“Tell her that we don’t eat any hydrogenated oils,” said the note Sam Hemphill, 10, of Newton, Massachusetts, slipped to his mother while she and I chatted on the phone. Sam wanted me, an EatingWell nutritionist, to know about his family’s healthy diet. He even, his mother says, spelled “hydrogenated” correctly.
“Next on his hit list is high-fructose corn syrup,” said Sarah. “We’re all trying to eliminate that from our diet.”
Nutritionally speaking, the Hemphills—parents Sarah and Daniel, Sam and his sisters, 8-year-old Ruby and 3-year-old Lillian—are one enlightened family. Their diet abounds in fresh fruits and vegetables, and the older children are exceptionally savvy in the ways of processed foods. For that, Sarah credits a family visit to a registered dietitian. “I was tired of being the ‘food police,’’’ she says. “I figured that I’d let them hear this stuff from someone else.”
Sam and Ruby recount the things they learned from that visit. “She told us how partially hydrogenated fats can clog up your arteries,” said Sam. “Now, we’re freaks about it.” Ruby was shocked to find corn syrup as the third ingredient in one of her favorite breakfast cereals. The pair have taken on a bit of the “food police” role themselves, scrutinizing every label in the supermarket before the food hits the cart. They even volunteered to forgo most of their Halloween candy (they donated it to a local shelter) after they read the labels. The siblings keep Active with organized sports and the bikes, scooters and balls that litter their driveway. TV is limited to a once-a-week viewing of American Idol. Even their dad, Daniel, an assistant school superintendent, has nutrition and health front and center as he struggles daily with revamping his district’s wellness and school lunch program.
So it’s no wonder that when Sarah Hemphill contacted us for a “makeover,” she didn’t ask us how to make her family’s meals more nutritious.