I recently read an interesting article by David Katz entitled Should Obese Children Be Taken From Parents?
It is a provocative question, and the author of the article concedes that this is a very complex and difficult issue to address. Nevertheless, if we knew parents were allowing their children to be harmed by participating in something illegal (smoking, alcohol, drugs) we would certainly expect states to intervene.
But eating is not illegal, in fact it is necessary for our survival. The problem is that we now see the results of generations of bad habits which have compounded into a massive national problem.
Many people do not know how to cook healthful meals, and they have never had the opportunity to establish healthy eating patterns. Corporate America further muddies the water by making unhealthy choices abundantly accessible and cheap.
How can I make sure I'm feeding me child correctly? It's difficult to navigate the world of food and nutrition. How do I know if my child is really getting enough? How do I make sure my child has a variety of likes and will try new foods? How do I know that I'm not feeding my child harmful chemicals and preservatives? Articles like this only serve to fuel the fire of self doubt we might have as parents.
It would be altogether too easy to worry ourselves sick, so the best plan of action is to do all things in moderation. Some days it might be tempting to throw out everything in the pantry and break the bank by buying only expensive organic foods from specialty stores.
We need to start slowly and to take manageable steps towards educating ourselves and establishing a few healthy habits.
Plan out meals in advance and write a shopping list before going to the store. When planning meals, keep color of foods in mind. If there are many different (natural) colors on the plate during a meal, chances are that more nutritional needs are being met. When making choices, consider how many steps it took from the way the food was found in nature to how it looks on your table. If there are too many steps to count (or imagine) most if the nutritional value is probably gone.
Shop the perimeter – avoid the aisles in the grocery stores unless shopping for specific items on a list. Most grocery stores place the fresh food around the outer edges of the store.
Learn to cook from scratch as much as possible. Read articles about food and nutrition and become familiar with food labels.
Model good eating habits by sitting down to eat together as a family as much as possible. Serve the children the same food as you serve yourself. Maintain regular meal and snack times and encourage children to try a bite of new food because "Taste buds change as you grow older."
No special menus – everyone eats what's served, so plan meals accordingly. Picky eater? Make sure something is served that can fill them up (plain rice, pasta etc.). Desert is for special occasions. Make fruit/veggies and yogurt/cheese always available for hunger attacks.
Following these simple steps may not make a dent on the national problem of obesity, but they can make a difference in individual families. Start at home and take baby steps towards building healthier habits!