By Casey Seidenberg
As parents we’ve probably all said, “I’d do absolutely anything to keep my kids safe and healthy.” And we mean it. In fact, many parents sacrifice sleep, relationships and the corporate ladder to do right by their children. They save money to pay for education. They rush to the pediatrician at the first sign of a sniffle. They hire tutors and spend hours helping with homework. So why do so many of these same parents buy fast food and sugar-laden snacks, and spend little time exposing their kids to healthful, whole foods, thus ignoring the established link between poor nutrition and disease? If many diseases can be prevented by good nutrition, isn’t there a contradiction here?
I know that money is a factor, as eating well can sometimes cost more. I also know that time is a factor, because cooking takes longer.
But as parents, if we want the best for our children, let’s choose to spend some of our money and time on foods that give our kids the best kind of energy, the best ability to concentrate in the classroom, and the best chance for long-term health. Providing children with a wide vocabulary and knowledge of history is imperative, but teaching them to feed themselves in a way that supports their well-being is important, too.
This is meant to encourage, because I believe we can all do better. As a working mom of three, I am not able to make every meal from scratch nor every snack a healthy one. Like any aspect of parenting, we don’t have to be perfect. The meals don’t always have to be home-cooked. The snacks don’t always have to be package-free. But I think we should all try, in whatever capacity we can, to prioritize our kids’ health.
So here’s the idea: No matter how healthy you are, take it up just one notch. I’m going to. If you currently cook one dinner a week, cook two. If breakfasts are sugar-laden, cut some sugar. If you already feed your families healthfully, experiment with new foods or make someone else a meal. And make sure you are setting an example for your children by eating the right foods yourself.
Feeding our kids healthfully must become a part of our parental claim “I’d do anything to keep my kids safe and healthy.” Why? Because the food they eat isn’t just anything; when it comes to long-term health, it just might be everything.
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, June 7, 2012.