True or False: It’s really important to feed our kids nutritious foods.
Of course every parent agrees on the importance of feeding our kids well—at least on an intellectual level. It’s putting principle into practice that’s so disagreeable. Consider this scenario: It’s late, you’re driving home from soccer (or basketball, piano, day care, or wherever) and Ronald McDonald beckons with fun and social acceptance for the kids and convenience and respite for the parents.
Our food culture couldn’t make it harder to choose dietary virtue over things like fast foods, take out pizza, frozen meals and boxes of mac ‘n cheese. They’re cheap, easy and everywhere, everybody feeds their kids this stuff; and hey, kids are little and don’t have to worry about their health like we adults, right?
Clearly, withstanding the toxic influences of our food culture takes conviction and commitment from a level far deeper and stronger than mere intellect. I was “lucky,” you might say, because my children had food allergies. Succumbing to the siren call of our toxic food culture quickly lead to sick, grumpy, miserable children, while sticking with wholesome, real foods translated directly into healthy, happy, delightful children. Not surprisingly, I quickly acquired a deep-rooted, unshakable commitment to a natural, whole foods diet.
The food-health connection is this real for all kids, the only difference being one of timing. Will the ill effects of poor diet show up in an hour, a couple days, or only after a month or a year?
It is indisputable fact that growing children cannot be deprived of vital nutrients without negative consequences. Parents, as the adults in a family, are charged with knowing this simple fact and then having the foresight and discipline to do the right dietary thing, even if immediate gratification must take a back seat to long-term benefits.
Many parents might be missing the unshakable good-eating commitment that will gird you for the fight against Ronald’s goofy grin. Need help developing it? Here’s an easy tip: Talk with your kids! Food conversations are perfect teachable moments. I continually shared nutritional studies and information with my kids. They appreciated being treated as adults and soon became allies in our good eating adventure. Here are a few interesting gems to begin some conversations with your kids:
- For those who think heart disease is just an old people’s problem: In a recent study, children who consumed fruits and vegetables once a day were found to have healthier arteries as young adults than those who reported eating fruits and vegetables less than twice a month.* In another study, children with weight issues as young as nine were found to have hardening in the arteries.
- Meanwhile, those training the next generation of soldiers responsible for securing our nation have noticed two disturbing trends: In 2010, 62% of recruits had significant enough dental problems that they couldn’t be deployed without having substantial work done. While a decline in access to dental care was one contributing factor, Gen. Mark Hertling, director of Army training, largely blames soda and junk food. Army studies show that 85% of recruits eat fast food regularly.
- Fast food is also responsible for unusual health issue: Hip injuries and fractures spiked among recruits–and not because recruits are asked to carry heavier packs, but because of an alarming problem with bone density, yet another effect of long-term bad nutrition.**
Do these statistics sound a lot like those of a country suffering from mass malnutrition? You’re right! Our proud country, the wealthiest in history, is also the biggest (and probably only) site of widespread, voluntary malnutrition. As parents, we can make a difference. Share this information with your children–then stick to your guns. Remember, it is not just our children’s future at stake. Who is going to care for us, keep our businesses going and run the government when we retire?
- Explore lots more healthy eating tips on VegKitchen’s Veg Kids and Teens page as well as in the Nutrition area.
Mary Collette Rogers is the author of Take Control of Your Kitchen.*** In addition to writing, she offers kitchen makeover services, meal planning consultations, and classes on healthy cooking, in the hope of sharing her practical KitchenSmart habits and tools so busy people everywhere can enjoy wonderfully delicious and nourishing meals. Visit her at Everyday Good Eating.
* “Predicting Heart Health in Children,” Ron Winslow, The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2010 p. D4.
** “Michelle Obama Sees Military as Fitness Model,” Mimi Hall, USA Today, Chase Edition, January 28, 2011
***This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through this review, VegKitchen receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!