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Exercising Values

Happy, Healthy, Kind, & Considerate Kids

My Pyramid Morphs into My Plate to Help Parents Fight Childhood Obesity

children diet fat loss fitness goals habits nutrition parenting weight loss

In my office at Heritage College, I have a volume as thick as Ulysses and War and Peace combined. In it are the early research findings used by the USDA to formulate the new dietary recommendations that were released last January. A few easy to understand guidelines have been distilled from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the result is a handful of recommendations that, if adopted ,will put you and your children on the road to better health. Childhood obesity has a new enemy in the colorful plate that encourages families to eat smart.

As a personal trainer who helps educate personal training students, I had to be pleased that among the dietary recommendations the guidelines also recommended that our nation increase our physical activity. According to which replaces; as a nation we need to reduce portion sizes and get moving. Every personal trainer knows that you can't out train a bad diet. To get lasting results, you need to make changes in activity level and in food consumption.

The personal training basic concept of calories in and calories out has now been given official approval. it is recommended that Americans focus on balancing calories eaten with calories expended through exercise and other activity. It is further recommended that those calories should come from increased consumption of vegetables,fruits,whole grains,fat-free and low-fat dairy, and seafood. Less consumption of sodium, saturated fats, sugar, and refined grains along with avoiding trans fats was also advised.

The visual aid of a food pyramid has been replaced with a child friendly image of a familiar dinner plate that simply shows which foods to use to fill that plate. The site explains that the following steps will improve our diet:

• Enjoy your food, but eat less
• Avoid oversized portions
• Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
• Switch to fat-free or low fat (1%) milk
• Make at least half of your grains whole grains
• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals-and choose foods with lower numbers
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Sample menus and recipes are provided on the site along with expanded information on what foods are good choice and why. There are tools to help people evaluate their current diet and set goals to improve it. Parents can use the site to open a discussion with their children about healthy food choices.

You can also find some additional tips to improve your family's diet in Exercising Values. Here is a brief sample:

"Support your exercising body with good nutrition. A lifestyle change that involves gradual healthy changes to your diet and consistent daily activity will give you many rewards.  So enjoy yourself along the way and don’t over-monitor your results and fret if they don’t seem to be coming quickly enough.  When you drink water instead of soda, , cut out fried foods and fast foods, eat more fruits and veggies, cut out processed grains, and reduce sweets you will look and feel better.

Consider drinking a glass of water possibly with lemon first thing in the morning.  Drink water to thirst both during and after exercise. The sooner children learn that water is the go to drink when thirsty the better. Squeeze a little orange into it occasionally to make it special.

Soda pop has nothing to recommend it. Recently it was discovered that corn syrup has high levels of damaging mercury. Add that to fat producing empty calories, bone demineralization, and the like and you’ll see that a water habit is one of the best habits you can help your child establish. Most of us don’t need to be convinced that water is preferable for our health than soft drinks but knowing and doing are two different things.  See if this is a change you can make together.

Children aren’t the only ones to benefit from drinking more water. It can be key to keeping your own weight down. Dehydration spells stress to your body and it will release hormones to fight it.  Drinking more water will reduce appetite and sooth late night eating urges.  It will improve performance.  Add all that up and you’ll see why drinking adequate amounts of water will help you reach or keep your ideal body weight. I’ll drink to that!

By the way, perceiving the body’s need for water lessens with age so you may be more chronically dehydrated than you realize. If you do not consume enough fresh water every day, your body will age faster, appear fatter,  have less endurance, be more susceptible to illness, lose joint mobility, and much more. Generally speaking, most children  require no less than 8-10 glasses per day and adults  require about 16 glasses per day.

Begin each day with water to reinforce your commitment to drink it throughout the day. Providing your children with a water bottle will remind them to drink often. Stainless steel may be a safer option than plastic water bottles. At home, you may want to also choose glass over plastic cups.

Food preparation and storage is important. Home cooking has become a lost art but one worth restoring. The University of Arkansas recently published a study showing that up to 93% of people eating in restaurants underestimate the calories they are consuming.  Just eating at home will help you stay lean.  But it can’t be an ordeal and that means you need to plan so you can have healthy ingredients available.

Make a large pot of soup at the beginning of the weekend and enjoy the convenience of avoiding the slow death, I mean, fast food line. When you are tired and hungry it needs to be simple so keep vegetables, fruits, lean meats, raw nuts, beans, Ezekial bread and other similar items on hand.  Eat some of your food raw and you’ll feel better. "

Exercising Values can also help you with the goal of increasing your family's physical activity. It was written with the busy family on the go in mind. Every workout is research based to help you get quick results safely and enjoyably. By combining physical fitness and character training you will be laying a great foundation for your child's future health and happiness.

Grab a plate and load up on fruits and vegetables balanced by lean protein and whole grains. Grab another one for each member of your family. Enjoy your food and each other's company. Then go for a walk or toss a frisbee. Become the healthy family that will be an example to your community and spread the word that a few simple improvements make a big difference in health and energy.

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About the Author

Pamela Davenport


For decades I have helped countless parents and their children overcome significant obstacles. My unique accomplishments in the fields of child development, health, and fitness have given me an unparalleled perspective and expertise that I would love to share with you.

  • Award-Winning Author and Parenting Coach
  • Mother of six and grandmother of five
  • Studied Juvenile Justice at Stanford University
  • Master’s degree in Social Work
  • Experienced family counselor
  • Support group leader for struggling parents
  • Taught health at the university level
  • Program manager for the personal training programs at two colleges
  • Personal Trainer helping people lose 5lb-100lb+
  • Two-time Ironman Triathlete and competing member of team USA
  •  UMB Lifetime Sportswoman Award 2017