By: PLEZi Nutrition Team Read Time: 4 minutes

Drumroll please, it’s time for another edition of TABLE TALK. Meet Shale Wong, PLEZi Nutrition Kitchen Cabinet Member, pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado and Pediatrics and Family Medicine professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine. Shale served as Health Policy Advisor to First Lady Michelle Obama for the development and implementation of Let’s Move!, and currently serves as Vice Chair for Policy and Advocacy and is the Executive Director of the Eugene S. Farley Jr. Health Policy Center. We are honored that Shale took time out of her packed schedule to field nutrition questions from our community. 

Read on for Shale’s insights, head to IG to see her answering live on stories, and feel free to DM us with more questions over at @plezinutrition

Q: What easy changes can my family make to be healthier?

Shale: Being healthier doesn’t have to be difficult. First, just add water. I live in Colorado where the climate is dry, and it’s nearly impossible to stay truly hydrated. Start by substituting water for any other beverage that has sugar or caffeine. If you’re already a good water drinker, make sure it’s your first choice for your kids’ travel cups or bottles. We all need to train our taste buds to appreciate the flavor of clear water.

Next, take a walk. Pairing up with a family member, your child, your partner, or your dog. That time together is so good for you to connect and chat, the exercise is just an added bonus. 

Those two steps can make a huge difference! 

Q: My kid seriously craves sugar. Desperate for some non-candy non-treat sweet snacks.

Shale: I love frozen fruit as a natural sweet snack. Frozen blueberries or frozen grapes are like having a bite size popsicle, and they’re easy to package into serving sizes. 

Q: How much water should kids have on a daily basis?

Shale: One general estimate is that kids should drink half an ounce for pound of body weight. So, let’s say your toddler weighs 25 pounds, that would be 12 ounces or three 4-ounce cups. If your 10 year old weighs 70 pounds, that would be 4-5 eight-ounce cups per day. And for a teenager (or an adult) who weighs 125 lbs, that’s 8x eight-ounce cups a day, or one gallon of water. (Editor’s Note: More on water here!)

Q: What is your go-to easy family dinner?

Shale: Family dinner for us when nothing is planned is fried rice. That may not sound especially healthy, but it’s sure easy, and you can make it healthy. Use brown rice and as many veggies as you can find. Toss them all together in a deep pan (or a wok) with some olive oil, a couple of eggs, and a little fresh ginger if you have it. Then you can season however you like. We use soy sauce and a little hot sauce – my grandma used to say, just add salt and pepper. It makes for a warm bowl of whole grains and veggies that really does hit the spot.

Q: Is family dinner really that important? I feel like I can never find the time.

Shale: Time is probably the most valuable and hardest thing to hold on to as our families grow and go. So lots of us try to hold on to family dinner as one meeting place, one moment when we can sit together and share a glimpse into how the day has gone and what we have on our minds. 

On some level the dinner is less important than the moment to connect. Dinner gives us something to all appreciate together. When we have the time, eating together is likely a moment when we all feel good. For those special dinners when there is a celebration, favorite meals make us happy. There is too much going on all the time to feel relaxed, happy, and connected to family, but those moments are important. Family dinner is only one opportunity to pull that together. Every other opportunity that you can make to achieve that connection is equally important. The nice thing about dinner is that we all need to eat, and if we can find the time to do that together, it helps us make time to put family first.

Q: What advice do you have for picky eaters? 

Shale: Picky eaters still need to eat. And they need good food that will nourish them. Maybe even more importantly than other kids who will reliably eat. My advice is make sure you don’t compromise nutritious food. Don’t give in to offer only empty calories with loads of sugar and salt because you believe that is the only thing they will eat. Most kids will balance out their food groups and choices over several days. 

I’ve known kids who decided that they would only eat orange food for a whole week. Kids can be stubborn. But if you choose what is offered, they will eventually choose to eat. And if they like pasta, but refuse chicken, well okay. Give it a little time and try chicken again. Just remember that kids sometimes refuse a food dozens of times before they decide they like it. Keep trying. 

As long as your child is growing and is not suffering from nutritional deficiencies, they will likely grow out of their pickiness. If you can find a combination of foods with vitamins and protein that they need, even if it is the same combination everyday, they will grow. You can always try to change it up.

Q: My kid is not super into sports, any ideas for daily physical activity?

Shale: There are lots of fun things to do to be active even if you don’t play sports. Riding a bike, skating/skateboarding, jumping rope, swimming, or walking a dog. My personal favorite is dancing. The goal for kids is to work up a sweat and aim for 60 minutes per day. It doesn’t have to be all at once—four 15 minute dance breaks or two 30 minute walks. The time goes quickly when they can find something that feels fun and not forced.

Thank you so much to Dr. Shale Wong. We are so fortunate to have her on PLEZi Nutrition’s Kitchen Cabinet – stay tuned for the next edition of Table Talk!