I recently watched the documentary Fed Up on Netflix. Honestly, it frustrated me. I felt like the documentary was blaming childhood obesity on everything from the government, to school cafeteria food, to lack of options. Honestly, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry after watching the video.
You see, one of the young ladies in the film did not have parents represented in the film with her. She talked about how she diets, but then goes to school and eats hamburgers because that’s what everyone else eats. They showed her making her own PB & J sandwich for lunch too, and she was caking that bread in jelly. A single serving of most jelly is 1 TEASPOON, and she probably had 2 tablespoons on that sandwich. I felt sorry for her, and I understood her frustration. She thought she was eating well by packing her lunch. She thought she was on a diet. The unfortunate truth is, while I am sure her parents do participate in her meals, they could do a better job educating her on proper portions and eating well, and the young lady was suffering for it. My heart broke for her.
There was another young man standing in front of his mother and shoving chips into his mouth. He told her he had a hamburger for lunch at school too. At a check up with his doctor, he was still gaining weight, and if memory serves me correctly, he was diagnosed as pre-diabetic or diabetic. His mother stated she tries to offer him healthy options by purchasing Lean Pockets and keeping diet food in the house. Not healthy whole foods, but DIET foods. My heart broke for him too.
I’ve been there. I was a fat kid. I wasn’t a obese kid. I understand the pains of being overweight while growing up. I can say my parents made sure we were active, and on the whole we had healthier homemade meals almost every night. So, I understand the struggle. I am fighting it NOW for myself!!!
When I say this, I say it with love, and without judgment. It’s YOUR JOB as a parent to make sure your child has a healthy diet. It’s not up to the government to provide healthy food for your kids, and it’s not the responsibility of the school to make sure your child doesn’t eat the junk food provided to them. It’s YOUR JOB. If you want your children to be healthy, here are some tips on how to get started. Start the fight against Childhood obesity NOW!
1. Don’t BUY IT!!!
This should be common sense. If you don’t want your child eating potato chips, don’t buy them. Ice cream, candy, fatty foods, fried foods, processed junk, SODA, whatever the culprit is in your home, get rid of it and don’t buy it again. Pack their lunches and don’t give them money to buy junk food at school. An occasional treat is one thing, but french fries and candy should not be the majority of a childs diet. Don’t buy the stuff for yourself either. You need to set an example for your child…especially a growing teenager with a HUGE appetite! It’s just as easy to buy healthy snacks as it is to buy JUNK.
2. Educate Yourselves about Nutrition
When I discussed the mother and the lean pockets, it was not in judgment of her, but to show an example of how many people are think “diet” food is healthy or even healthier. It’s not. The sodium content in most of those foods is through the roof! She could make these cauliflower crust breadsticks for a fraction of the calories, fat and sodium.
Go find a nutritional education class and take your children. Both of you learn together, so as a family you’re making the changes. See if there is a healthy cooking class in your area. Buy a few books, do whatever it takes to arm yourself for your own sake and the sake of your child!
Learn to read a nutritional label! Understand what a portion of the food is and look at the fat, sugar, calorie, and sodium contents. Do you know most TV dinners have more sodium in them than you should eat in an entire day?! Sidenote: When I visited Scotland I noticed almost all of their pre-packaged food had very little or NO sodium in it. Not once on my entire trip there did I have problems with swelling in my legs and feet. NOT ONCE. Doesn’t that tell you something?
3. Make Everyone in the House Try New Foods
Pick one new food every week. Cook it in different ways, steamed, boiled, grilled, or any other way you want to try it. Sit down with 2-3 different styles of the same food and all of you taste it together. Make sure you understand the reason behind the dislike, flavor or texture. Keep that in mind when cooking it in the future.
I still force myself to try new foods, and I’m 36 years old. I try to eat them several times before I say “I don’t like it”, and the truth is, I have found a lot more new foods that I DO LIKE than I have foods I don’t.
4. Involve Children in the Food Selection & Preparation Process
Children ages 3 and up are perfectly capable of making decisions. If you take them shopping and ask them to pick out a food to try, they will probably be VERY happy to get to purchase a new food. If you include them in the prep, and cooking (even if it is only stirring), you’re not only teaching them a new and healthy lifestyle, you’re teaching them too cook at home and to prepare their own food. Some of my favorite healthy foods are still foods I was introduced to as a child.
5. Find Creative Ways to Sneak in Healthy Food & Exercise
Cauliflower can be mashed into a potato like texture. Kale or spinach can be added to smoothies. Sweet Potatoes can be turned into baked French fries, and the list goes on and on. I saw a child on a tv show mention he eats more of the healthy food when it’s chopped really small and he doesn’t notice the texture of it with the other food he’s eating. You don’t have to shock your kids by completely changing everything at once. Make slow changes, but make them last!
Take your kids to the park and challenge them to races, or even give them tiny goals for physical fitness. You could give them money, or other non-food related rewards for completing those goals. For example: If you can cross all of those monkey bars 5 times without falling, you can pick the next movie we rent/watch. Use exercise as a way to buy video game time, or to pick an outing of their choice. Hiking or swimming are great fitness activities, and packing a picnic lunch will teach your kids to eat healthy on the go too! The possibilities are endless as long as YOU set a good example for them!
Whose job do YOU think it is to stop Childhood Obesity?