OlympicVillage: Dominique Dawes: How Parents Can Make Better Food Choices

The retired Olympic gymnast and motivational coach exclusively offers up healthy family nutrition ideas in her blog for iVillage's series, OlympicVillage

As a three-time Olympian, member of the gold-winning 1996 U.S. women's Olympic gymnastic team known as the “Magnificent Seven” and current co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Dominique Dawes has been on a mission to make the lives of kids and families healthier since retiring from gymnastics in 2000. "Today nearly one in three young kids are overweight or obese and yes, that is alarming and it’s disappointing, but the positive is that it’s something that we can change," Dawes recently told iVillage."We need to make sure that as adults we are showing our children that we care about their health -- we care about what they are putting in their body, we care about their physical condition -- and we need to do that by being an example, day in and day out."

This week the 35-year-old Dawes lands in London, where she'll be reporting on the Olympics as a correspondent for FoxSports.com. In her exclusive blog for iVillage, she maps out smart (and easy!) ways for parents to reinforce fitness and a healthy diet in their children's lives. Read on for her tips and advice below.

When I was younger and training to compete in the Olympics, I worked closely with my coaches and family to evaluate foods based on whether they would fuel my body to enable me to reach my goals as a gymnast. In my time as a motivational coach, and through programs such as the first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative and the “Raising Little Champions” campaign with Hormel Natural Choice, I work to motivate and inform children and families to live better.

If we can help children understand and learn the importance of good nutrition, exercise and motivation when they are young then we can hope that these behaviors and values are things that are going to be important to them as adults. Parents should act as role models for their children, coaching them to success by being good examples and incorporating fitness and nutrition into their lives on a daily basis.

It’s incredibly important for parents to realize that your children look up to you, and whether you notice all the time or not, children mimic your actions -- you are their biggest role models. When I go on tours as a motivational speaker to children and young athletes, the number one answer I get when I ask them who their role models are is: mom or dad. Family can empower each other by acting as a team to choose healthy foods for children’s lunch boxes, to taking walks in the park together on the weekends.

So sit down with your kids this week and make a plan for how your family team is going to incorporate new nutritious foods and activity into your routines!

Here are some of my favorite food choices to get you started and that will help fuel kids to succeed:

  • All-natural, no-preservative deli lunchmeat, such as Hormel Natural Choice, to include in sandwiches for lunches or for after school snacks. Protein is needed to fill kids up and keep them going strong all day long!
  • Cheese and meat slices stacked together pack protein and calcium for growing bones. 
  • Salsa makes for a great after-school snack paired with veggies. It has lycopene, a known antioxidant, and is low in fat.  
  • Whole grain or multigrain tortillas are a great option to use in making lunches and with dips such as guacamole (which contains healthy fats) or hummus (which has iron and B6).  
  • Smoothies are a great option to fit in multiple servings of fruit and vegetables! Add your favorite greens with non-fat yogurt and fruit, and many kids can't even taste that you snuck some greens in there!
  • Homemade granola with dried fruits and berries, banana and apple chips contain less sugar than many store-bought granolas.
  • Applesauce is a staple in many children’s diets but add cinnamon, which has a positive effect on blood sugar, and you boost the benefits even more!

To learn more about Dominique Dawes, visit her web site DominiqueDawes.com, follow her on Twitter at @DominiqueDawes or check out her official Facebook page.

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