Healthy Nutrition in Small Bites

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Children’s book inspires lifestyle changes for families

“Eat more fruits and vegetables, and exercise 30 minutes a day,” read the nutrition card.

If it were that easy, everyone would be fit, says Instructor Audra Rankin, DNP, APRN, who admits she was often guilty of using a similar mantra that rarely sparked change within her pediatric patients and their families. Her passion was preventing childhood obesity, but techniques like handing out healthy recipe cards and exercise pamphlets weren’t yielding the results she hoped to see. That was until the idea came along to write a children’s book thatwould encourage families to set practical and attainable goals for their health.

Rankin co-authored Gordon Galloway’s Mealtime Makeover, a tale about a young cow who loves junk food and struggles to get enough physical activity. The book threads principles of healthy eating and exercise into the story of Gordon—whose adventures in school and on the farm lead him to make positive changes—and encourages families to come up with their own ideas for merging healthier habits into their lives.

“The handouts I offered weren’t providing a clear path to help families make sustainable changes,” says Rankin. “As clinicians, we have a responsibility to translate evidence in a way that makes sense. The book does so in a non-threatening way and empowers families to take action for themselves.” It helps break down big goals into baby steps, such as cutting out one soda a week or committing to a daily walk after dinner.

Rankin has enjoyed watching children relate to Gordon but knows that there is more to the story when it comes to preventing childhood obesity. She is helping to launch a new initiative called “Lit and Fit” in a school system in Kentucky that has been targeted for its high childhood obesity rates. During the four-week program, kids and families will receive a copy of Gordon Galloway’s Mealtime Makeover. In addition to improving literacy, the program will provide healthy lifestyle education and community resources that can help keep families on track to meeting their goals. Hands-on activities such as preparing healthy foods and exercising together will make the story of Gordon Galloway come alive and offer strategies to encourage those behaviors at home.

“It’s often an issue of what families can afford, in both time and money, as to why they may choose a 99-cent hamburger over a three-dollar avocado,” says Rankin. “Meeting people where they are, and equipping them with the resources to get them where they want to be, is the ultimate goal.”

“As clinicians, we have a responsibility to translate evidence in a way that makes sense. The book does so in a non-threatening way and empowers families to take action for themselves.”
— Audra Rankin, DNP, APRN

The way Rankin sees it, the success story of Gordon Galloway doesn’t have to live only in the pages of a children’s book.

“Kids and families have the ability to make significant changes to their health. There is tremendous opportunity to influence change, from providing individual encouragement to major policy discussions. Kids can lead happier and healthier lives and that’s exciting and humbling—and makes me proud to be an advanced practice nurse.”

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