We’ve all been bombarded by information, hype and outright fluff regarding diet. Everybody’s an expert, and everybody has a theory.
We are told these days that everything we’ve ever been taught about what we and our children eat is wrong. We are told, for example, that the average Western diet of 40 percent carbohydrate, 40 percent fat, and 20 percent protein is at the heart, if you’ll excuse the pun, of the matter. For certain individuals, a diet high in complex carbohydrates is great; for others, it causes problems. Some people just need (and can tolerate) higher levels of fat and protein.
So who’s right? Hard to say. All we know is that the experts all suggest, to one degree or another, that we totally change the way we eat.
This is all very difficult because what we eat is so much a function of our culture and sense of self. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements for the latest fast-food (some folks say “fat food”) hamburger combination. We are told to drink plenty of milk. We are taught that the ultimate dinner out is steak and lobster. We are tempted by slick television commercials to buy prepared foods often high in salt and low in fiber.
On the other hand, there are those who would accuse low- or zero-fat advocates of designing food so dry and tasteless it could be mistaken for dog nibbles. Why? Because we have become so accustomed to fat, sugar, and salt as the major taste components of our food.
There are thousands of food-related issues that concern all of us, from taste to calories. However, two consequences of healthy eating stand out: health and weight (not necessarily in that order). These are interrelated, though perhaps not as directly as it might seem.
It comes as no surprise that there is far too much obesity in Western culture, especially among children. With the strong association our culture makes between inactivity and luxury, along with some of the food values we treasure, the only thing that’s truly surprising is that more people aren’t overweight. Have you heard how hard it is for American tourists to fit into Japanese bus seats?
Like adults, children need to eat a variety of foods from different food groups to get all the nutrients necessary for growth and good health. And don’t forget: your children are influenced by your eating habits and you can help develop healthy eating habits by keeping on hand a wide variety of foods in the forms your child prefers.
Here are some tips to help you and your kids have a healthier life:
- Make a list of all of the healthy foods your children would be willing to eat and buy them. You eat the food you have on hand. You can make an extra large smoothie or batch of soup and store away the leftovers to eat another day.
- Don’t think of eating healthy as being on a “diet.” Whole, non-processed foods are what nature intended you to eat. Eating healthy is a decision and a lifestyle.
- Avoid foods that are advertised as “diet” or “fat-free.” They probably contain artificial ingredients. Get some real food instead.
- Plan the meals in advance. Avoid getting into a situation where you have no time, energy or ability to give your children access to healthy foods.
- Don’t allow your kids to eat just because they’re bored, sad, lonely, low-energy, angry, stressed out or want some kind of taste sensation. Don’t use food as a drug; some people use food to keep themselves numb because they don’t have the impetus to change. Sugar, wheat, aspartame, caffeine and many other ingredients in foods are downright addictive.
Identify the worst foods your children currently eat and decide to eliminate them, one per week, until you have replaced the vast majority of the unhealthy choices with healthy alternatives. Once you start eating healthy on a regular basis it will become easier to continue eating healthy. You will start desiring healthy foods and a good-looking salad may very well literally make your mouth start salivating. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit and 40 days to concretely change that bad habit into a good habit, so if you’ve been eating healthy stuff for over a month you can continue to eat healthy for the rest of your life if you choose to. Set intermediate goals such as “no grains for three weeks” or “no sweetened beverages for three weeks.”