By Alan Viau
Childhood obesity is becoming a major concern in our community. Parents and public health professionals are wondering what can be done to curb this alarming trend.
The good news is that parents can help turn it around. Certainly, the fight against childhood obesity begins at home.
We had our kids when we were in our twenties. When I started my first job, we already had two of them. Since it didn’t make financial sense for my wife to continue working, we became a single-income family. As a result, we needed to be frugal and practical in how we spent our modest financial resources.
Like all parents, we wanted the best for our kids. We wished for them to grow up with the best nutrition we could afford.
We minimized the amount of pre-made food, mostly because it was too expensive and not so nutritious. We didn’t stock our shelves with potato chips or cookies. They were simply not available in our household. Fast food restaurants never saw us.
The kids always seemed to be hungry. Their boundless energy consumed lots of calories. Whenever they would complain about wanting something to eat, we had the same answer: “You can have anything you want, as long as it is a fruit or vegetable.” They didn’t need our permission or supervision when they wanted a snack.
We didn’t buy any soft drinks. The amount of milk and juice was monitored. We were concerned about the effect lots of juice can have on teeth. They had milk on their cereal, a glass of juice in the morning and a juice box for lunch. The rest of the time they drank tap water.
We did have cookies and muffins. But we never bought them from the store. The kids and their mom made them. They learned there is effort involved in producing the treats they enjoyed. Still, they loved making muffins and cookies and adding their own creative combinations to them.
Baking is always better when licking the beater. Photo by Alan Viau
In contributing to the effort, they were less likely to scarf down the whole lot in a short time. They knew to get more they needed to make more. They also learned baking includes tidying up the kitchen afterwards. They got to do their part in cleaning the dishes and cookware.
Cleaning up is an important lesson too. Photo by Alan Viau
Our kids were not into physical fitness classes or sports. We are an arts family. They went to piano lessons and choir. But we did make sure they had their daily allotment of outdoor playtime.
What they learned has carried them to adulthood. None of my three kids were or are obese. They shun fast food outlets and cook good food for themselves. My eldest attributes his becoming a chef to the time he spent with mom in the kitchen during these early days.
Pressed by financial practicality, we made value choices based on good nutrition. This can work for any family. Fighting childhood obesity begins with what parents allow into their household and how they think about food, nutrition and health. It all really does begin at home.