The Nutritional Challenges to Your Children’s Health
Today’s families are busier than ever. Multiple careers, hectic extracurricular activities & the explosion of modern media have taken their toll on not only our time, but on our children’s health as well. Annually, rates of childhood obesity continue to rise, leading to an inevitable rise in childhood Type 2 Diabetes. Tragically, unless things change, this will be the first generation on record whose lifespans will not surpass that of their parents.
With families buzzing around a mile a moment, parents are challenged to shop for and also find the time to prepare healthy meals at home. It is no wonder that many families find themselves in the drive-through lane on the way home from work or sports practice. Another problem we currently face is that fast food companies are taking advantage of the pinch our economy has placed on American families. With tempting low prices & large portions, the perception of value has the drive-through lane more packed than ever. Unfortunately, this mistaken value has long-lasting negative consequences on both our health and our health care system.
On average, today’s kids spend several hours a daily on various electronic media. Whether parked in front of the television, game console or computer, kids aren’t getting enough exercise while their lives are becoming increasingly sedentary. This situation not only has the social skills of today’s youth shrinking, but their waistlines simultaneously expanding. This combination of consuming large portions of processed foods and not getting enough movement in their daily lives is a perfect storm for chronic disease before they even reach adulthood.
The final blow to the health and well-being of today’s children is sadly found in the cafeteria of our schools. Serving up mystery meat, fried food and junk food, their dispensers are also full of soda. Soda alone counts for far too many empty, sugar-laden calories that set kids up for blood sugar spikes and uneven blood sugar levels.
Fortunately, there are several measures families can take to combat the health challenges facing their children. First, an important step is to avoid processed foods. Natural foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy plant-based fats provide clean fuel and are vital for kids of all ages. It doesn’t take long to re-train our taste buds, and before long junk food just doesn’t taste as appealing. Second, more physical movement not only burns calories, but it also increases concentration during school and improves sleep patterns. If families could encourage kids to spend more time playing outside and less time in front of the TV and on electronic games, kids would get the added benefit of connecting within their communities while getting healthy at the same time. Next, there are strategies families can take to make cooking at home easier and more fun. Cooking with your kids, and cooking once to make two meals, are not only time effective, but build in quality family time. Finally, as families insist that their schools offer healthier options, the more that school systems will realize changes need to be made. Schools must do their part by removing sodas from vending machines and adding whole food options to cafeterias. Even better, schools can participate in “Farm to Table” programs or take the initiative to create school gardens, and a place that will help kids learn about growing good food, clean fun and better health.