Teach Every Child About Food
Life is getting faster and busier than ever. I get home at 6:30pm most days and struggle to get a healthy meal on the table in 30 minutes. Trying to add teaching my kids to cook to that routine is difficult, I admit. However, I’ve tried to place my children’s food education toward the top of the list of important things; Ahead of homework, piano lessons, and probably even exercise. It’s not that those things aren’t important but the obesity epidemic is fast becoming America’s number one problem. Our kids no longer know how to eat, they don’t know how to cook, and they don’t know how to read food labels to protect themselves from big food company advertising. It’s time we prioritized our children’s health and it starts with food.
Teaching about Food
We already know that America is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. Cancer and heart disease are both diet related diseases and they are by far the leading causes of death in America today. We are ten times more likely to die from these preventable diseases than homicide! This issue is also impacting our wallets. Obesity related health problems account for 10% of all healthcare bills, accounting for approximately 150 billion dollars spent per year. That number is set to double in ten years if we continue on this path. These statistics were shared by Jamie Oliver, a chef and food educator who recently did a Ted Talk to address the nutritional catastrophe impacting American kids today.
While these numbers are startling, perhaps the most startling fact is that our unhealthy lifestyles are being widely passed to our kids and as a result our kids will have a shorter lifespan than us by about ten years, on average. The good news is we can prevent these diseases and their cost. Prevention starts with teaching our kids in a different, more healthy way, from a young age.
Jamie Oliver refers to a “triangle landscape” of food’s impact on kids. In each corner of the triangle there are different environments in which unhealthy food is being promoted to our children. The first, most obvious one is the home. This is where food traditions used to be taught and passed on, and children learned from a young age to cook in the kitchen. But as modernization has swept across the world, we have been eating out more and more. If we do cook at home, it’s prepackaged microwaveable or “just add water” meals, which contain plenty of sodium and sugar, and little nutrition.
The second food landscape affecting children is school. Schools have not evolved to deal with the major health problems facing Americans, and in fact are unwittingly a part of the issue. Many kids get two-thirds of their meals from school, and often these meals contain highly processed additives and resemble fast food: they are hand held, and contain a lot of saturated fats, sugars, and sodium. The chocolate milk your child has with every breakfast meal at school has as much sugar as a can of soda.
The third food landscape affecting our kids is “Main Street” - a term used to refer to investors, employees, and the overall economy. That includes supermarkets, fast food, and regulation surrounding food labeling. Supermarkets are carefully designed to draw kids’ attentions to the center of the aisle, which tends to contain all the sugary cereals and snacks, at their eye level. Fast food is advertised between cartoon episodes, enticing our kids to buy Big Mac’s and dollar fries. Food labeling in America is not transparent - Jamie Oliver uses the example of “low fat” which really means “high sugar.” Instead of using labels to inform, the industry uses them to distract. All of these areas contribute to our kids learning unhealthy habits that they will carry with them for life - unless we teach them differently.
Jamie Oliver finishes his talk by offering some major ways we can alter our current path and get our kids moving in the right direction when it comes to their health. First, he implores the American people to push our government to take away subsidies for unhealthy foods. Unfortunately corn, sugar, soybeans, and other largely unhealthy foods are subsidized by the government while organic fruits and vegetables are not, making them more expensive than their subsidized counterparts.
Second, Oliver encourages putting food education at the forefront and in the heart of businesses who sell food. He suggests grocery chains should employ food ambassadors in every supermarket who can educate people on their purchases and offer advice for healthier options. Also, proper labeling must happen on a wide scale - including labeling added sugars, and removing misleading labels. Finally, schools need to step up their game. Instead of accountants running school cafeterias, nutritionists should be employed where they can design and serve healthy and balanced meals, and offer nutrition and cooking classes to kids in grades K-12. Oliver suggests teaching kids ten basic recipes, which would give them the proper foundation that they could then expand as they grow older. He says if we all teach three people, and those people teach three people, we could teach everyone in America how to cook in less than five years.
We know we are an unhealthy country, but what we may not know is these unhealthy patterns are being passed down to our children. Because of this trend, our kids will live, on average, ten years less than us if we don’t do something about it. There are several ways we can improve their nutritional health: at home, by teaching our kids how to identify fruits and vegetables and learn to use them in recipes; at school, by requiring that nutritionists design healthy meals; and finally, at the institutional level, by demanding food companies utilize transparent food labeling and grocery stores offer nutritional counseling. The outcome? Healthier kids and a healthier future.
Do you want to improve your overall health? Reach out to us to schedule. Call us at 510-922-1579, text us at (510) 692-4428, or email us at email@example.com.
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This book is beautiful and informative. In it contains an illustrated list of tools and techniques to help your kids learn how to cool some delicious and somewhat fancy vegetarian meals.
Fanny at Chez Panisse
This cookbook comes to you from Alice Waters, the owner of Chez Panisse who is responsible the famous food movement out of Berkeley. Now your kids can learn more about California cuisine through a child's perspective - Fanny is the name of Alice's daughter and the lessons provided are told through her eyes.
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