As a child my mother was on the Pritkin Diet (which as near as I can figure was considered a fairly radical method of weight control at that time), of which the basic tenets were low-fat, low sugar, low carb, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein (mainly from chicken and fish) combined with a commitment to exercise daily.
The result of such strict adherence to the above was that I grew up in a fairly healthy home. I wasn’t offered sodas or sugary drinks (water only), nor was there much opportunity to overindulge in cakes or candies (such items were reserved for holidays and summers in the city with grandma). If I asked for a lollipop, I got a carrot with a radish on top (yes…seriously).
My mom’s way of life was geared towards moderation and filling the body, with only foods that made her body operate at its most optimal level.
I share this to say, good food and eating habits often start early. To this day, I don’t care for candy, rarely indulge in cakes or pastries, and shun all sodas and sugary drinks in favor of my favorite drink—water. My philosophies about food were built at the age of five and have never left.
Today, as a mother myself, I do many of the same things my mother did with me. I don’t allow my children to drink sodas, eat many sweets, or partake in more than the occasional piece of candy.
I serve as much organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables as possible, limit their red meat intake, and offer increasingly more vegetarian dishes (if only to introduce their food palette to more diverse eating options).
While I would never criticize or judge the way any parent decides to raise their child, I do believe that the role we play as parents is one that is as much about building good health habits as it is about building good character. And, in a society that has increasingly seen a trend towards childhood obesity, we have to start finding ways to educate our children about how their bodies operate and what the pleasures and perils of certain foods can mean for them as individuals.
I was reading an article the other day and came across some disturbing statistics:
- 17 percent of children aged 2-19 are obese
- 90 percent of elementary schools eliminated daily physical education
- 40 percent of African American and Hispanic Children are obese
- 7.5 hours a day is spent by the average teenager using entertainment media like TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies.
More and more these days the physical and mental health of our children will fall on the actions we take as parents and community leaders and we cannot take the above issues lightly as obesity not only effects the quality of life for those who are struggling with its effects, but to society as a whole as well.
My goal where my children and those I love are concerned is to have the food conversation, not in a judgmental or condemning way but, in a way that makes them more informed about how they make their choices so that they can, hopefully one day, do so on their own.