New Yorkers: It’s time to slow down and think about what we’re putting in our mouths.
Why? September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. There’s no need to list the statistics on what we all already know – more American children are obese now than ever before. But, legislative bans on sugar and sodium are not the solution, education is.
Good eating habits start at home. This concept can be hard to fully grasp for some, including me. I was raised in the South where a typical meal consisted of hearty servings of meat and starches. Our family’s pantry was never devoid of cookies, crème pies, sugary cereals and potato chips. I will never forget my first sip of Cream Soda. It could have been relabeled Crack Soda – I just could not get enough.
I don’t believe any of us quite understood the extent to which our family’s poor eating habits were contributing to our poor quality of life. As a child and into my teen years I was often lethargic, cranky and unproductive. I now wonder where I would be if only I had learned how to make healthier choices earlier in life.
I don’t blame my parents who were simply carrying on a culture of eating that was prevalent in the 1980s. Everything from our culture, religion and income influences how we eat. But although New Yorkers in general tend to be pretty health conscientious and information on eating healthily and exercising regularly is prevalent, our children’s waistlines continue to expand.
JAMA Pediatrics’ list of adverse effects brought on by obesity in children is long: early on-set puberty, greater risk of behavioral and psychological problems, depression, anxiety and eating disorders, among other ailments.
It hasn’t been easy for me to write a new normal of healthy eating and regular exercise, but I do it to be healthy, more alert and perform better at my job. My hope is for kids today to be educated before they develop bad habits that will one day need to be reversed.
Halloween is just around the corner followed by a months-long, treat-filled holiday season. Start by setting guidelines for your family’s choices rather than dictating what they can and cannot eat. Include your kids in your grocery shopping so they can take pride in their food choices. Slowly introduce fruits and vegetables into their snack circuit. Encourage slow eating so they really enjoy their meal for all its textures and flavors. Lastly, sit down together for dinner. That’s when rather than focusing on the food the focus will be on family.