Book review: Healthy Choices, Healthy Children

Parenting has given me many opportunities to reflect on food and eating.  As newborns, my kids were wildly different in their eating habits.  One gained weight alarmingly slowly, the other welcomed it with ease (guess which one has my metabolism?).  Later, each of the boys went through fussy periods where the repertoire of accepted dishes was frustratingly small (Luke, alas, has not yet exited this particular phase).  And as a mom, I find I’m reflecting more than before on the nutritional value of the foods I serve.  I want my kids to be healthy eaters who appreciate a wide range of foods, but it’s not always so easy to know how to make that happen.

So it was fortuitous that Paraclete Press sent me a review copy of Healthy Choices, Healthy Children: A Guide to Raising Fit, Happy Kids by Lori S. Brizee and Sue Schumann Warner.  The book is a wonderfully helpful primer for parents, full of practical and concrete advice.  Brizee, a registered dietician and pediatric nutrition specialist, explains the hows and whats of healthy eating in an accessible and encouraging tone.  I like how she acknowledges the busy lifestyle of  many families and gives tips that are realistic.  For example, rather than saying “Don’t buy takeout!”, she gives tips for how to make those inevitable meals healthier and more relaxed (rather than eating in the car, allow even ten or fifteen minutes to eat at a table in the restaurant; if you all like fries, get just one large order to share).  She advises parents to involve their kids in grocery shopping, explaining why you are buying what you are buying in order to help kids understand nutrition from an early age.

One of my favorite insights of hers was to think about the pros and cons of buying the larger size — yes, it may be more economical to buy a half-gallon of ice cream rather than a pint, but if it means that everyone ends up eating twice the amount of ice cream that they should, is that really worth it?   Will I feel better about the fact that I saved money, or will I feel better about the fact that my kids ate a healthy amount of dessert?

Throughout the book, Brizee gives suggestions of quick, healthy meals that kids like, and there is a lengthy appendix at the end with even more recipes (even recipe for healthy desserts!).    She covers topics like exercise, weight issues, the sleep/health connection, and has a helpful chapter on eating disorders.  And I like how, at the end of every chapter, she gives a list of “Actions for the Week” and invites readers to choose one or two of them to adopt.  The book steers clear of finger-wagging and guilt, and is ultimately a very encouraging and empowering read.  If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is about developing a healthier lifestyle — either for yourself or for your kids — then this is a great resource to have.

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