Do you remember what foods you ate as a child? Your mouth may water remembering those plates and foods that were most common in your family and put on the table on a regular basis. Some of these foods may still be among the one you crave most today. In my case, I recall the most irresistible food being the bread and butter that my grandmother served with milk at snack time.
When you think about it, parents form the taste and palates of their children. We are largely responsible for the eating habits of our children. Today parents work long, hard hours to contribute to the family economy. They are caught between work pressures and social demands. Most of them do not have time to cook like our grandmothers did. For this reason, when faced with the food demands of children (i.e., “mommy I’m hungry”), the parents try to satisfy that hunger without thinking or worrying too much about how nutritious and healthy that food is. The meals offered are generally high in calories, high in fat and sugar while limited in vitamins, proteins and minerals essential for proper nutrition. Unintentionally, of course, parents are helping their children becomes obese. Childhood obesity can be defined in terms of children who are at an inadequate weight for their gender, age and height.
Childhood obesity is considered the epidemic of the twenty-first century. It is no respecter of races, geographical regions or income levels.
While you can list various factors that contribute to childhood obesity there are two factors that can be considered the most important. One of them is inadequate food or an unhealthy diet. The other is the lack of physical activity. We live in a society where much of our entertainment is sedentary. While parents are busy with their jobs or chores, children spend long hours in front of the television, computer or video games.
Dr. Philip Lobel, Nutrition Specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the U.S. federal government that promotes good health, encourages parents to develop five desirable behaviors in their children. First, parents should accustom their children to eat fruits and vegetables. They should deliberately introduce these in their daily menu. Secondly they should reduce the time children spend in front of the T.V. screen. Parents should consider limiting T.V. time to no more than two hours per day. Third, and related to the previous habit, increase physical activity. This need not be rigorous or structured. Rather, the focus should be to provide opportunities for their children to walk and play in open spaces. Fourth, eliminate sodas and sugary drinks that have no nutritional value. Finally, set an example for your children. If you do not want your child to drink soda, do not drink soda yourself.
Besides the family which is the main conduit for education, schools are also an ideal place to teach children to adopt an active and healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown the relationship between good nutrition, physical activity and academic performance.
If you have school age children, help them to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle in their youth; as adults they will thank you.