Every Mother’s Day is an opportunity for moms to reflect on what makes this day so special: our children, our families. May marks Family Wellness Month, a perfect time for moms to focus on how to make the family healthier for the next year. This might include more outside play time, new ways to encourage vegetables and summer visits to various eye doctors, dentists and primary care physicians.

As a dietitian working with Touro (and mother of 3), nothing is more important to me than the foods I encourage my young children to eat. I am not one of those moms who doesn’t keep sugar in the house, but I do teach my children the value of healthy eating. The United States now has more than 3 million cases of child obesity each year. The incidence rate shows it’s “very common.” Studies show that healthy eating habits can help prevent this from ruining future generations’ health. Habits start young.

Moms, this is our chance to build a better life for our children. Improve daily eating habits. Spend extra time in the produce section and challenge the family to see who can eat the most fruits/vegetables in a week. Or practice the “one new thing” rule: Try a new vegetable, fruit or healthy item — or something completely new to the family. Variety is key.

Teaching our children moderation and how to love healthy foods is the key to their future wellness. Instead of saying no to Oreos, let the kids have one on occasion. It is important to teach children these are not everyday foods, but treats we enjoy sometimes. This is a habit that will stay with them long term.

Another reason to be reflective on family health this month is Food Allergy Awareness Week, kicking off Sunday. Pay special attention to foods and how they affect your children. Even if your child does not have an allergy, try to become aware of how your children react to certain foods. After eating fried or processed foods, do the kids just want to watch TV? If your child does have a food allergy, take this week as an opportunity to teach them how to make smart choices, how to be polite when faced with food offerings and even how to react should an ingredient sneak into a meal. If your child doesn’t have an allergy, teach them how to be a PAL, or Protect A Life, someone who has friends with food allergies and how to be careful and respectful of them.

Remember while big changes seem impossible, small efforts and changes go a long way. Happy Mother’s Day and family wellness to all.

Julie Fortenberry

wellness and lifestyle nutritionist, Touro Infirmary

New Orleans