Donna Giovenco, Nutrition coach and dietician

| May 18, 2011
Donna Giovenco

Donna Giovenco

Summer break is almost here, and it can be challenge for parents to keep their children off the couch and away from the TV.

We talked with Donna Giovenco, a nutrition coach, dietician and educator at Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center, and she shared ways to keep children active and healthy during the summer.

With 20 years of experience in diabetes, weight loss, general wellness, pediatrics, and sports nutrition, Donna works with clients to reach their health-related goals by changing behaviors.

Married with two children, Donna makes fitness a family affair, fun for all.

What are some good ways to keep children active over the summer?
First, you want your child to have fun! Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. Louisville has many outdoor facilities that families can take advantage of: a great park system,the Louisville Zoo and lots of swimming pools. Playing on a playground is a great way to be active.

And parents, don’t sit there, you can play too! Swim laps or dive for pennies. Riding bikes can be a good family activity. If the adult does not have a bike, he or she can walk/jog/run with a child. Walking the dog around the neighborhood after supper is something the whole family can do. Find a trail and go hiking. Work up to where the entire family is getting 60 minutes of activity every day. If you make it fun, it will not feel like exercise.

How can you get picky children to eat healthy?
When I hear from parents that their child is a picky eater, I like to get a better understanding of what the parents eat and the family lifestyle. Parents need to see if there is a correlation between what they eat and what the kids eat. If they serve the same foods, or if they only eat out at fast food restaurants, there may not be much of a variety being offered.

Families need to take the time to prepare more foods at home. Get the kids involved in the preparation and cooking. Make it a family affair to try a new food each week.

In our home, we like for our kids to try new foods. If they do not like it, they do not have to eat it. But how do they know if they like something if they haven’t tried it? You might be surprised by some of the foods they like.

Take the kids to the grocery and let them have a say in a new food to try.

How can you make exercise a habit for children?
Exercise, or as I like to say, “being active,” has to be fun. Let your child pick what he or she wants to do. Activity is a priority in our household. The kids have to be active most days of the week. If it happens to be off season for one of their sports, then there is always some form of activity going on.

Children mimic their parents. If the parents come home from work and park themselves in front of the TV, there is no incentive for the child to get active. Make activity a family ritual, and put it on the calendar.

Why is there such a problem with childhood obesity in the U.S.?
In the U.S., 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Unfortunately, that number is higher in Kentucky. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

Ultimately, childhood obesity is the result of eating too many calories and not getting enough exercise. However, environmental factors play a part too: trimming of physical education and recess in school, and fewer safe places where children can play or be active.

Fast food is on every corner, and it is relatively inexpensive. We have greater access to high-sugar foods and drinks. We can get a 32-ounce soft drink for the same price as a 16-ounce soft drink, so it entices us to get the bigger size. Portion sizes have gotten huge, and for a few cents more, you can “super size” it.

There is an increase in sedentary activities such as TV viewing, computer games, console games, handheld games, texting and social media. This sedentary activity hits kids with a double whammy as it limits time available for more active pursuits and increases the urge to snack.

What is the best way to fight or prevent obesity?
Start NOW to develop and teach your kids good habits! It is proven that family dinners can keep kids slimmer and healthier. Because healthier foods are being prepared at home, the nutritional value is increased while the overall calories are lower.

Make sure there are fruits and vegetables available at all times. Limit  juices with added sugar and soft drinks. Do not instill a “clean your plate” rule. Children will let you know when they are satisfied. Never force a child to eat.

Fast foods and going out to eat need to be viewed as a rare occurrence, not an everyday occasion. Do not give food or candy as a reward. Limit television and computer time. People are surprised when I tell them we only have one TV in our home. But this really does prevent all of us from getting too involved in TV. Make exercise an enjoyable habit. Be creative. Learn how to change behaviors. Have fun.  It is never too late to start!

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Jacob Glassner

Jacob Glassner, News Editor/Plate Spinner

Jacob usually has his eyes glued to a computer screen, editing stories and making sure the paper gets out the door each week. Multi-tasking is his modus operandi – similar to the plate spinners you’d see on the old “Ed Sullivan Show.” Turn ons: freshly-sharpened pencils. Turn offs: exclamation points!!!

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