The best thing about the Allen family is that they are nothing if not blissfully normal. When the entire clan–Chris, Margaret, Adam and Bella—meets with Ann Caldwell, Nutrition Coordinator at Anne Arundel Medical Center, to address the family’s nutrition , there’s no pretending to be perfect.
Caldwell assures the family that there’s no reason to be scared; they won’t be going on any tofu-and-sprouts diets. “We want to get a good awareness of where you are,” she says, “and how we can do a little bit better.”
Right now, the family’s goal is simply eating better, says Margaret. “What were’s typically doing now is having Super Suppers [where Margaret works part-time],” says Chris. “We split the six-portion meals in half, and have those for dinner.” They eat out one to two times a week. “We go through phases, like Chipotle every Friday, for a few weeks,” says Chris. They typically shop at Giant or Sam’s club, and both parents share shopping and food prep duties.
The kids eat well—Margaret packs their lunch three times a week and they buy the other days. Although, when they buy, Adam admits it’s typically “pizza and pizza and chocolate milk.” The chocolate milk doesn’t bother Caldwell: “I recommend kids get three servings of milk. If there’s a little bit of sugar in there, don’t worry about it.” Both kids enjoy fruit (Bella: “Once I had four tangerines in one day!”), but they both make faces when Caldwell brings up veggies.
Adam, who has a severe allergy to all tree nuts, including peanuts, has to be more careful than most kids his age. Because many healthy, whole-grain cereals may contain traces of nuts, he has to avoid almost all of them. Consequently, he leans toward more sugary cereals for breakfast—though he does eat whole-grain bread.
Both Adam and Bella are quite active, with swimming and basketball being part of their organized activities. Bella also takes ballet, and Adam enjoys riding his bike. However,
Margaret and Chris have trouble keeping themselves as active as their children. “We have gym memberships,” says Margaret bashfully. “I’ll go for awhile, then take a month’s vacation.” Chris’ weight has been “all over the place” lately—he lost 15 pounds using the South Beach Diet and exercising; then came an injury. The diet slipped, and so did the exercise. “Three weeks ago, I went to the doctor’s, and I was at my highest weight ever.” Currently he’s exercising six times a week—sometimes twice a day at both the local gym and the one near his office—to try to get some of that weight off.
Caldwell gives each member of the family a food log and instructs each member of the family to write down “everything that crosses your lips … Even if you think you know what you’re doing, until you write it down,” you don’t really have control of your nutrition. The family will keep the logs for five days, at which point they’ll follow up with Caldwell (and Chesapeake Family). They’ll get recommendations on what to change, and then try to implement those changes. And no pretending: “Don’t change anything over the next five days,” says Caldwell. Getting an honest baseline is the first step to better health.
Curious about the Allens’ food logs? Go to Chesapeakefamily.com for an exclusive look at what the Spotlight Family eats.