What’s For dinner?

It is shocking to me what is happening to kids these days. I am talking about their lifestyles, both physical activity levels and their eating habits. The health of Canadian children has deteriorated over the past few decades. Childhood obesity has risen sharply—a quarter of children and youth are now overweight or obese—and physical fitness has declined. Physical activity is associated with health benefits in children and youth. It’s simple. The more activity, the greater the benefit. Children should be getting 60 minutes of physical activity a day, A DAY. In addition to that,  at least 3 times a week they should be  engaged in vigorous activity. As parents, we are responsible for the health of our children, so why do so many parents let this slip?

As a mother, it breaks my heart to see children spend hours in front of some kind of screen. Computer, TV, iPod, whatever it is, instead of being active they are becoming unhealthy and rotting their brain to boot. Did you know that the average Grade 6-12 student spends 7-8 hours a day in front of a screen? This has to change. It starts with us, the parents.

In addition to the lack of physical activity I see, I hear of so many parents going for the quick fix when it comes to meals. McDonald’s happy meals are not healthy in any way; it does not matter if you have a carton of milk or apple slices with it. Let’s look at the chicken Mcnugget shall we? I know what you are thinking; it’s chicken, it has to be good. Those chicken pieces are fried and loaded with refined sugars, artificial flavours, sodium etc. It will fill you up fast and then 2 hours later you will crash and find you are hungry again which will just lead  to overeating and packing on the pounds. Taco Bell is not healthy in any way! Most food courts in malls are not healthy in any way!  Lunchables are not healthy in any way! Pre-cooked packaged frozen meals are not healthy! Things like chicken kievs, chicken fingers, or pre-made shepherd’s pie are not healthy!  What happened to lunches with apples and carrot sticks, and sandwiches with lettuce? Why are schools having pizza days and Swiss Chalet days so often?

I have actually heard this excuse from parents for why their kids aren’t more active “They come home from school and they are exhausted”. Why do you think that is? Poor eating habits, a lack of physical activity that makes you lethargic, unable to get a good night’s sleep and then waking up tired and going through your day in a haze. It is a vicious cycle that needs to stop parents! You need to make time to get active; you need to find the time to provide healthy meals for your kids. It is your responsibility as a parent to provide not only clothing and shelter, but also meals that cover the four basic food groups.

I am not saying that I don’t agree with treats. Treats are great! I have many restaurants that are on the naughty list, but I don’t eat there all the time and I am active 6 out 7 times a week. Growing up my brother and I had treat nights when we would have pizza, or some dessert. But my mother who worked as a nurse and was often on 12 hour shifts would make – from scratch our dinners. Every dinner we had was accompanied with salad! Salad! Imagine that. Most kids these days don’t even know what salad is, and actually most adults don’t know either. If you are one of them, it is that green stuff that you add veggies, fruit, nuts, etc to and it tastes delicious.

I have to take a second to applaud Mayor Bloomberg, mayor of my second favourite city (after Toronto, of course), New York. He is instating a ban of any sugary drink that is larger than 16oz, another step in the right direction towards combating obesity. This will apply to any cinema, food truck, restaurant, etc. Well done Bloomberg on an amazing step in the right direction. If only our mayor could step up like that….hahahahaha! Yeah right.

Please parents and even non parents we need to change things. Please take a moment to watch the Active For Life PSA. I am sure that most of you have seen the commercial on TV, but it is something that needs to be viewed more than once. I take my role as a mother to my son extremely serious. At 1, he eats things that shock many adults. Most toddlers and kids freak out when down the cookie aisle, mine freaks out when in the produce section of Longo’s. Yes, I spend a lot of time preparing his meals. He is my son, I would do anything for him and it is never a waste of time.

Parents put  – and rightly so –  so much attention on their children’s education.  Starting with getting them into the right pre-school, focusing on them getting straight A’s, getting into a good university, so they can go on to have a successful career. How about putting the same attention into making sure they are living a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis? Good grades and a well paying job will only bring so much happiness. If your child grows up with weight issues, they will likely have health problems and self esteem issues that will plague the rest of their lives.

I am very fortunate to have an amazing group of women as my support, accountability and my sweat it out partners. Eva Redpath empowers women to live healthy lifestyles, which then resonates to our families and loved ones. I would like to take a second to share some advice from her to you about our food choices. She was inspired (and has since inspired me) by author/journalist/food guru Michael Pollan. He wrote the fantastic book In Defense of Food and the recent Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. Below are his and her rules to eating.

  • If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
  • Get out of the supermarket whenever you can
  • Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored
  • Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
  • Eat only food that will eventually rot
  • Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap
  • Treat meat as a flavouring or a special occasion
  • The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead
  • Pay more, eat less
  • Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper
  • Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does
  • It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car
  • Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of the milk
  • Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself
  • If it’s on a shelf, in a box, wrapped in plastic, it’s meant to last! Don’t eat it or it will “last” on you!
  • If it had a mother, grew in the ground or came from a tree, eat up!
  • If you buy fresh foods, you will eat fresh foods. Leave the calorie-filled, non-nutritional junk food at the grocery store

Now that I got that off my chest, what are you waiting for? As corny as it sounds, children really are the future. We owe it to them to provide a healthy lifestyle.

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