It isn’t often that I let something that I read online get me all fired up. For the most part, the crazy things are rarely true and quickly fall by the wayside. I am used to clients asking me about the latest and greatest eating fad and wanting my take on things. While I will be the first to say that there is much for me yet to learn, my approach to diet and lifestyle is more of a straight forward, no-nonsense, live your life well kind of deal. Last week though, I found myself shocked and appalled by the new WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) app for kids aged 8 -17 called Kurbo. I downloaded it myself to fact check the things I had been reading.

The idea behind Kurbo is to support parents to help their children manage what they are eating. In a world where childhood obesity is on the rise, this is definitely an issue that must be addressed. I appreciate the efforts on behalf of WW to support our children, however, how we choose to support them is significant.

What a child hears in the formative years can have lasting and sometimes damaging effects in the long run. Many people who struggle with body image, self-esteem and weight can often identify a time in their childhood when they first heard someone else say something about their body. From that point on, they began to view life through an altered lens.

Kurbo is a free app that anyone over 13 can sign up to use. Although with a little fudging of the truth, anyone can download and begin using right away. Unfortunately, there was no delay in access while an email could be sent to a parent for approval. I logged in right away and started tracking. Want to take it up a notch and offer your child a personalized health coach who can comment on your child’s food choices and activity levels? No problem. This is all yours for $69 USD for 1 month, $189 USD for 3 months or $294 for 6 months. Gaah! I can think of 27 better things to do with that money! Sign them up for swimming lessons or a softball team. Buy better quality food. A common complaint about eating healthy is cost. $69 USD per month would go a long way to filling your cart up with fresh foods instead.

Kurbo helps kids track their foods in terms of green, yellow or red light foods. I myself have used this analogy with kids simply to remind them that there are some foods that give us more of what our bodies crave to function well. I really don’t have an issue with this part of helping kids think about their food choices. I do have some issues though in terms of how some of the foods are rated in the Kurbo app. Green light foods are veggies and fruit. This makes sense to me.

However, some foods such as lean protein (chicken & turkey), sources of healthy fat such as avocado, almonds & salmon are all considered yellow light foods to be limited.

Butter chicken is considered a green light food and chia seeds are considered a red light food? Low-fat dairy is preferential to regular dairy? This my friends just doesn’t make sense. I fear there is old information as well as glitches in the system that are misleading. Butter chicken is considered a green light food. How? There are butter and cream in addition to chicken in this dish. How do three yellow foods become a green light food?

Preteens and teens need to be able to eat enough protein for a rapidly growing body. They also need good amounts of healthy fat for hormonal changes that are happening during puberty.  Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy as well for children. I fear that we are setting up the next generation with a continued fatphobia, carb confusion and a general lack of understanding around healthy eating.

As a child heads into puberty, it is natural for them to put on some extra weight as they prepare for the changes that their body is going to experience. On average, and I use this term loosely because as we all know our children all develop differently, a girl will gain about 15 pounds and a boy 30 pounds during this stage of growth. This means that at the height of their body naturally putting on weight for the next stage, we are encouraging them to start tracking their food. With this method of allowing technology that is clearly flawed to dictate our child’s eating habits, we are doing the next generation a great disservice.

Helping our children eat well does not have to be this complicated or harmful. There are simple strategies to support our children to create a foundation for healthy habits to flourish.

You as the adult have the most control over what comes into the house. If you buy it, they will eat it. Don’t want your kids to eat chips so often? Stop buying them. Want your kids to eat more produce? Start buying a variety of produce. Begin with produce you know they like. Make it easily accessible by cutting fruit and veggies up and keeping it in the fridge or having a bowl of washed fruit on the kitchen table.  

You are your child’s greatest role model. Make sure they see you eat a balanced diet.

Please stop complaining about your body – especially in front of them – now. Your body is amazing. Sure there may be areas you would like to improve, but loving yourself as you are is so much better than striving for social media ideals or your 20 old past self. Kids are always listening – even when it seems like they aren’t. This is both a blessing and a curse.

Cook together using whole food ingredients. Teach your child how to create balanced meals by spending time in the kitchen. This is an excellent investment in their future as well as yours. Imagine knowing dinner is going to be cooked by one of your offspring and sitting on the table after a long day at work. Yes, please!

Get active as a family. Find activities that are fun to do together and hop to it. Don’t just tell them to get outside and play – join them. Let them see you set fitness goals like getting faster and stronger just because it is remarkable to see what your body can do, not because of the size of your pants.

If you suspect that your child is struggling with their weight, talk to them. Talk to them about life though. Allow them to bring up the weight issue, instead of perhaps planting the idea that it is something that they should be concerned about. We aren’t going to sweep under the carpet the very real struggles that our children face, whether it is body image, identity or friend drama. Instead, we want to give them the tools to first and foremost love themselves just as they are, whatever the issue. We want to come alongside them and hear them. We want to get extra help if we suspect larger issues like disordered eating. We are going to tell them that puberty is a crazy ride and share stories of our own awkwardness. Their bodies are doing some very remarkable work…and so are ours. It is time for us all to remember that.