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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 06/24/2011

Fat babies are not always healthy babies

Oh, this is depressing: Even American babies are too fat, according to today’s Post story by my colleague Rob Stein.

He writes about a new National Academy of Sciences report that warns parents that a big baby is not always a healthy baby. “About 10 percent of U.S. children between infancy and age 2 are already overweight, according to the report. Among kids ages 2 to 5, the situation is even worse — more than 20 percent are too heavy, a rate that has doubled since the 1980s,” the report states.
Chef Geoff Tracy, author of “Baby Love: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Meals for Your Baby and Toddler” (Len Spoden - For The Washington Post)

The report recommends several individual and institutional changes, including more closely monitoring a child’s weight, diet and sedentary activities.

It strikes me that if you look at some of the suggestions and some other recent news, we Americans are turned around on healthy lifestyles.

While Harvard researchers are providing us reasons to over-think our food choices (See The Post story earlier this week that has the researchers vilifying potatoes.), the National Academy of Sciences now suggests we take a toddler’s body mass index and make sure children get, “at least 15 minutes of physically active play every hour.”

Could it be that some parents feel overwhelmed by this scientification of a common sense? I know I am. At the same time, leaving it to “common sense” isn’t working either.

Geoff Tracy, the local restaurateur and co-author of “Baby Love: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Meals for Your Baby and Toddler,” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010) had this to say when I asked for his reaction to the new report:

“The food we feed our babies builds a foundation of nutrition for the rest of their lives. Parents are responsible for getting children on a track of healthy nutritious eating. Doctors should certainly encourage parents (and caregivers) to do this through simple education.”

Tracy is no slouch in the feeding-kids-well department. But I also reached out to him because he and his wife (and co-author) Norah O’Donnell, who was just named CBS White House correspondent, have three young children, He knows how hectic family life can upset the best intentions.

Here’s more of his take (hint: He’s not letting those of us in the you-don’t-know-how-hard-I-have-it-camp off the hook.)

“If a two-to-five-year-old is overweight, they are probably eating a lot of something they shouldn’t be eating. Kids don’t get fat on healthy, nutritious food.

And, two-to-five-year-olds should be playing . . . running, going down slides, jumping, kicking balls, playing hide and seek, riding scooters all the time.

We make sure they do it all so they’ll go to sleep early! Wear them out.”

Tracy had told me that he finds feeding toddlers far more challenging than babies. I asked him what works best in their house.

“The most successful dish we have for dinner is rice mixed with finely diced zucchini, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and chicken. Even Henry [Tracy’s 4-year-old son with a “discerning palate”] eats it. Kind of like stir fried rice without the oil and soy sauce.

We then put out a plate of fruit and veggies that they can help themselves to. Tonight it was pineapple, strawberries, and edamame.”

Edamame. I was with him until the edamame.

 What’s your approach to your children’s health? Will the new report affect your family?

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 06/24/2011

 
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