African American Girl Eating Large Apple

Hootie Hoo!  Today, I’m here at the World Health Congress (WHC) in Washington, D.C., where I am honored to be partnering with Alere, a leading sponsor of WHC, to bring more awareness to the childhood obesity epidemic.

Eating healthy is important for everyone, but with the alarming statistics of childhood obesity in this country, it’s more crucial than ever to make sure our nation’s children are getting the nutrition they need and avoiding the sugars and fat they don’t need.

According to the American Heart Association, one in three children today in the United States are considered obese or overweight. The AHA says the risks associated with this condition are endless and include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, not to mention the detrimental effects it can have on a child’s self-esteem.

As a chef and concerned citizen, I am honored to be a Chef Ambassador for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign and on the board of Gen YOUth Foundation; two initiatives focused on raising a healthier generation of kids in this country. Part of my role in these campaigns is to prepare healthy lunch recipes and ideas based on the federal daily budget of $2.60 per student. Challenging yes, but not impossible.

What’s also challenging is finding time to bring healthy meals and habits into your kitchen at home. I always encourage people to cook with love, whether you are cooking a meal for yourself, for friends or for family. This means truly caring about what your children are eating and helping them to eat balanced, nutritious meals.

A fun way to get younger children to start paying attention to what they’re eating is playing the globe game. You simply spin a globe and have your child randomly point to a country. Then look up a nutritious recipe from that country and teach your child about the healthy ingredients that are going into the meal. By playing the globe game, you not only get your kids to be actively involved in cooking healthy meals, you also help teach them about geography and culture.

Another great way to get your children thinking about healthy foods is to plant an herb garden with them in your backyard.  Have your child taste the herbs fresh from the garden and then see if they can identify the flavors in each dish. Cooking is all about engaging them in the process and building positive attitudes toward natural ingredients.

Children who develop healthy eating habits when they’re young are much less likely to make poor diet choices as adults. If you are attending the WHC April 4 to 6, visit me at the Alere booth #203 and I’ll share some great nutritious recipes with you to try at home with your family.

Toodles Poodles!