole world is set up to help girls like Tiarra gain weight.”  Ugh!   It sure does sometimes.  That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing – trying to get NuVal into every grocery store I can, trying to educate every person I can about NuVal scores, and trying to keep my own family healthy.  Even it it means that my son can’t wait until he turns 17!  I wonder if he’ll ever let me read that journal he started when he was 8.


Posted by: Melissa 13 comments

Posted in: Obesity

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13 Comments on “Mom, I can’t wait to be 17!”

  1. #1 Tammy
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Okay, I have to laugh because I remember saying to my mom and thinking it into my head that I couldn’t wait to move out so I could eat whatever I wanted!! And well I did just that…it wasn’t healthy by any means but it felt good at the time and a few extra pounds came with it…didn’t plan on that part. I quickly figured out eating the junk was not an option and I went back to the good stuff rather quickly.

    Childhood obesity is scary. I fear that with my 4 yr old. I am trying everything in my power to teach him to eat healthy and be active. It’s really heart breaking to see how many children today have a weight problem. I grew up on the chubbier side and it was always hard as a kid. But I look at my photos from then and I was not chubby compared to what I see today.

    Your a great mom and your children will thank you for it later.

  2. #2 laura
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Your son tugs at my heart-strings (and I’ve only “met” him via your blogs), so I can’t imagine what he does to yours!

  3. #3 Kim
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 9:55 am

    He is so cute. But you tell him that my daughter turned 17 in January and I’m still telling her what to eat and thankfully she is still listening, although due to the information I have shared with her about Nuval….I don’t have to tell her all the time….she makes smart choices too.

  4. #4 Jennifer
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I SO empathize with you on this! I had a similar interaction with my teen daughter in the grocery store not long ago. She was pushing back a little on what I was buying–and not buying. It’s hard to hold the line when our culture is working against us at every turn–all social functions, advertising, friends’ eating habits. But like Tammy said above, even if your kids push back now, the message is sinking in and they’ll come around sooner or later. I have the same thought as you on days when my kids are not thrilled with whatever healthy homemade dinner I’ve worked hard to prepare–this is the thanks I get? But I strive not to take it personally (or I hide it anyway :-) and just keep working at it. Thanks for acknowledging this important challenge!

  5. #5 Michelle
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 10:03 am

    This was great to read. I have a funny story – when my twins were 8 they pooled their allowance money and walked to our neighborhood grocery store and bought WHITE BREAD and TOASTER POP TARTS, then, they hid them under their beds! :) You can imagine how hard I laughed when I was vacuuming their room and found this stuff under the bed! My husband and I had experienced in our own lives how great nutritious eating made us feel – all the way around, physically, emotionally and even spiritually (there’s something about digging in the dirt and planting your own garden that is “centering” for the soul). We wanted the same for our amazing kids. They often times responded just like your son. I have good news that will make you hang in there! They are now both 20 and away at college and recently told me that their friends often comment that they can’t believe that they eat all those veggies and fruit and “What’s with that “nutty-seedy” bread”!? After all those years of watching their turned-up noses at dinner and listening to their pleading for sugar cereal, now THEY are the ones telling their friends how awesome it feels to put healthy foods into their bodies! We used to tell them that their bodies were like cars – you have to put good fuel in your body for it to run well, if you put sludge in your car it wouldn’t run and the same goes for your body! We visited my son in Colorado and one night we invited a bunch of his friends over to our condo for dinner and he ASKED me if I’d make those “awesome veggie burgers and roasted vegetables that I always made at home”! How awesome is all of this? I said to them – “all those years when you complained about all the veggies and fish and wild/brown rice I was always cooking – aren’t you so happy now that I made the decision to raise you that way?” I get BIG SMILES and BIG HUGS! Hang in there everyone – it seems like you’re getting nowhere but what you’re doing is making a HUGE impact on your kids!

  6. #6 Michelle
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 10:06 am

    p.s. – one last funny thing – their friends used to think that eating over at our house was “really cool” b/c they’d get to try all those weird things that they had never seen before! Sad, but true, I remember one young boy asking me what broccoli was, b/c he had never seen it before.

  7. #7 meda
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Your son is adorable. the amount of planning you do for good dinners for your family is awesome, i need to get on it!

    My kids only get poptarts at our annual beach trip and they look forward to it more than the beach!

  8. #8 Barbara
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Send him to Grandma’s so she can take him for the best ice cream EVER!!!!

  9. #9 Sheila
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Enjoy this time kids grow up fast!! You’re doing a great job teaching him about healthy foods.

  10. #10 Anne Jasinski
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Great blog today! I LOATHE when I have to take the kids to the grocery store with me…it’s so much easier to do it alone…somehow, I make it home with at least one thing I had no idea I was buying. My kids love it when they get to get “vacation cereal”…the one time (usually :) when I let them select pretty much whatever cereal they want. On a side note, I went to Big Y today and found the following odd…wondering if you do too: Big Y regular cream cheese NuVal score (20), Big Y 1/3 less fat cream cheese (15) and Big Y fat free cream cheese (25)

  11. #11 Vanessa
    on Apr 26th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Well, I can put a different perspective on this. Growing up I my family had a garden that was an acre big. I loved it!! Nothing can replace the memories I had working in the garden and the awesome food we had in our own backyard. We had any kind of vegetable one would want!! However, with our garden outside, we had alot of junk inside the house. We had chips, cookies, candy, pop(soda), white bread, tons of kool-aid, pop tarts, and tons of Little Debbie cakes. I had my fair share of it all…prob more than my share actually. With that said, I was never overweight. I was very active. I had 2 brothers to beat up! Haha. So, I think you can have and eat lots of junk and not be overweight, but I don’t want my kids to eat “crap”. I can’t stand it when I see my first grade students bring in junk for lunch(chips,a poptart, and a honeybun is not lunch….and you wonder why your child can’t focus!?). However, I agree kids deserve and need to have treats! My best friend didn’t EVER have junk at her house(I mean none) and when she would come over to mine she ate us out of house and hold by going to our pantry(we told her she could) and eating junk until she got sick!! So, its all about balance. I want my family to be like yours…even if it means they can’t wait to buy their own good because by the time they can, they will hopefully appreciate good, healthy, homemade food with an occasional big ol’ bowl of ice cream at times. :)

  12. #12 Lisa
    on Apr 27th, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Anne, I’m Lisa one of the RDs at NuVal. Melissa asked me to pop in and answer your question about cream cheeses (which is a very good one by the way). The reduced fat cream cheese actually has slightly more sodium, and slightly less Vitamin A. Additionally even though it is lower in fat than the original cream cheese, the total fat profile is more beneficial in the regular product. NuVal uses total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, omega-3s along with other fats to determine the total fat profile of the product. And then, the fat free cream cheese scores the highest, because it is lower in calories and higher in protein. Hope this answer helps! Feel free to email with any questions like this in the future.

  13. #13 Eileen
    on Apr 27th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I agree that kids need to experience “treats” as part of growing up. In our house we do a lot of our own baking and scratch cooking, and have spent many hours adjusting recipes with healthier options. When my kids were toddlers they didn’t know that their brownies actually contained pureed carrots! And that we added wheat germ to just about about everything. Our friends children never mentioned that they could taste the difference. When my kids were younger they commented that many of their friends never had fruit in their lunch, and often times they would ask for my kids apple, grapes or pears in exchange for chips. Most times my kids claimed to decline, but on a few occasions they would oblige. At least they confessed! I always told my kids that the secret ingredient to all of our healthy meals was “love”, they couldn’t argue with that very much. Like you Melissa, we did like to introduce new healthy foods as our kids got older. We instituted the “no thank-you helping”. They could announce “no thank-you”, this let us know that they did not think that they could eat a whole serving. We would then put a bite sized serving on the plate which they were required to taste. Many times they would ask for more, but not always. Our oldest son just started college and he always asks to take back fresh apples, pears, grapes and teddie peanut butter with an assortment of whole wheat bread and cliff bars. He is the envy of many of his new friends as they rely on the dorm snack machine for their late night munchies! So anyone with with young children struggling to keep them eating healthy…stick with it, because it does pay off as the years go by. Melissa, do you think you could research a future blog on high NuVal scoring tortellini and ravioli? Thanks always for all your research and comments.

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