|Dr. Mehmet Oz and Rachael Ray. Photo: Jennifer Lawinski
Former President Bill Clinton told parents a gymnasium full of parents in Harlem Saturday that he shared their struggles with finding and committing to healthy eating. Getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables is hard, he said. "Especially in Harlem, where I can say we have a lot of other options and they all taste good."
The talk was part of the the New York City Wine and Food Festival's Weight Watcher's Fun and Fit in the City event, targeted at combating childhood obesity and promoting healthy eating for the city's kids. The ex-president's foundation is headquartered in Harlem, and its top priority in the U.S. is the fight against childhood obesity.
Following Clinton's introduction, ex-NBA star Allan Houston, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Rachael Ray participated in a panel discussion moderated by Tara Parker Pope, "Well Being" columnist for the New York Times.
Parents, Clinton said, are the key to making the next generation of American kids healthier.
"In the end, it's what all of you do. If we set up insurance policies and we fix the vending machines and stuff, that creates the environment, but people still have to change. And you are critical to this," he said.
Houston, Oz and Ray echoed Clinton's message and gave parents tips on how to help kids develop healthy eating habits on a budget.
"The challenge for us, and I think part of the mission of us gathering here today, is that we're going to win this battle not in Washington, we're going to win it in the kitchens," Dr. Oz told the audience. "We need to make it easier for kids to do the right thing."
Houston, father of five, told parents that consistency was key to getting kids to eat their vegetables, especially picky eaters.
"With our picky eater, we don't really change up what we provide for her. We say these are your options," he said. "We don't try to allow them to have all the different options."
Ray said that involving their kids in the kitchen and teaching them to cook is an important step in developing good habits that would last a lifetime. "It really changes the whole quality of the rest of a child's life if they know how to provide for themselves and [you] let them cook for themselves."
She suggested shopping at farmers' markets to find the lowest-cost fresh fruits and vegetables. Shopping from the highest and lowest shelves in the grocery store and buying vegetables on sale and freezing them can also help parents take home nutritious food on a budget.
"You can take the cheapest products in the grocery store and make delicious, nutritious food. But you have to spend the time," Ray said.