Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You Are What You Eat

Three great mothers I know (Kelly, Sharon and Kim) have been talking a lot about healthy eating habits for children, so I thought I'd put my "two cents" into a blog! I'll begin by telling of two instances where parents have irritated and flabbergasted me with the way they feed their children:

We were eating dinner last week at Outback and the server was watching Landon eat with an amused look on her face as he shoveled forks full of grilled salmon, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes happily into his mouth. After a minute, she said, "He actually EATS that stuff?" We told her that he loves going to Outback just so he can eat those three things and she told us she couldn't believe it. "If my son would touch broccoli, I'd be shocked. All my two and a half year old son will eat is chicken nuggets and french fries. He doesn't eat vegetables ever--he just wants us to give him french fries and more french fries. He LOVES them!" After this, she proceeded to tell us that he'd "also eat potato chips and stuff", but that they could "barely even get him to eat burgers or anything else"....french fries, fried chicken, potato chips, "getting" him to eat vegetables EVER? Would you believe that this girl works in the trauma center of a hospital and that she is about to graduate with a Masters Degree in NURSING?! I really couldn't believe my ears! That's not all:

A few months ago I was stopped at a traffic light when I looked over and saw a mother hand a french fry to her baby who was sitting in the backseat of their car. Judging from the size of the baby and the way she was acting, she looked to be about six to eight months old. As the baby squealed with delight at the sight of the french fry, I could see only four little teeth in her mouth (she was so YOUNG!!). The baby grabbed the french fry and immediately stared gnawing on it as the mom drove on down the road. I was beside them at the next light and saw another fry being handed back to the baby. This child was so small and she was facing away from the mom in a back-facing car seat--What if the child began choking while the mom was driving down the road? The whole scene really upset me!

Let it be known that I am not perfect. I have trouble making sure that my son eats healthy meals and snacks every day and sometimes it's a fight to keep him from gobbling down sweets when we're "out and about"...but there is a big difference between offering healthy foods to your child while giving them a treat every once in a while...and making junk available to them on a regular basis. Don't parents understand that they only have one chance to raise their children? Maybe people (even people with nursing degrees) really aren't aware of the damage they're causing.

I read an article that said, "There is considerable evidence that the lipoprotein abnormalities (high LDL and low HDL) that are linked to heart attack deaths in adulthood begin to develop in early childhood and that higher cholesterol levels eventually get “set” by early food habits. What we eat during our childhood affects our lifetime cholesterol levels." Here's the rest of the article if you're interested in reading more.

It is so incredibly important to ensure our children have healthy eating habits! Imagine what a great chance they'd have at being healthy in the future if we'd begin teaching them now how to take care of themselves? You can find a wealth of information at this site about dietary recommendations for children of all ages and more facts on recent research about the relationship between heart disease and nutrition here. We should all remember that even though it's so much easier (and oftentimes cheaper!) to forfeit a balanced meal for something less healthy, it can only harm our little ones in the long run. We should also remember that it's just as important to avoid feeding our children things that can harm them as it is to feed them healthy foods that will benefit them.

In our family, we decided to go the "If it's not in the house, we won't eat it" route. We started the painstaking process of cleaning up our lives (and our refrigerator) when I was pregnant with Landon and now it's just a habit to "eat right"...nothing more than a routine trip to the store now! We try to pick out healthy recipes before we go shopping for groceries (to cut down on the amount of processed and prepared food we buy) and usually try to shop for mostly natural and organic foods at places like the Whole Foods Market to give us easy access to healthy choices. We rarely buy junk food (although--heh heh!--ice cream usually can be found in our freezer!!) and try to make sure that our food is free of dangerous preservatives like BHT (Click here to read research on some of the bangers of consuming BHT, BHA & BTHQ). We don't consume any artificial sweeteners (like Splenda) and we also try to limit our consumption of high fructose corn syrup. There are so many things that can be detrimental to our health that no one even talks about! (That's why my friends and family think I'm weird half of the time--hee hee!) I could go on and on, but seeing as I've loaded you up with too much information already, I'll get off my soap box (for now ;o)! Try to read through some of these articles and see what kind of information is at our disposal--you might be surprised what you'll find!
(One more thing: I used to hate writing papers for school and now look what I'm doing for fun--Ha ha ha!)


Kim said...

I, too, am always amazed that so many parents don't realize the impact of diet on a child's health AND behavior. Great post :)

Tina said...

Jennifer, I could have written that entry. People sort of 'smile and nod at the crazy lady' when I start to go off about REAL food.

What strikes me most often about this topic is that people seem to believe that they can't 'make' a child eat something. Granted, it is not appropriate to force something down their throats, but you do control what is put on their plate. People think that the child is in control, when it should be the parent in control. I decide what to put on the plate, and if my kids don't eat it, then they can be hungry until the next meal or snack.

PS. My kids favourite thing in the whole world is salmon, and in a pinch any kind of fish will do. Even fish with the head still on!!!

Kim said...

OK, I've been very patient...but come on! When do we get the pleasure of a new post!! LOL! I love reading your thoughts and opinions and seeing all the cute pics of Landon. Not trying to rush you or anything, though... :-)