A 'Quick Fix' to combat obesity

Food Network host Robin Miller

The struggle to eat healthy for many Americans has expanded as fast as our waistlines. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about one-third (33.8 percent) of adults are considered obese, while nearly 12.5 million (17 percent) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese. The dramatic increase in obesity over the past 20 years has created an urgency to educate the public on proper dietary habits coupled with regular exercise.

Obesity contributes to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Fighting obesity can prevent these medical conditions and also lessen the risks to ensure a lasting life. "Healthy eating is not complicated, hard or expensive,” said Robin Miller who hosts a program on cable TV. “It's a balance between a variety of different foods: complex carbohydrates, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables."

Last November, Robin Miller, host of Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller on the Food Network, conducted cooking demonstration and answered questions from attendees on how to create quick healthy meals at an event sponsored by the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Miller earned her master's degree in food and nutrition from New York University, has written nine cookbooks dedicated to healthy eating and is a contributing writer to a number of publications including Cooking Light. Her current book, "Robin Takes 5,” contains 500 recipes that use five ingredients or less, are 500 calories or less and can be made five nights a week.

Growing up, Miller gained an appreciation of good food from her mother who would garden in the family’s huge backyard. “Our food was from the garden to the dinner table. I grew up with healthy good food and exercise. I would go outside to play until it was dark.”

As a busy athlete at college, Miller mostly relied on her roommates to prepare less than nutritious meals. While she maintained a strong understanding of nutrition, it wasn’t until she was living on her own that she truly began to be passionate about cooking and fixing healthy meals.

Her first book, “The Newlywed Cookbook,” was a compilation of recipes for newly wed couples to create easy meals, which also included a guide to common cookware and a spice index for novices in the kitchen. “As a new wife, I was unsure of the difference between a sauce pan and a skillet or which spices I should be using. I thought, if I have this problem, then maybe others do, too,” Miller said.

As her life changed from a young wife to a full-time working mom with two boys, she learned to relate to many families who struggle with time constraints to get dinner on the table. Her approach today is to create “stress free meals” by cooking pastas, chicken or rice ahead of time. When it comes to meal times, it’s a matter of assembling or reheating and serving a fast nutritious and delicious dinner.

With obesity getting the national spotlight individuals can become confused with slick advertising for pills and shakes that promise to eliminate fat fast. Miller simply stated, “There is no fast fix.” She does suggest people take steps today towards a lifestyle they can live with. Miller believes it’s important for individuals not to give up anything you can’t live without and don’t take on an exercise regime you know you’re not going to sustain.

According to the nutritionist and TV host, being healthy can and should be a family effort, and it’s something many modern families lost along the way. She’s firm in the belief that parents need to instill healthy habits in their children by being good role models. This can include exercising together as a family by taking an evening walk or cooking together so kids can appreciate food preparation.

Learning to be healthy shouldn’t stop in the home. Miller suggests middle and high schools should include nutrition classes that combine an understanding of how to eat and how to prepare wholesome foods. That early education should also be extended to the college level so young adults, who are on their own for the first time, can be reminded of the importance of healthy eating.

Obesity cannot be fixed overnight but Robin’s insights allow time-strapped Americans the ability to embrace a healthier life in an attainable approach. By being a role model, children can learn smart habits. Busy families can enjoy a healthy meal by preparing ingredients ahead of time and avoiding processed foods. “When you cook at home you can control what is going in your mouth and body. And that will ultimately help your weight,” said Miller.

Contributed by Laurie Trowbridge.