Posted by Marianne Frederick
As we look again at the scourge of childhood obesity and early onset Type II diabetes in our families, we need to examine our tendency to choose fast food or junk food over healthier meals. Mac n’ cheese is okay once in awhile, but, it should not be a staple. If “you are what you eat,” your children are what you feed them.
Although I’ve loved French fries since childhood, I know if I eat them regularly I will have a weight problem. French fries are simply fat-drenched potatoes (starch) sprinkled with salt (sodium or potassium chloride). If you break down that silly oh-so-satisfying snack, the potatoes are healthful fiber, but a healthier alternative is bake and top them with plain, low-fat yogurt. We all know that junk food is more often than not, a faster alternative to time-consuming, thoughtful food preparation. Just drive to the local fast-food restaurant and the family can eat in the car, no preparation and little clean-up required! But do you know that an order of French fries can contain 13 grams of fat, 250 calories which is 20% of your daily recommended fat intake?
And as parents and caregivers, unless we change our behavior we can’t expect kids to change theirs. Here are some tips to recognize and avoid–or at least curb–your and your children’s consumption of junk food:
- Read the labels to help recognize junk food: Candy, cookies, donuts, sugary breakfast cereals, ice cream, soda, sugary “fruit” drinks, food high in salt, foods high in fat, high calorie food with little nutritional value;
- Take greater control of your family’s diet by planning sit-down meals in advance, so you know what you’re going to buy at the grocery store. This isn’t easy and sometimes the plan falls apart, but even thinking about a plan is a good way to aim to get more of the right things into your and your children’s diets;
- In your family’s meal plans incorporate more foods low in fat, foods low in saturated fat, foods low in cholesterol, high-fiber foods, including whole grains, vegetables and fruits; foods containing moderate amounts of sugar or salt; calcium-rich foods; and iron-rich foods.
- Children and adults need some fat in the diet, but better “fats” are unsaturated fats, so read the labels to make sure what you are buying is good to feed your family. Children under 5 years old need only about 45 grams of fat daily; adults need about 65 grams of fat–so note that your children’s fat requirement is less than yours;
- Buy leaner cuts of meat; and if you buy ground beef, aim for the 90% lean. Incorporate more chicken and fish in your family’s diets. If you purchase pork products, make sure they are lean–most grocery store butchers will trim the fat for you if you ask. Low-fat lunch meats are also a help in supplying lean protein in your family’s diet; bear in mind that bologna and salami can contain more fat than leaner turkey, chicken, or ham.
- Often high fat foods are “fast foods” like sausage biscuits, double cheeseburgers, nachos, corndogs, enchiladas, thick shakes and super-sized drinks, so you may want to reduce the number of trips to fast food places that don’t offer healthful alternatives such as side salads, grilled chicken or fish, and unsweetened beverages.
Remember, parents and caregivers, regarding your family’s healthful diet, you’re in the driver’ seat!