You see them everywhere these days. Young boys with bellies hanging over their swim trunks; 'tween girls bulging from their t-shirts and shorts; toddlers who are not just plump or chunky but downright fat.
Most of us probably know the primary causes: too much junk to eat and not enough exercise... Pretty simple, really. Cut down on the calories/improve kids' diets and increase their movement and, voila!—problem solved.
But somehow it is so much harder than that...so much more complicated when you are rushing from football practice to ballet class with no time to cook and cannot even swing by a fast food restaurant and order a meal for your kids that does not come without a side of fries and a soda. Fortunately, there IS hope in the person of Dr. Yum (aka Dr. Nimali Fernando.)
Dr. Yum, a local pediatrician and mother of two boys aged four and eight, knows how hard it is to juggle work and kids' schedules, let alone get a nutritious dinner on the table every night or order a balanced meal from an eatery. As a means of educating and helping her patients, she started a website: http://www.doctoryum.com/ which provides numerous quick and healthful recipe, as well as, resources for parents looking to start a garden, helping their picky eater become more adventurous at the table, or seeking children's books that promote healthful eating.
"Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%." --Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In an effort to reach a broader audience, she has partnered with Fredericksburg Parent and Family Magazine and now also produces a regular blog.
As if that was not enough, Dr. Yum has taken her campaign a step further and started working with local restaurants to "rehabilitate" their children's menus— let's swap out those fries for some apple sauce or fresh grapes, please! Foode, located on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg: http://www.foodeonline.com/ is the first of what Dr. Yum hopes will eventually be many local restaurants to premiere a new and improved kids' menu with more healthful options.
Since education is a part of the outreach efforts of Dr. Yum and Fredericksburg Parent, it was decided that a fun and informative kids' placemat should also be part of the "menu rehabilitation" process. Talented local artist and mother of three, Mary Van Slyke, came up with a placemat that is jam-packed with information about fruits and veggies, as well as, interactive activities appropriate for a wide range of ages.
It seems like Foode, Fredericksburg Parent and Dr. Yum may be riding the crest of a new trend, related to a recent Associated Press article which states, "At least 19 large restaurant chains-including Burger King, Chili's, IHOP, and Friendly's, plan to announce they will include healthier options on their children's menus." This is great news for many, including me, long-time smuggler of baby carrots into restaurants!
As I sat one recent Sunday at Foode with Dr. Yum (though I called her Nimali in person) enjoying a truly delicious brunch with her and her two boys and my daughter, I began to feel a little bit of hope on the food front. From the big chains to the local restaurants, we moms and dads are finally getting some help in the on-going battle to feed our kids right. Plus, with Dr. Yum's website and blog, we have resources for additional relevant information. My days of smuggling carrots into restaurants may be nearly over...and that is a good thing.
Mary Becelia lives with her husband and two children in Stafford County. See the end pages of this issue for more from her on junk food and kids.