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“DEAR PARENT, YOUR CHILD IS FAT”

By Jane Thomson

Above is the gist of a message that would have been sent home a couple of years ago in a harebrained plan to combat childhood obesity. Now, Michelle Obama is on the problem, and at least, she will do no harm. I was a fat child; it was not fun; and guess what – my parents had noticed without being informed. When I was ten years old, after years of nagging, my mother gave me, as part of my Christmas present, a pocket-sized calorie reference book with a dial on the front to count my daily calories. The timing must have been right, as instead of hurting my feelings, the book intrigued me. I ate a lot of cantaloupe that summer, and Junket (comparable to today’s instant sugar-free pudding mix made with skim milk). When I went back to school the following fall, I was no longer fat and clumsy, but thin and clumsy.

What causes childhood obesity? I will add to the condemnation of junk food and soda advertising – cigarette companies are hardly alone in trying to get at their market as early in the kid’s lives as possible. In my case, living in an inner-city apartment with little access to physical activity was part of the problem. Domestic turmoil surfacing at meals can lead to nervous eating. A pleasantly casual family meal would be the ideal. Parents can set an example another way: Don’t just lock up the candy, cake, donuts, sugared soda, etc. Don’t have them around except for special occasions.

What to have around for snacks and meals? Tasty, attractive, filling foods. These can be expensive; but don’t have to be (I will try never to have recipes in this column that call for hard-to-find or expensive ingredients.) The following recipes are adjustable – unlike in baking, these ingredients do not have to be in exact proportions.

A Dip for Fruit
Apple slices, bananas, fruits like nectarines that might be cheap at the supermarket but are sometimes not very tasty
Low-fat vanilla or plain yoghurt mixed with concentrated frozen orange juice, in a proportion of about three parts yoghurt to one part concentrated juice.
The apple won’t go brown if you just leave it out whole for the kids with a knife next to it.
The “dip” is also good on low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yoghurt.
There are good ready-made fat-free dips available for vegetables such as baby carrots (I was shocked lately to learn that these are not tiny carrots, but made from regular large carrots), zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, jicama, and other vegetables that are good raw – experiment.
Another filling snack is popcorn. Make your own microwave popcorn in a brown bag. Just put about half a cup of popcorn, and nothing else, in a bag big enough for expansion and microwave on high for about four minutes, or until it almost stops popping, but doesn’t smell burned. Spray popped corn with cooking spray; then sprinkle with salt or cheese-flavored or butter-flavored sprinkles.

The organic and eat-local food advocates may be screaming. Please write a letter or a column!
Mini Mexican Pizzas (from Star Tribune, years ago)
6 small (6”) corn tortillas     1 16-oz. can of fat-free refried beans
6 tablespoons shredded Mexican-style cheese
6 tablespoons frozen (or fresh or drained canned) corn kernels
1 4-oz. can of mild chopped green chiles (optional)
Reduced-fat sour cream (optional)
Preheat over to 450 degrees
Place tortillas on a baking sheet (they overlap a bit). Divide beans equally between the 6 tortillas, spreading them to within half an inch of the edges. Divide and spread the corn and cheese similarly. Drain the chiles and put them on. Bake the “pizzas” 5 to 6 minutes until they are steaming and the cheese is melted. Serve with the sour cream. They are only about 150 calories apiece.

To drink with these foods I would suggest 1 percent butterfat milk, water, fizzy water, sugar-free soda; or for older teens, black coffee.

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