March is National Nutrition Month, a perfect time to talk about eating right and staying active for a lifetime of good health.
Growing up doing ballet, I often worried about my weight affecting my dancing career. Ballet involves plenty of physical exercise, but, like most teens, I struggled with choosing healthy foods. With the pressure to stay thin I needed balance – staying in shape without developing an eating disorder or unhealthy body image. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people that held health above any number on the scale or costume size. If you or someone you know is struggling with weight or body image, the National Eating Disorder Association is a great resource.
After college I grew interested in other forms of dance. When the rigorous ballet training ended, I had to re-evaluate how to stay in shape, healthy and happy with myself. Now, as a mother of a three year-old, it’s a struggle to find that balance in my life. How can I find time to exercise? How do I create healthy balanced meals for myself and my family? How can I resist the brownies and cheesecake we all bring into work? Most importantly, how do I instill the values of good nutrition in a toddler? It is wonderful to see that already so young, she enjoys exercise – dancing, riding a bike, running around outside, capoeira (a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, sports, and music) and much more.
How do I get her to eat the vegetables instead of the french fries? Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic – According to KidsHealth.org, 1 out of 3 kids in the United States are considered overweight. It’s clear today’s youth need help finding a balance of activity and nutrition to become healthy adults. Especially with the popularity of electronic toys and videos.
Charities and the First Lady’s initiative help with nutrition, physical fitness and aging
Thankfully, there are many charities that promote youth sports and recreation. The American Heart Association is urging Congress to pass the FIT kids Act, prioritizing physical education in schools. The Healthier US School Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. Schools participating in the challenge voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, and agree to provide nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity.
Bringing this focus to my own family, Meal Makeover Moms is a great resource I’ve found for healthy meals that even my daughter will love.
As I get a handle on health and nutrition for my family, I’m looking to the future. I want to live a long time to watch my daughter grow up, so I’m also learning how to prevent health problems affecting women as we age: Osteoporosis, Heart Disease, Breast and Ovarian Cancer, just to name a few. Thankfully, organizations like the YWCA, International Women’s Health Coalition, and many other local and national charities with a mission to improve the health of women are available to help me with this.
I hope that by eating healthy and exercising regularly, I set a good example for my family to stay in shape–healthy and happy for a long time to come.
What’s your best tip for healthy family meals? Any special “tricks” for getting your kids to eat more vegetables? Or a great resource (online or cookbook) or charity that’s really helped you? We’d love to hear and share it! Tell us about it on Facebook and Twitter.