An Early Father’s Day Gift


Plenty of willing but confused dads are out there, wondering how to be better fathers, especially when their kids seem to be going off the rails, weight-wise. Here is the short version, the bottom line and the sine qua non: Just about anything you do with your kids, as long as it’s done with a genuine smile and a heart full of love, will be a positive contribution.

But for those looking for more specific guidance, we pass along some notes from Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD. Her top suggestion is, “Be there for meals as often as you can.”

This is the prerequisite, in order to be able to follow the other suggestions. Because #2 is, “Try more foods.” It works best in person, although if dads have to be away from home frequently, video-conferencing might suffice.

The concept is, the child needs to watch as you encounter a food or a preparation method you’ve never met up with before, and give it a chance. You are there to demonstrate open-mindedness, tolerance, and good manners (no spitting stuff out on the floor.) Two weeks later, the child needs to see you give a dish a second chance, and to hear you say, “Well this is weird. I didn’t used to like cauliflower, but this bite right here tasted fine.”

Role model to a child is the modeling job of a lifetime. You’re showing a kid how to be a grownup that other grownups can bear to be near, and might even like to hang around with.

Strength in union

If it’s a two-parent family, the absolute best practice is for the official Authority Figures to agree on policy beforehand. A useful agreement is the one that says, “No arguing in front of the kid/s.” If Dad thinks s’mores are okay for breakfast and Mom doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world if the kids get away with it once. To let it happen keeps things nicer than having a power struggle in front of a young audience.

Mom and Dad can talk it over in private, and decide that if the question comes up again, the answer is, “I hope you kids enjoyed that one time, because s’mores for breakfast is not going to be a regular thing.” It may not even come up again. Quite possibly, the fun was in getting away with it once.

Here is a direct quotation from Jacobsen:

Make feeding yourself a priority: Show your kids that eating and food are priorities for you by sitting down for breakfast and packing snacks and a balanced lunch if access to good food at work is limited.

A child hearing Dad say, “I’ll just grab something from the vending machine” could be influenced for life. It’s the sort of cool-sounding declaration a kid will pick up on. The preferred method is to act like food matters.

A dad could ask a kid, “Do you know why I eat sardines?” One answer is, because they have a lot of protein. You don’t need to go into a whole lecture. Just drop in a fact, here and there. Sardines also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are good, and if kids want to know more, they will ask.

The real, rock-bottom message here is that you maintain some kind of consciousness about what fuel you put in your body. The details don’t even matter at this point. The important thing is, you demonstrate that putting thought and consideration into what they eat, is what grownups do.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “7 Simple Ways Dads Can Positively Influence Their Kids’ Health,”, 06/17/11
Photo credit: tomwang/123RF Stock Photo

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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