My daughter, Krissy, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was still in elementary school. From the beginning, I never wanted my daughter to feel different and, like all parents, I wanted the very best for her. I also wanted her to be confident and empowered to make good choices. Fortunately, through years of practice, we learned a very important lesson: what you put in your body matters!
My family is from the Bronx, in New York City, where making the right decision when it comes to your kids’ nutrition can be difficult. In my neighborhood, we have a lot of fast food chains and a lot of advertisements for soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and a lot of other stuff that jeopardizes our kids’ health. Walk into any bodega or look on any kids’ restaurant menu and that’s exactly what you’ll find.
That’s why I try to educate parents about the benefits of good nutrition and about the perils of unhealthy diets. Too often, in my community, unhealthy diets include consuming too many added sugars, which can lead to type-2 diabetes, childhood obesity, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. We can do better!
One of the best skills I learned for my family’s health is how to read food labels. I had to do it to manage my daughter’s blood sugar levels, but every parent can learn to identify dangerous ingredients and make the healthier choice. Our kids are smart and the first thing they ask when you say, “No” is “Why not?” By reading nutritional labels, you can turn those challenging conversations into teachable moments.
Remember, your kids are only kids for a short time. Soon, they’ll be making their own choices. If you teach them how to make heart-healthy choices today, they’ll have a better chance of living longer, healthier lives tomorrow.
Like I said, I never wanted my daughter to feel different. So, as she got older I learned to help her find the healthy alternative. Kids, for example, like soda because of the bubbles. I introduced my kids to seltzer as a compromise. Also, a lot of kids like sugary drinks because they come in fruity flavors. Why not teach kids to prepare fruit-infused water, which is much healthier?
Today, I’m a grandmother and my daughter has a child of her own. I smile proudly when I see her sit down and speak with him about making healthy food and drink choices. I live in the same neighborhood in the Bronx and even though we still see sugary drinks advertised on billboards, on TV, in the subway, on our phones, etc., I know that my grandson is developing the skills he needs to make smarter choices.
For me, communication was the most important tool. I want to ask parents and doctors who follow MomsRising for any advice or suggestions about speaking with our kids about avoiding sugary drinks. What has worked for you? What are effective ways to reach them and teach them?
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This post was written by Mary Gonzalez.