Guest Opinion

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Look, I'm like Mommy...'

! was getting ready for work in a rush one morning, when my then two-year-old daughter waddled up to the mirror, resplendent in bright red lipstick from the top of her nose to the bottom of her chin. "Look, I'm like Mommy" she said, pressing her cherry-red face to my skirt. Note to self: kids are master imitators.

The April 2005 issue of Child magazine noted this as well, ranking Iowa as one of the worst states fit for kids. The reason? A mere 17 percent of Iowa adults eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables daily, the third lowest amount in the country.

Nine million kids, roughly two out of every ten in your child's classroom are obese. Many more are out-of-shape. While some folks have placed blame on farmers and our propensity for growing more food affordable, it's not stocked grocery store shelves that are "supersizing" our kids. It's a lack of good role models and regular exercise.

But we can make a difference. We can start by changing our attitudes about food and making dinnertime family time where conversation overtakes our normally rushed schedules. With Spring just around the corner, it's a good time to take a family outing to a local farmer's market and buy some fresh produce. Or, even donating leftover food to a local food pantry can help put food - and the amount we consume - in perspective.

'Got milk' in your diet? The Iowa Farm Bureau has contributed "milk money" to help fund dozens of milk vending machines for Iowa schools, so kids have a healthy alternative to soda. Simply drinking three servings of milk a day versus soda reduces calories enough to melt off five pounds a year.

My daughter is now seven and I'm even more aware of how eager kids are to imitate their parents for better or worse. I can honestly say that if given a choice of a shiny green apple or a candy bar she would choose the apple. She would choose water over juice boxes and milk over soda. Her healthy eating choices didn't happen by chance. They were learned through a combination of imitation, choice and frankly, nagging.

Remember, imitation isn't just a form of flattery.

* Laurie Groves is Public Relations Manager for Iowa Farm Bureau