By: Leah Robinson
How many times have you had that morning rush? You know, that one where everyone needs to be out by 8am, but at 7:55 your family is still running around with one shoe on, and last night’s homework is still sprawled out on the table? There’s no time for a full breakfast, so the kids roll out with pop tarts and toaster strudels in hand. Surely, without a doubt, the kids are happy and content with their sweet morning treat and you’re patting yourself on the back for making it out on time. Everyone wins, right?
In today’s time-conscious world families rely heavily on quick meals. Although getting the kids fed is important, what’s even more prominent is what’sgoing into their bodies. According to a study conducted in 2010, the diet of most American kids consists of 40% unhealthy and processed foods.
“Eating is a learned behavior. Kids eat what their parents eat. If busy parents throw a frozen pizza in the microwave, that’s a bad meal that sends a bad message.”- Dr. Charles Clark, professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine
Dr. Clark is directly referring to the influence parents have over the habits picked up by kids in the home. Given the fast paced demand of daily life, parents are often time forced to make quick food decisions for the family. Sure, pizza night once in awhile is fun, but how often do these unhealthy, empty-calorie meals happen? Consider back to the morning rush scenario and let’s move forward into lunchtime. How many sugary snacks and beverages are in your child’s lunch box? Better yet, how many of his lunch items are fresh as opposed to pre-packaged foods? And after school, perhaps in those 20 minute gaps on the way to soccer practice or the dance studio, how many processed carbs and sugars are in their snacks? How about before bed, when the kids want a little snack. Do hand them over one more cookie? All of these unhealthy habits have lasting effects on kids.
Kelly Strogen, registered dietitian and nutritional advisor for the healthy meal distributor Fitly®, states that “When children consume unhealthy snacks, they are basically filling up on empty calories that are not nourishing their body in any way. By eating lots of refined carbohydrates (think cookies,soda, etc), a child may actually end up eating more later because their blood sugar rises quickly, then drops, and the body wants to restore that balanced blood sugar, so they become inclined to eat more.” Empty calories do provide energy, but they fail to nourish your kid’s body due to their lack of crucial vitamins and nutrients. These bouts of hunger can encourage kids to crave for more carbohydrate-rich foods, but then the moment of truth arises when it comes to what item the child chooses; the apple or the candy bar?
If surrounded by a household with poor eating habits, a child can fall into the vicious cycle of relying on junk foods for meals, experiencing hunger more often and then turning to more junk food to satisfy their needs. Future consequences of this behavior include childhood obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and childhood type 2 diabetes–all of which a healthy diet can help to reduce and control.
Despite the contemporary trend, convenient does not have to mean unhealthy. Parents may argue that they simply don’t have enough time to commit to healthy eating, but Kelly provides simple food alternatives that are all available in your grocery store. The next time you make your supermarket trip, switch out the high preservative, high sugar, processed snacks for some of the these items for quick easy healthy meals:
-Hard boiled egg
-Yogurt (nonfat or low-fat)
-Whole grain thin bagel with reduced fat cheese and tomato slices (like pizza)
-Whole wheat crackers or pretzels with peanut butter
-Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
-Natural ingredient snack bars (KIND, Larabars, Kashi)
-Vegetables and hummus
-Multigrain tortilla chips with low-sodium salsa and guacamole
-Whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, almond milk, or soymilk and some fruit -low-sodium cheese sticks
-”ants on a log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
-whole wheat tortilla with part-skim ricotta and sliced strawberries