Mentoring Against Obesity

My daughter’s friend visits our home regularly.  Her parents both work outside the home, which is quite common these days.  Since I have known this girl most of her life, she is very comfortable walking into our kitchen, pulling a stool up to the island where I’m cooking, and asking what’s for supper.  We banter back and forth about what the original recipe was (I can never follow directions!) and what I’m doing to it.  We then proceed to have “Cooking Show”.

Since my husband and I have an in-home office, we are free to make our schedules work around our family time.  We both had decades in the hospitality business where we were on call 24-7, and I’ve got to tell you, this change rocks!  Instead of skipping breakfast, my kids get wakie wakie, eggs and bakie (that would be wake up, eggs and bacon) or whatever they choose for breakfast that day.  Spoiled?  Maybe, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We take lunch from home, and we eat dinner together as a family at the dining room table.  Every day, period.

Now, I know that my world may be a little Pollyanna for some folks.  And that’s okay.  But I’m involved in my children’s lives enough to see that they are given options and the sense to choose wisely amongst them.  Unfortunately that is not the case for all children.  I know a child who used to eat cold spaghetti from a can because his mother not only didn’t cook, she didn’t even own pots and pans.  Where are these kids supposed to get the knowledge to function as healthy adults?

This is where we can all help.  Many people blame the childhood obesity epidemic on the food industry and increased advertising of less-than-healthy foods aimed at children (great read on this at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/school-breakfast-the-new-food-fight/).  I don’t know about you, but I remember a fair amount of commercials during my Saturday morning cartoons.  Don’t the parents still do the grocery shopping and have the power to say no?  I do not believe increased advertising is the cause of obesity.  I also don’t think you have to strictly forbid “bad” foods.  It’s really all about the choices.

When I was growing up I had a couple of friends who were not allowed to eat sugary cereal or sweets.  The first thing they did when out of their parents’ site was to gorge on every morsel of baked goods they could get their hands on.  Instead of banning those types of foods, their parents should have limited the availability and used it as a teaching tool.  I had old-school Finnish farmers for parents.  You never had to look hard to find cakes, cookies, and all kinds of sweets in my house.  But since they were always there, it wasn’t a big deal for me, and I didn’t eat them in excess.  Today I still have that theory.

What are my suggestions to combat childhood obesity?  They’re pretty simple.

  • First, have your children help you plan a menu for the week that is nutritious and realistic in available time and cooking ability.  Look at magazines or online recipe websites/blogs for ideas.
  • Second, take your children to the store.  That’s right, BRING THEM WITH YOU.  You should spend most of your time along the edges of the store—where the majority of the produce and non-packaged goods are.  Teach them how to read labels, select fruits and vegetables and discuss different ways to prepare them.  Nowadays there’s no excuse like “I don’t know how to…”  You can find anything online.  I even saw a tweet from Iron Chef Mario Batali responding to a question of how to cook asparagus!
  • Portion out large purchases of “treats” to avoid overeating.  If you sit down with a big bag of chips, you’ll eat more.  Teach your children what true portion sizes look like.  If you are unsure, look it up!
  • Cook with your children.  There are tasks that even very young children can do to help in the kitchen.
  • Lastly, power down and get moving!  Make sure that you and your children have 30-60 minutes of activity most days of the week.  Even a couple of ten minute walks a day have shown to be beneficial in adults, you don’t have to run marathons.

I hope that this has inspired you to get in touch with your inner chef.  You don’t have to prepare big or fancy meals, just cook something.  And whether it’s your own child, a relative, or a neighborhood kid, teach them.  Mentoring is the socially responsible thing to do.  Besides, you’ll be amazed how fun “Cooking Show” can be in your own kitchen.

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One response to this post.

  1. I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays..

    Reply

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