As Christmas approaches I think about the one thing we should all attempt to give our children- and that is the gift of health. This does not pertain to those poor children with diagnosis such as cancer, chronic illnesses, or other disease states that have nothing to do with habits that you can control. Instead this focuses on the rest of the population who can do something to help prevent medical conditions.
Childhood obesity is on the rise. Mostly due to the readily available fast food culture and the decrease in the physical activity of society overall. This is not a condemnation of McDonald’s. I believe in the free market, and if the free market demanded salads and low calorie alternatives, McDonald’s would have one answer within a week and possibly a whole new menu within six months. But the public does not demand it, so there is no change.
No the answer lies on the parent. I know, easy scape goat. But who is ultimately responsible for teaching the child, mom and dad. And most eating habits are learned at an early age, before the child even enters school. There is nothing built into the child that makes it demand McDonald’s before it can walk or talk. In fact, if you never take it to McDonald’s requests for it are limited. Sure they might see commercials on television, but if you limit the amount of television they watch, there would not be a request. You may substitute any other fast food establishment you desire in for McDonald’s the story is all the same.
In the parents’ defense, in many poorer areas processed and fast food is cheaper and easier to obtain than fresh fruits and vegetables. It can be done, it only takes more effort. And lately I am finding that most parents of obese children that I see, know nothing about serving sizes, how many servings a day or the differences between good calories and bad calories. Somewhere along the line, this information was lost. Frequently the parent of a 14 year old tells me how much the child has eaten, and seems surprised when I tell them that is too much food. And in reality, trying to teach a 14 year old good eating habits (or anything else for that matter) is like hitting your head against a brick wall. It doesn’t do much good and you end up with a headache.
I like to use the hand as a guide for serving size. While not exact it is a lot more understandable than gram, ounce or other measuring device. A hand is always accessible. Smaller hands, smaller serving sizes
The other thing lost, and probably the bigger problem, is exercise. While XBOX 360 and Wii have created games that help increase the movements with video games, they do not fully replace the playing baseball in the street, riding your bike until dark, or just having fun playing games with one’s friends. This I am not faulting parents for not letting your kids out by themselves. I don’t either. But unfortunately this fun running without a care has disappeared thus eliminating the burning of calories. In fact it has probably been replaced in many instances with a bag of Cheetos in front of the television, so not only are we not burning calories we are now increasing the amount we are not burning.
Additionally, parents are under the impression that large amounts of juice is good for the child. First of all if it is not 100% juice, you might as well give the child a coke. Secondly, no child needs more that 2 glasses of juice (8 ounces) a day, the rest is just empty calories. Milk should be limited to 3 glasses (24 ounces total) daily. Water should make up the rest. And neither children nor adults need any of the sports drinks unless they are actively pursing a sporting activity. If you are running a race, ok have a gatorade or a G2. Sitting on your couch – well you don’t need that 240 calories, you have not lost enough carbohydrates to justify drinking any sports drink.
And I don’t care how hyper your 2 year old is, Mountain Dew is not the same as Ritalin (just because they both are technically stimulants). You can’t diagnose ADHD that young, current accepted age is 6 with some more recent studies saying 4. However, they are not the same thing. Not unless you are hiding the Ritalin in a Cocoa Puff anyway.
Additionally, stop giving coca cola in a baby bottle. First of all, if they are still drinking out of a bottle there is NO good reason for a Coke. Talking to the dentists around here it is a toss up between coke in a bottle or putting the two year old to bed with a bottle of juice as being the biggest culprits for tooth decay at a young age. And unfortunately the earlier we teach these habits, the more ingrained they become
This blog is not anti- any of these foods. I like the occasional trip to McDonalds, and having pizza delivered when you don’t feel like cooking are nice conveniences. Additionally, one of the biggest motivators for children is to be like their parents. So you as a parent need to practice good health. Eat healthy, with junk food in moderation. Eat what a serving size is. Drink plenty of water. Drink alcohol only in moderation. Exercise. Find some activity you enjoy doing. Do it as a family if you can. Or just find something that you love for exercise and encourage your child to do so. Don’t smoke, or if you do quit. Tobacco use in parents is the greatest risk factor for teen to start smoking. All of these are things that you can do to help encourage a healthy lifestyle in your children.
Please don’t expect the government to help. Their help has included concepts such as the food pyramid of the 1980’s which many of us grew up with, found later to be flawed and possibly lead to obesity, corn subsidies which has led to an increase in the cost of lean meats, and makes it so that fast food outlets and food manufacturers have cheap, unhealthy products to sell at a cheap cost. Schools don’t have the time, and from the words of many of my parents their meal options could not be counted as healthy. And as I was told by one parent, her son was allowed to go back for thirds in the free lunch program at school. Even overeating healthy foods can lead to obesity when coupled by lack of exercise. So the answer goes back to the parents. IT both starts and ends at home. Please give you child the gift of health, and help change the trend of childhood obesity. Don’t make me have to talk to another child and explain why their eating habits are killing them.