Yes, Let’s Move!

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What does everyone think about Michelle Obama’s new “Let’s Move” program, which has the stated goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation?

I, for one, say Kudos and Thank You to the First Lady for putting this issue front and center. Any impact that can be made to raise awareness of this public health crisis should be applauded. I’m glad that the program is off to a good start and has received so much public attention. This week’s cover story of Newsweek is all about the problem and the proposed solutions.

I also appreciate the First Lady’s realistic take on the situation. She has made it clear that this program is not about “eliminating Twinkies” or banning hamburgers and French fries from the diet. “Let’s Move” is about more of the good stuff: fruits, vegetables, exercise. She’s a mom and she knows how difficult it is to battle the influence of corporate marketing and omnipresence of less-than-healthful foods in our kids’ worlds.

But I can’t help but think there is one important element missing in this message, and that is the importance of educating kids about Taste and Flavor from an early age, so that it’s more likely that they will grow up choosing healthful foods on their own. As Dr. Sarah Armstrong of Duke University’s pediatric department says in the Newsweek piece, a critical factor is convincing children to eat more of the right foods, not just less of the wrong ones. And that’s where the TASTE factor comes into play.

Vegetables, in particular, have a flavor that most kids have to learn to like. Call that flavor “bitter,” call it “sharp;” things like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach have distinctive flavors that usually must be sampled several (or many) times before they become enjoyable to kids, or even an accepted part of the menu. In My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus, I quote statistics from a research study that found that it can take up to 15 separate introductions of certain vegetables before some young kids will eat them. And how many of us, as parents, enjoy getting 14 rejections of a food item, and will cheerily proceed with presenting that food, despite them?

But to get your kids off on the right foot with vegetable consumption early in life, I think that is exactly what you have to do. Vegetables – preferably fresh, seasonal, and properly prepared — basically, the way that you would like to eat them – should be a part of children’s diets from their earliest eating days. Do your kids a favor and pay attention to the taste and the flavor of the vegetables that you serve them!

So the main message for kids and parents is Let’s Move. Put down the bag of chips, turn off the video game, get out of the house and swing into action. But while you’re at it, try a new vegetable tonight, too. Roast it with a little oil or herbs, or sauté it on the stove with some garlic. Try vegetables grilled at a restaurant. The second important point of reducing the rate of childhood obesity should be: “Let’s Eat Something New”

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