Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kids+Food: It's Time to Face It.

There's a big elephant in the room and I'd like to talk about it. In my observation, many parents in my area of the country are unwilling to face it.

Here it is:
WHY do we continually feed our children JUNK at school, sporting events, and social gatherings?

Michelle Obama, Katie Couric, Jamie Oliver, many celebrities and tons of mommies have been pushing this "issue" for years. There are plenty of books about it. Tons of blog posts. A plethora of Pins called "healthy snacks" and such. Yet, in my experience, it seems so little has changed!

We think we are providing our kids with fun, rewards, and/or culturally "normal" food when we are really destroying their health. Donuts and juice boxes now become Type II Diabetes and heart disease later.

Am I exaggerating? I don't think so.

Check out these statistics, courtesy of Dr. Reynolds at Smart Parents, Healthy Kids:

These are FACTS:
  1. Childhood Obesity has tripled in the last 30 years.  In 2008, one out of every 5 kids is the U.S. was Obese.  This is not overweight – this is obese – FAT.
  2. Of these obese kids, about 70% of them have one or more risk factors for Heart disease.  Seriously… 5 year old kids with risk factors for a heart attack.
  3. It is projected that the “baby-boomers” (people currently retiring) will be the first generation with a shorter life-expectancy that their parents (because of Obesity).  This is especially concerning for the current generation of  kids.
  4. Obese kids are much more likely to be obese adults.  Obese adults are more likely to have the Diseases of Affluence – cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  All three of these shorten both the duration and more importantly quality of life.

Dr. Reynolds has reported in this article about how kids think about being fat and sick. Pardon me for not being politically correct. You may find the article’s contents shocking. I hope you at least find it thought-provoking. Because, if my kid thinks it’s better to lose a limb than be obese, that’s a huge problem.

The question is: What do we do?

Some say we overhaul the lunch programs and get government involved at every level. Some say we focus on giving our kids organic produce and grass-fed meat in BPA free containers. Some say we offer better 100-calorie snack packs as a more "portion controlled" option. Some say we offer these junk items in moderation, helping kids to see that it's okay to have a big slice of birthday cake & ice cream and a cookie once in a while.

None of these are terrible ideas, but...Who is right?

The real question we need to ask is What can I do to make it better?

It's a given that we have to start with thinking about what we are feeding own kids at home. Starting at home is key. Some of you are there already - eating tons of fruit and veggies at home and thinking seriously about what you feed your kids. Some of you feel like you'll never eat perfectly at home and/or be healthy so why even try outside the walls? And many of us feel like it's not our job to worry about what other people eat because we simply can't resist the temptation to eat Cheetos or Oreos now and then. It feels hypocritical to worry about what seven-year-olds eat after the soccer game. I get it. Believe me, I totally get it.

But, honestly. It's time. I have observed this cultural phenomenon for years as my kids have been in church programs, preschool, elementary school, and team sports.  Lately, I have been moved from annoyance to action. My question has become What can I do to make it better?  There's no easy answer. Trust me, I long for one as the beginning of a new school year rolls around. I start to get anxious as the class celebrations, birthday parties with new friends, and Fall team sports begin, I will have to be on guard against the junk food being offered to my kids at every turn.

I have a few suggestions and experiences to share in an upcoming series of blog posts. Maybe you are interested in this kind of thing, maybe not. At the very least, perhaps it will encourage you to think seriously about this issue and America’s kids. If you are a parent, you can think about it in relation to your own kids. If you are not a parent, maybe it will challenge you think about about how you can also be part of the solution, not the problem.

Next up: What can you DO?

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