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Eating Right - the Vandal Way
Alumnae Laura Thomas '83 '95 and Lisa Medrow '96 work to end childhood obesity
For Laura Thomas, the rule of healthy food is it can be served any place at any time. Whether it’s on a soccer field, on the go or on a kitchen table – healthy food should be available to all families at all times.
Thomas, a University of Idaho alumna, ’83 ’95, is a registered dietitian and healthy lifestyle enthusiast. She has teamed up with fellow Vandal, Lisa Medrow ’96 to promote the Kids Eat Right program. The program is a joint initiative from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation 74,000 members to ensure childhood obesity efforts include a focus on quality nutrition for all.
“Who wouldn't be interested in that,” said Medrow, a registered dietitian and Kids Eat Right project specialist. “Helping our members to do more to impact childhood obesity and to ensure that sound recommendations are being made at every level is exactly what makes me excited to do what I get to do every day.”
The new Kids Eat Right “Family Champions”
program focuses on the importance of variety while keeping food preparation quick and inexpensive. Along with helping ensure important nutrients are consumed, Medrow said maintaining variety in a diet can help prevent boredom, which also helps prevent poor decision-making.
“If you eat the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day, all week,” she said. “You're going to be pretty tempted to go out to eat when your colleagues knock on your door Friday at noon. We should enjoy our food, and eating a variety of delicious foods helps us to appreciate different flavors and textures.”
Thomas said social involvement is also key – especially coordinating food choices and schedules with family. Preparing meals together helps families bond, she said.
“By involving children to prepare their own foods, there’s more likelihood they will try them,” she said. “… involve children in growing, gardening, taking (them) to the grocery store ... let them pick out a food they’ve never tried before. Tasting is one of our best ways of getting more variety in our diet.”
She said most lack variety in their vegetable choices. Whether they are limited because of location or availability, she said many struggle to spice up that portion of a healthy meal.
For those with few options, Thomas said she suggests exploring other methods of preparation.
“OK, you may not like carrots,” she said. “But maybe you prefer them roasted, or stir-fried with a touch of ginger and brown sugar.”
Keeping “convenience foods” on hand – like dried peas or beans – are inexpensive and easy-to-use staples that can be added to most any meal, she said.
|Combine black beans, yellow corn and salsa. Add extra seasoning if desired.
Serve in a variety of ways:
“When I contacted her and realized her address was Boise, Idaho, I mentioned my Idaho roots,” Medrow said. “After some emails back-and-forth, we discovered we were Vandal alumnae. We immediately bonded.”
Both graduated from the U-Idaho College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Coordinated Program in Dietetics. Thomas said students are able to receive dietitian training while on campus, rather than only having the option via an internship, which made her U-Idaho experience extra beneficial.
“My U-Idaho education has taken me down many different roads,” she said. “I was prepared to go out and try many different things.”
Medrow said having similar experiences to share strengthened the duo’s working relationship.
“We built an extra pride into the 'Family Champions' project because we were part of it together,” she said. “It felt very special for the two of us ... to be part of something together at the national level for the careers we love.”
Learn more about Laura Thomas' work with Kids Eat Right and other programs online.