There is an epidemic of obesity amongst our children that is threatening their very lives. This is the first generation that is estimated to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is trying to address the unhealthy ways we feed our children at school and at home. (You can watch the video on the link.) Going to one of the unhealthiest communities in America, he tries to teach the residents how to cook and shop for healthier famlies. It appears that we adults have taken the easy way out, pandering to the desires of children rather than their needs. The result is an entire generation of children, many of whom are considerably overweight. Because children are forming bones, teeth, and muscle, it is critical that they ingest the necessary nutrients to build a healthy body rather than the empty calories of packaged treats. They need physical activity and lots of it; it is what they were designed to do. Watch any group of fit young children at a park and you will note how much activity goes on! But once their young bodies become weighted down with excess weight, moving is not as much fun.
Variety is the spice of life - and of healthy nutrition
Most young children are open to trying a variety of foods if they are raised on healthy whole foods. Many will pick a slice of pizza over healthier options, but if their normal diet is a colorful, delicious blend of good fruits and vegetables, they will grow up appreciating those items. If possible, expose your children to as many kinds of foods as you can, so that they will be comfortable with a variety of items and their idea of food is not just macaroni or french fries. Try to make certain that lots of colors are on their plate at each meal, because that will increase the likelihood that a variety of nutrients are also being served. And don't forget your greens! Check out the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and their site suggesting healthy changes for our kids.
Fresh whole foods are best
It is really quite easy to prepare a delicious, healthy meal in just a few minutes, and it is more economical, too. Rice and lentils with a few spices costs only pennies but provides many nutrients. Newer research shows that a plant-based diet will help children avoid many of the diseases that are plaguing modern man. Here are a few ideas to help you transition to healthier eating:
- Limit the amount of fast-food and restaurant food you and your family consume.
- Make certain that there are fresh fruits and vegetables available for your children at all times.
- Keep raw carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, radishes, and other veggies on hand in small plastic bags for snacks.
- Try mixing apple slices with raisins or peanuts for a snack, or use a little bit of creamy peanut butter (older children only) for a dip for the apples.
- Start calling fruit "dessert" and help your children begin thinking about fruit as "nature's candy" rather than the manufactured kind. Keep the packaged consumer goods to a minimum and only for occasional treats.
- Start reading labels. You might be shocked to learn what is in the packaged goods you are giving your children. They do not need packaging, which is a high percentage of what you are paying for - they need real food. Avoid all food-like substances and stick to the real thing!
- Find out what your children are eating at school.
- Cook meals, even if they are quick and easy meals. Fresh food is best!
- Go for a walk with the kids after dinner.
There are many ways that busy parents can make meal time easier: prepare double quantities and freeze, throw some veggies in the slow-cooker and have soup and a good crusty bread after work, use healthy fillings in kid favorites such as burritos, pizza, and sandwiches. Make dinner prep time a relaxing time by planning ahead. Clean all produce when you return from the store and make certain you have appropriate storage containers for everything. Get the kids to help out with dinner by assigning age-appropriate tasks. Make dinner time family time. And help those kids stay healthy so that they may have a good, long life!