Friday, April 18, 2008

Feed Your Kids Vegetables

Do your children eat enough vegetables? Don't assume that because they're kids, they won't eat healthy food. That is the mistake I see most parents making in their choices to teach children about healthy lifestyles. Children consume inordinate amounts of sugar, and their habits translate into how they will live their lives as adults. If sugary treats and snacks are always around for children to see and want, they will always ask for these items instead of healthy food. Not only will they ask for them, but they will come to expect that everywhere they go, that' s what will be available.

I am appalled at the types of foods available for children everywhere I go - restaurants, school lunches, stores, and even places like health clubs. Health clubs are especially at fault because they are supposed to be teaching and encouraging healthy life styles. Besides bananas, I never see any whole foods offered at the snack bar at the YMCA. The vending machines are full of processed foods and "energy" drinks, which are no better than soda pop. Because I spend a lot of time at the YMCA, I regularly observe what people eat there, and believe me, it is nothing but junk. Sometimes people will bring in food from outside the YMCA such as hamburgers and french fries from Burger King or Sandwiches and chips from Subway. Even Subway is pushing the "healthy" food rhetoric to sell food, and their food is anything but healthy.

Children will only eat what is offered to them by the adults and sometimes other children in their lives, since they are unable to go and purchase their own food. If you continue to expose children to good, healthy foods and avoid the processed, packaged variety, they will eventually begin to develop a taste for real food and it will be easier for them to say "no" to bad choices as they get older and start to live life on their own without parental supervision.

Sugary "treats" and "snacks" are not just limited to ice cream, candy, cookies, desserts, popsicles, and the like. Be careful not to get in the habit of feeding your children fruit snacks, crackers, food bars (such as cereal, granola, and "protein" bars), bagels, breads, pastas, french fries, rice cakes, tortillas, soy products, and other related items. These products are not whole foods, are nutritionally bankrupt, and only offer empty calories. Your children will also be hungry sooner, and want more of the same next time food is offered. The more these types of items are offered and available, your children slowly become addicted to them.

Instead of junk from a package, box, or can, offer whole foods to your children for snacks between meal times such as raw cheese, raw nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Other good alternatives to these health hazards appeal to children as well such as soft or hard-boiled eggs, hummus dip with vegetables (make your own or purchase a whole-foods based variety at the health food store), almond butter on Ezekiel bread (for a treat, you can add a dollop of whole-fruit spread with no added sugar or artificial sweetners).

When you feed your family healthy, regular snacks and meals, you will find they stay full longer and will have fewer health issues such as allergies, weight problems, blood sugar trouble, and will have more energy and ability to focus and concentrate. Many other problems that eating junk food can cause such as digestive disorders, heart disease, and even cancer could even be eliminated by eating a primarily whole-foods diet.

For more information on the problems with school lunch menus and meals for children in restaurants, read this article on Agriculture Society.

For ideas on nutritional wellness for families, check out this article as well on Agriculture Society.

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