According to a group of physicians, voluntary guidelines for reducing ads on TV have not been effective. They say it’s time to get tougher with the food industry about not advertising junk food to young children. The assumption here is that young children often can’t tell the difference between ads and programming. If fast food ads were banned, they say, this could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent.
Looking at the bigger picture though, we can see it is not only the food industry’s problem. It is one for all families. Studies show that one in five children (ages 2 to 5) is overweight or obese before entering kindergarten. These children aren’t even in school yet. It appears the school lunch program is not the problem at this early age.
That places much of the responsibility of providing healthy foods on parents and caregivers. It is their job to decide what foods are served, when they are served, and where they are served. They are the ones in charge. For families with small children, they determine what their children eat. Therefore, they need to know what foods children need and in what portion.
With all the media talk and nutrition information available, it would appear that everyone should know what to eat to stay healthy and maintain weight. But people are still confused about what constitutes valid information, or they choose to ignore it.
Children need to be exposed to fresh, less-processed foods at an early age. Their appetite and palate should adapt to healthy real foods before they are exposed to hamburger, chicken nuggets, soda pop, sweets, and other empty calorie foods. Children need to be educated in knowing and believing real food is the natural way to eat, rather than highly processed packaged foods.
Here are suggestions for promoting good food habits in and out of the home:
- Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Proper food and nutrition is much too important to be a bargaining tool in the lives of children.
- Plan meals that are rich in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Clear the kitchen of sugars, processed foods, soda pop and any energy drinks. Water, the best choice of beverages, can be flavored with lemon or other fruits and/or juices.
- Take children grocery shopping and talk about healthy and less-than-healthy foods.
- Try to buy organically grown fruits and vegetables when possible.
- Look for the words “Whole Grain” as the first ingredient on breads and pastas.
- Cook with your children. Show them cooking is a part of normal life, is fun and creative, and does not need to be a burden. Involve them in cooking with real food and help them know where their food comes from.
- Sit down together as a family to eat.
- Be a good role model and eat healthy. Yes, that means eating your fruit and veggies at every meal.
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