It seems like every time we turn on the news we’re treated to another disturbing fact about how unhealthy the current generation of little ones are. We’re in the middle of a childhood obesity epidemic with data from the CDC indicating that almost 20% of all children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. Even kids who are a healthy weight and appear to be in good health on the outside can still suffer from ill health on the inside (a phenomenon known as “skinny fat”. As many of us know, overweight kids tend to grow into overweight adults. And as they get older their risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and numerous cancers is likely to grow.
So how do we, as responsible Moms, protect our kids from what could be the biggest health crisis our nation has ever faced? While ensuring that our kids have a healthy and active lifestyle are very important, it’s hard to argue that anything is more important than scrutinizing what’s on their meal plates.
More plants, less of everything else
Sorry fussy eaters, but we can’t have a conversation about healthy eating without veggies and fruits. They are not only bursting with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, they’re also packed with phytochemicals which help our kids ward off illnesses and infections.
But while few parents need to be educated on the benefits of veggies and fruits, this doesn’t make their veggie-phobic kids more likely to eat them. But since we can all agree that plants are non-negotiable, it’s up to parents to introduce them onto the dinner plate in exciting and palatable ways. Veggies are only tasteless and boring if we make them tasteless and boring. Take a look at these great vegetarian recipes if you find yourself in need of inspiration.
Wave bye bye to processed meat
You don’t have to get the whole family to go vegetarian or vegan to raise healthy kids (although studies show that kids can thrive on a well-balanced vegan diet). An omnivorous diet can still be perfectly healthy as long as it’s full of food and not heavily processed food-like substances. Processed meats, for example, like bacon, ham, salami etc. are actually classified by the World Health Organization as Type 1 Carcinogens. That’s the same category as cigarettes. So the processed meats have got to go.
The good news is that when you know how to brine pork and season good quality, locally sourced meats you’ll get a product that’s infinitely more nutritious and delicious without all the harmful additives.
Find out what they’re really eating at school
When all’s said and done, no matter how hard you work to put wholesome and tasty meals on the breakfast and dinner tables, they need to be getting a healthy lunch to ensure a healthy diet. And that means finding out what your kids are eating in school. The sad truth is that many school meals served in the US are extremely unhealthy, heavily processed and often largely absent of anything remotely resembling a fresh vegetable. And most of it is sourced from factory farms so there are some serious ethical question marks standing between the animals and the plate.
Educate and encourage
Of course, the worst thing you can do is start calling the shots and banning their favorite indulgences like some sort of parental Pinochet. It’s important that they know the importance of nutrition and what happens to them if they load their diets with junk food.
Positive change only comes when your child is a willing collaborator rather than being dictated to. And this is a lot easier when you…
Don’t eliminate treats
Even a strict dietary regimen allows for the off “cheat meal” every now and then. A kid’s diet is no different. Of course they should be able to get a pizza or a McDonald’s every once in a while. Of course they should be able to go to a friend’s birthday party and not have to refuse everything but carrot sticks. They should be able to enjoy chocolate and sweets and all the things that kids love. But they should be kept in their proper context. They should be seen as treats rather than something fit for daily consumption. This means that they’ll eat less of them, but appreciate them all the more.
Your child’s nutrition impacts everything from their physical development to their performance in school to their emotional health. Thus, raising happier, healthier kids starts and ends with what does on their plates!