BY ERIKA FISCHER, ’15
We love to eat. As adults we can choose to eat whatever we want, and we do. We think the consequences of our unhealthy choices will only fall on us. For those of us who have children, or looking to have children in the future like myself, we must stop to think what we may be doing to them. Simply telling children to make healthy choices when we are not doing so ourselves does not produce the desired outcome of a healthy child. Parental hypocrisy of eating habits creates confusion in children.
Adults usually decide to lose weight on a whim. This is prompted by pairs of snug jeans, the models on the calendar between May and August, and for some of us, snide comments from friends. We therefore gravitate toward juice fasts, no-carb regiments and other fad diets. These diets are an easy way to lose a quick three pounds but can be detrimental if used as an overall food lifestyle. Children subconsciously follow what their parents do, and will therefore be influenced by the nutritional decisions of those older than them. Diana Rose of Psychology Today states, “By changing the conversation from nutrition to habits we can arm parents with the tools they need to teach their children to eat right.”
One of the easiest places for children to form habits is at school. The educational system provides a weekly routine to encourage success in school, but also in health. Lunch is served, recess is provided and Physical Education is mandatory. However, at home this is not always the case. Parents may not be around or available to watch over their children to encourage these habits. Pediatric psychologist Eileen Kennedy said, “To optimize healthy eating habits among kids, it’s important the same food rules apply both at home and at school.”
Many parents, and consequentially children, eat unhealthy foods because they are too expensive or inconvenient to buy. The fruits, vegetables and lean proteins remain on the shelves and not in the bellies of the consumers. The Canadian Journal of Public Health stated, “A strong correlation between the availability of fruits and vegetables in the home and consumption have been reported.” Time to go to the grocery store.
Some may say that children choose unhealthy foods by default, that it’s in their nature not to like the healthy ones and the habits of their parents have no impact on their lives. Children, however, are known to be mold-able creatures. They pick up languages faster than any other age group, they learn new sports at a rapid pace, so why should it be any different for food preferences? Perhaps it’s the manner in which parents present the healthy foods, perhaps it’s because they don’t indulge in such health practices themselves. Whichever or whatever it may be, children are highly adaptable and if parents simply practiced what they preached, we may be living in a world where childhood obesity is an unknown condition.