Do you remember the food they served in your high school cafeteria? Well, let me remind you: pepperoni pizza, French fries, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, etc. The food served in American schools might as well be poison because it is killing children in the long run. Here are some fun facts on children and obesity in the US:
While there are other factors that lead to children become obese (like genetics as well as the mother’s dietary habits during pregnancy), the main culprit seems to be food choice. And more specifically the food choices parents make. So, for example, many parents buy processed or already prepared foods as opposed to cooking from scratch or fresh fruits and vegetables. There is also a heavy reliance on red meat and pork products, including hamburgers, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
So, how can you change what your kids eat? Start with these 10 quick tips:
1. Don’t allow your child to purchase lunch or breakfast from the school cafeteria.
2. Prepare lunch for your kids each and every day (including a fresh fruit, yogurt, nuts, and lean proteins).
3. Prepare breakfast for your kids each and every day (including oatmeal, eggs, toast and peanut butter, fruit, yogurt, etc.)
4. Try and eat together as a family at least once a day (the ritual of eating together can reinforce the importance of food)
5. Cook dinner from scratch and involve the whole family (show everyone how a meal is put together)
6. Experiment with foods at the market. Most Americans eat poorly because they do not consider the abundance of food choices available. Dinner doesn’t have to consist of pasta, red meat, and iceberg lettuce every week. Most good markets carry wonderful fresh fish, beans that make wonderful soups, exotic greens that can be sautéed with garlic, lean cuts of meat like pork chops, chicken breast, and ground turkey.
7. Try and cut the time your kids spend with the TV, web, video games, cell phone (including messaging), etc. and encourage them to go outside and walk/hang out/play sports/etc.
8. According to experts, it takes multiple exposures to new foods before kids actually accept and enjoy the food or dish. So, keep at it with your kids in terms of introducing new fruits, vegetables, and dishes.
9. Experiment with true ethnic foods as they tend to contain less salt and meat than your typical Italian-American, Chinese-American, and Mexican-American foods.
10. Bring your kids food shopping with you (and not just to your local Stop and Shop). Bring your child to the butcher, fish monger, fruit and vegetable shop and they will slowly appreciate how important food is to the family.