DEAR GOOD SENSE EATING
I'm a single dad with child custody on the weekends.
How can I feed my children well?
If your children are old enough, they can help you draw up plans
for the weekend meals. Take them to the grocery store, then share
in some simple meal prep. Doing things together can be fun and
you'll be teaching them valuable life skills.
Like many contemporary fathers, Kirk Christensen not only brings
home the figurative bacon, but cooks it, too. The Naperville father
of two enjoys cooking whenever he can, although it's often limited
to grilling outside on the weekends.
Much has been written about mothers' influence on their
children's eating styles, but what about the dads? Studies suggest
that fathers have a major influence on their children's eating
habits and nutritional status.
While mothers traditionally had the primary responsibility for
shopping and cooking, fathers are increasingly pulling their own
weight. In a 2008 study published by the Journal for Specialists in
Pediatric Nursing, 65 percent of dads said meal preparation and
shopping was done by mothers or shared equally between the mothers
and fathers. Twenty-four percent of the dads reported that the meal
preparations were their primary responsibility and 14 percent share
the chore equally with their wives. In the same study, 24 percent
of dads had the primary grocery shopping responsibilities for their
Parenting style can also impact nutrition status. In a 2006
study in Obesity, fathers influenced their daughters' weight. Those
with highly controlling fathers had a higher percentage of body
fat. In a 2007 Australian study, fathers who placed no limits on
their children, or who were not engaged in their upbringing, were
more likely to have overweight children than fathers with a more
Elmhurst dietitian David Grotto, president of Nutrition
Housecall, LLC, says dads play a special role in forming their
children's eating habits. Dads may not always be cooking up a storm
or take main responsibility for the grocery shopping, but they can
serve as a positive role model for their children when it comes to
eating right. Yet, according to the USDA, the majority of fathers
fall short in their fruit and vegetable eating. Why? It's not the
cost, but because they don't care for them.
Grotto, who has three tween daughters, suggests fathers praise
mom's cooking and eat it with a smile. He notes, "If dad won't eat
it, the kids might not either." Grotto points to ways dads can
model enjoying meals in just the right amounts. "Slow and steady
wins the race. Assuring kids that there is plenty of food to go
around and they won't 'starve to death' when eating slowly, is a
great life-long lesson." He adds that fathers can also send a
strong message about eating until you are just about full-but not
In some households, Mom stresses the nutrition and Dad
reluctantly goes along with it. This is somewhat true in the
Christensen household. Kirk Christensen relates that, at times, his
wife sneaks healthy veggies, such as zucchini, into sauces. "I'll
give her the eye as if to ask, 'This is a squash sauce, isn't
If dads don't cook and they are "home alone" charged with
feeding the brood, they often turn to less than stellar options.
Grotto suggests these tips for cooking-challenged fathers:
Eating behaviors and food choices established in childhood often
significantly track into adulthood. We cannot underestimate the
roles of fathers on their child's current and future eating
Christine M. Palumbo is a Naperville-based dietitian and mother
of three. She loves it when her husband cooks, but positively
swoons when he cleans up afterward. She can be reached at (630)
369-8495 or [email protected]
Prep time: 5 minutes
Puree the watermelon in a blender.
Pour the puree into a pitcher and mix in the sparkling
Add the orange and strawberries and let sit until ready to
Add ice just before serving. Makes 6 servings
Nutrition facts:36 calories, 0 fat, 0
cholesterol, 0 sodium, 10 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram
Excerpted from 101 Optimal Life Foods by David Grotto, RD, LDN
Copyright © 2009 by David Grotto. Excerpted by permission of
Bantam, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Christine M. Palumbo is a Naperville-based dietitian and
mother of three. She loves it when her husband cooks, but
positively swoons when he cleans up afterward. She can be reached
at (630) 369-8495 or ChristinePalumbo.com.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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