1 October 2007

Dr David’s Tips for Raising Healthy Kids

TV ground rules
Of the many factors that contribute to excessive weight gain in kids, TV may be the most influential. It certainly takes time away from active pursuits from playing sports to simply playing. But it also contributes through the mouth. A recent report from Australia published in Health Promotion International (31 August 2007) that surveyed 18,000 students reported that teenagers who watch several hours of television on a school day are consuming large amounts of chips (crisps) chocolate and high-energy drinks. Here are some tips to deprogram the kids and set some ground rules that apply to everyone in the family.

Dr David Ludwig

  • Limit viewing to 2 hours a day (good), 1 hour a day (better) 30 minutes a day (best).
  • Take the TV out of your child’s bedroom (and your own) and turn it off during mealtimes.
  • Keep a log of viewing habits and review it each week. Whenever any family member turns the telly on (this includes parents), they write down what they watch and for how long.
  • Make TV watching dependent on a physical activity such as walking on a treadmill or riding a stationery bike. Linking TV viewing to physical activity neutralises two of the three ways that TV contributes to obesity: decreased calorie expenditure and mindless eating. Leaving you only with the food ads themselves to contend with!
  • Make sure that any snacking in front of TV is mindful not mindless – snacks have to be real food not fake food, they have to be on the weekly ‘options’ list (see September GI News) and the kids have to prepare the snacks themselves not just open a packet. Who knows they may have so much fun in the kitchen they’ll forget about the TV.
For a healthy, mindful snack the kids will enjoy making and eating, try these Tiny Corn Tarts from Dr Jenny O’Dea’s Positive Food for Kids.

Tiny Corn Tarts
12 slices low GI grainy bread
1 egg
2 tablespoons reduced-fat milk
440 g (14 oz) can creamed corn (or baked beans or mushrooms), heated

  • Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Cut circles from the sliced bread (you'll probably only get one per slice) to fit into a lightly greased patty pan or 12-hole (1/3 cup) muffin pan. (The leftover bread can be used to make fresh low GI breadcrumbs.)
  • Beat the egg and milk in a bowl. Brush both sides of the 12 bread circles with the milk mixture and press into the patty pan. Bake until crisp and golden (about 10 to 15 minutes).
  • Leave to cool a little in the pan then fill with warmed creamy corn or baked beans – allowing 2–3 per person. Store leftover ‘bread cases’ in a cookie jar to fill with what you fancy another day.
– Dr David Ludwig is Director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital Boston and author of Ending the Food Fight.